Hiking events

Heat, hiking, hydration: local emergency responders urge

If you’ve been out recently, you don’t need us to tell you it’s hot. But some people seem to need a reminder to stay safe in this heat.

Since January 1, Habersham County Emergency Services have responded to ten heat-related incidents; all but one occurred in Tallulah Gorge. Heat, hiking and lack of hydration make for a potentially dangerous mix.

“One thing people need to remember is that even if they think one bottle of water is enough for the hike or event they are hosting, they should still bring more than they think they need. “, says HCES captain Matt Ruark.

Ruark’s first responder team gets called to the throat with relative frequency in the spring and summer, and it’s not always the callers who end up needing help. During a recent emergency call, a team member became overheated.

“The majority of these issues were primarily alleviated by helping the subjects rehydrate, either by getting them bottled water, using IV fluids, cooling them down, and then simply helping them out of the situation in where they were,” says Ruark.

Only one overheated hiker treated by HCES this year has been taken to hospital. Ruark and others hope it stays that way. To avoid becoming a victim, hikers in this heat should stay hydrated: drink plenty of water and pack a sports drink with electrolytes if you’re going on a long hike. The American Hiking Society offers these other safety tips:

  • Wear clothes that wick moisture away from the body (avoid cotton).
  • Use sunscreen – an SPF of 15 or higher is recommended – and apply it before going outside.
  • Soak your bandana in cool water and place it on your neck or head to let the evaporation cool you down.
  • Jump into the water with your water clothes and shoes on (keep your hiking boots and socks dry) and walk wet to stay cool. Also wet your head, but do not ingest untreated water.
  • Plan to start your hike early when the day is cooler and plan to hike in more shaded areas during the hottest part of the day.
  • Slow down and enjoy the view!
Printable, PDF and email version