Guest Post – 4 Outdoor Ailments To Be Aware Of

Categories:Health and Hygene | Hiking Advice

guestpostbadgeThere is nothing worse when you head into the wild to enjoy the great outdoors, only to become ill and sick. Turning your dream get away into a nightmarish prison. If you were to fall prey to any of the following conditions, there is no doubt you will immediately want to end your trip early and go home.

For some of these conditions, there is very little you can do to avoid it, others require you to specifically make mistakes. But all of them are a pain to endure, and its important to understand them if you are to determine what is affecting either yourself or another while in the wild. If you don’t know the symptoms, you may very well misdiagnose it and by trying to make it better, you may end up making it worse. So without further ado, let’s go over and explain 4 outdoor ailments that hopefully will not happen to you.

hotmocs-ailmetsAltitude Sickness

Causes: It is impossible to determine who is susceptible to altitude sickness as there are no specific factors that dictate it. A common misconception is that there is a lack of oxygen, but oxygen levels of around 21% remain the same up to about 69,000 ft.

The reason altitude sickness occurs is that the air density drops as altitude increases. Meaning the number of molecules per given volume is less. Most people can stay up to 8,000 ft. without trouble.

Symptoms: Lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, feeling of weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, insomnia, nosebleeds, persistent rapid pulse, Drowsiness, swelling of hands/feet/face, persistent dry cough, fever, shortness of breath while at rest, and headaches.

Prevention: There are only two preventable measures that can be taken to prevent altitude sickness from developing. One being not to go over 8,000 ft., which happens halts many outdoors activities. The other is to ensure you ascend slowly. Again, its impossible to determine who would get sick. So for this, sadly, its all trial and error for the individual. By staying at higher altitudes long enough, you will eventually acclimate.


Causes: Gastroenteritis is a nicer, or rather more scientific, way to say diarrhea. Wilderness diarrhea is mostly caused by various pathogens that are found in the wild. It occurs due to insufficient washing of foods, utensils, dishes, hands, and untreated water. These pathogens include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The most common form of wilderness diarrhea is Giardia.

Symptoms: On average, it takes around a week for the incubation period to complete in order for you to begin to feel sick. As you would imagine, the main symptom is diarrhea. However nausea, stomach cramps, lack of appetite, and a high fever are common symptoms as well.

Prevention: Since it’s difficult to pin point where one could become sick, it’s best to try and cover all your bases when in prevention mode. This means ensuring the water you drink is treated, you are taking in sufficient levels of vitamins, and you properly wash yourself and the utensils used.

Immersion Foot Syndromes

Causes: There are three types of immersion foot syndromes; Trench Foot, Paddy foot, and Warm Water Immersion Foot Syndrome. All three are caused by extended exposure of the feet to wet, unsanitary, and cold conditions. These Foot Syndromes are also made worse by wearing constricting footwear that does not allow the feet to breath or dry out.

Symptoms: These conditions can begin to form after only 13 days worth of exposure. The affected person may feel numbness in their feet, red or blue colors may appear due to poor vascular supply. A decaying odor will begin to emit from the infected areas, and eventually swelling, blisters, and opens sores will develop.

Prevention: Keep your feet dry at all costs, or at least as best you can. Drying out used socks, and allowing your feet to dry if they’ve been wet for a while helps dramatically to avoid foot rot. Keeping extra pairs of socks is always recommended regardless of the conditions you expect.

Water Intoxication

Causes: Water intoxication is also known as water poisoning and overhydration. As the name would imply, this is the result of the body taking in more water than it can handle. As a result, it offsets the balance of the body’s electrolytes beyond safe limits. This is extremely easy to do, especially when dealing with other ailments such as heatstroke or nausea.  

Symptoms: Overhydration is potentially lethal, and I have sadly known a person who has died from this in the past. But prior to death, various other symptoms will arise that should be a warning sign. Though these symptoms can easily be confused with other problems. But the list includes; headaches, personality changes, changes in behavior, confusion, irritability, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, twitching, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and thirst (which is a problem).

Prevention: The human body, as evident from this, can only take in so much water. The average healthy kidney can go through 1 liter of water per hour. Which means that unless heavy exertion or physical activity is occurring, no more than 8.5 ounces every 15 min. Now its not threatening to slightly exceed this, but it’s important to note that by drinking quickly does not translate into hydrating your body faster. Rather, take slow steady sips, not gulps and allow your body to regulate and know how much is going in before it alerts you to how much more is needed. Remember, being thirsty is not necessarily a symptom of being dehydrated. Your mouth could simply be parched from mouth breathing, or eating dry foods.

The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @HotMocs. If you are looking for the right outdoor style and gear to keep you happy and healthy, check out!

Featured images: License: Royalty Free or iStock source:

Adam Nutting relishes being an avid backpacker, hiker, and all-around adventure junkie. While he currently spends his time hiking in the backcountry of southern Arizona, he grew up in Missouri, where he was naturally inclined to spend as much time as he could outdoors. Adam’s passion for the outdoors grew as he climbed the ranks of the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

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