DENVER (KDVR) — Have you ever been hiking or running and your fingers started to swell? You’re not alone. In fact, it happens to a lot of people, especially during the summer.
Dr. William Cornwell of UCHealth said several factors can cause your hands and feet to swell while you hike and exercise.
“First and foremost, when you exercise, there’s a marked increase in the amount of blood flow circulating throughout your body, including your hands and feet,” Cornwell said. “The second thing, when you’re running, hiking, that sort of thing, your hands are in a somewhat dependent position, which means that gravity is also going to pull fluid into your feet and hands, making it makes it a bit more difficult for blood flow to back up into your core cavity and central chest.
Here are a few other things that can cause your hands to swell while you’re hiking:
- Watches, jewelry
- tight clothes
The temperature can also cause your hands to swell.
“When it’s hot outside, your blood vessels will relax or vasodilate in an effort to keep your body temperature where it needs to be, so you sweat more. Your body will actually use your hands and hands a lot. feet to regulate your internal temperature where it needs to be at all times,” Cornwell explained.
How can I prevent this from happening?
Cornwell said there’s no pill or anything you can take to stop the swelling from happening, but you can be smart and aware.
You can do the following to help with the swelling:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes
- Avoid wearing tight watches or smart bracelets
- Don’t wear your backpack too tight
“You can hold your arms above your head to use gravity to your advantage to help get blood out of your hands and back into your core cavity,” Cornwell says.
When should I be worried?
One thing you should watch out for is hyponatremia, which means low sodium levels in your blood. It is a condition that can occur if you sweat a lot or exercise in very hot temperatures.
Cornwell said it could be a dangerous or life-threatening scenario. It can also cause your hands to swell, but other symptoms can accompany the swelling:
- Changes in neurological function
“We always encourage people to be aware of where you are and what you are doing, especially in Colorado when you are in the middle of nowhere with limited access to medical care, your friends and family don’t know where you are or what you’re doing, those are the types of things you want to avoid,” Cornwell said. “You always want to be smart.”
He said it’s important to always have a plan when hiking or spending time outdoors.
Here are some important things to know before you go hiking:
1. Plan your route in advance
If you’ve decided to attempt a 14er or any other hike, you’ll want to plan your route in advance. Some climbs are more difficult than others. There is always the possibility that some trails will be covered or buried in snow.
A great tool to help you decide which peak you are going to attempt and how difficult that peak will be is the ’14er routes by difficulty’ list on 14ers.com.
There are six different categories of climbs ranging from easiest at class 1 to hardest at class 4.
2. Tell someone where you are going
It’s important to make sure you tell someone where you’re going. You will want to tell them the following:
- Where you are going – providing specific contact details is helpful
- What time do you leave
- How long do you expect it to take you to the top
- Contact information
Most importantly, take someone with you as you attempt to climb a mountain.
3. Have the right equipment
Having the right gear is crucial when attempting to summit a 14er. It can be the difference between success and a failed attempt. It’s also important to expect the unexpected when hiking in 14 inches. The weather can change at any time.
Here are some of the items you’ll want to have with you on a 14-inch ride:
- Hiking shoes/boots
- Hiking socks
- Layers of clothing: light shirt, long sleeves, light jacket, rain poncho, sweatshirt, coat, leggings, hiking pants, shorts
- Extra pair of socks
- Sun glasses
- Sun screen
- Lots of water, a water bag
- Inhaler (if you have one)
- Lip balm
- Hiking backpack
- Watch/Compass/Mobile phone
- First aid kit
- portable phone charger
- Toilet paper
Don’t rely on your cell phone. Expect your battery to die or your phone to be out of service. Have a second form of satellite communication, such as InReach.
14ers.com offers a long list of equipment.
4. Pack the food
One of the most important things you will need to have with you is food. Many people take protein bars, trail mixes, and beef jerky. There’s no such thing as too much food. Focus on carbs and hydration. If you get hurt or lost while hiking, food could be the difference between life and death.
The Next Summit has created a long list of specific snacks to pack on your next hike.
5. Watch the weather and start early
Colorado’s weather can change in the blink of an eye, especially in the mountains. The rule of thumb when hiking in the mountains of Colorado is to be at the top by noon, when thunderstorms can usually arrive. It is important to start your summit attempt early.
The first rule of lightning: Descend to a lower altitude. This should be your first priority. To maximize your chances of surviving a nearby lightning strike, you should hold yourself in a “lightning stance” until the storm passes:
- Keep away from any metal object that can conduct electricity
- Squat down, like a baseball catcher
- Stand on the balls of your feet only, heels off the floor
- Make sure your elevated heels are touching. In the event of a strike, the electricity will move in one foot and out the other, instead of moving throughout your body
- Cover your ears and close your eyes to protect yourself from thunderclaps and flashes of light
- Stay in the lightning stance until you no longer feel threatened by lightning
Safety experts advise all visitors to the high country to prepare for all weather conditions and follow recommended safety practices, such as dressing in layers and never hiking alone.
Be sure to download the free Pinpoint Weather app to stay up to date with the latest data as it arrives.
6. Go at your own pace
There is no rule that says you have to complete a hike at a record pace. Attempting to reach the summit faster than you are able could lead to injury, exhaustion, and a failed summit.
The Colorado Welcome Center said altitude sickness is caused by a lack of oxygen in your body and an inability to acclimate to less oxygenated air. This can be caused by climbing too high, too fast.
The Colorado Visitor Center shared the following tips:
- To drink a lot of water; replenishing fluids helps stabilize your body. You should also do this a few days in advance.
- Take it easy; don’t overwork yourself. Maybe start with a 10er, 11er, 12er, or 13er first.
- Experts recommend following a high carbohydrate diet at altitude.
- Keep alcohol consumption and smoking to a minimum.
- Remember that altitude sickness can affect anyone, even top athletes.
- Most importantly, if you’re not feeling well, let someone know.
8. Stay on track
The trails were created as a guide to take you to the top of a mountain. Deviating from these paths or attempting to take shortcuts could result in injury or even death. In addition, by staying on the trails, you help preserve nature.
9. Know your limits
If you feel unwell, get lost, or suffer an injury, be prepared to ask for help if you need it.
Get a Search and Rescue Map for Colorado Outdoor Recreation:
If a search and rescue team incurs expenses during a mission, they do not charge the person they
assistance. They (or the sheriff of the county under which they operate) absorb this cost. Purchasing a CORSAR card helps ensure that a county sheriff and SAR team are financially prepared for the next mission – just as they were ready to help you because the people they helped had a card and that the team’s expenses have been reimbursed. This card allows first aiders to claim reimbursement of extraordinary expenses, but not normal operating or mission expenses.
10. Leave No Trace
The “Leave No Trace” organization was created to protect the outdoors. It provides education, skills, research and science to help people care for the outdoors. A partnership with Leave No Trace and the Colorado Office of Tourism, here are the principles created for our state:
- Know before you go
- Stay on the trails
- Leave it as you find it
- Throw the trash
- Be careful with fire
- Keep wildlife
- Share trails and parks
One of the most used tools by 14ers is 14ers.com. From trip reports to an exchange shop, forum and trail conditions, the site contains crucial information for hikers trying to climb a 14er.
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