With temperatures regularly topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the month of July, the high 80s and low 90s predicted for this weekend in Zion National Park will be warm but manageable. But even if the air temperature won’t hit triple digits this weekend, direct sunlight, warm temperatures, and difficult hikes can still be deadly if hikers or other visitors aren’t prepared.
Dehydration and heat stroke can strike even the most experienced hikers. No matter how accustomed to the heat you think you are or how often you hike, if you aren’t properly hydrating and taking precautions, you could find yourself in a dangerous situation far away from civilization and the aid of medical professionals.
Whether you choose to enjoy one of Zion’s stunning trails this holiday or are headed to the park for picnics or other outdoor activities, staying hydrated and protected from the sun is a must. Keep reading to learn the signs of dehydration and heat stroke, and what you can do to protect yourself.
Signs of Dehydration
When you’re scaling rocks and climbing steep grades, you likely aren’t going to be surprised if you’re soaked in sweat. But if you notice that you’re sweating more than usual, it’s time to take a drink.
Many of the early signs of dehydration are easy to overlook. After all, staying hydrated won’t keep you from sweating or getting tired on the trail. But it will help with both of those things.
While you will likely sweat profusely as your body begins to dehydrate, as your condition worsens, you’ll actually stop sweating as your body tries to preserve what water it has left.
Another symptom of dehydration that often gets overlooked is dark colored urine. Ideally, if you’re staying hydrated and don’t have any underlying conditions that can affect it, your urine should be pale yellow or nearly clear. Anything darker than the shade of your glass of lemonade is concerning.
Headaches often accompany dehydration. If it becomes severe, you might become confused and disoriented. Many people will quickly become lightheaded. If you don’t sit and hydrate quickly, you may pass out.
If you’re hiking with a group and notice that one of your companions’ skin has gone pale, despite the heat and effort of the hike, it’s time to take a drink break. Pale skin and loss of pigmentation is another sign that a person is becoming dehydrated.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Dehydration can sometimes be a sign of something much more serious happening in your body. Heat stroke occurs when dehydration becomes severe. Without enough water, your body’s core temperature rises. Left unchecked, it can reach dangerous levels and become deadly.
Similar to dehydration, the symptoms of heat stroke include loss of sweating, headache, and disorientation.
If measures aren’t taken to stop and treat the signs of heat exhaustion, it can become heat stroke. Besides the signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke can also cause loss of muscle coordination, far worse disorientation, and more. When they hit the point where heat exhaustion becomes heat stroke, an individual may go into shock and lose consciousness.
Treating Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
Every individual reacts differently to dehydration and heat exhaustion. An experienced hiker who is often out in the heat but who simply didn’t drink enough before their hike may be able to combat the early signs of dehydration and get back to healthy levels on their own, given that they notice the signs right away. But others may experience more severe side effects earlier, and may require more serious care.
If you or someone in your group thinks they may be getting dehydrated, immediately take a break. Try to find somewhere in the shade to sit and drink. Take small, frequent sips of water rather than chugging a bottle. You combat the early symptoms of heat exhaustion in the same way. Lowering your core body temperature by removing hot layers, seeking cover from the sun, and applying cool, wet clothes to your forehead and neck can also help.
If you drink and rest and your symptoms disappear right away, you can then continue your hike. If symptoms persist, it’s a good idea to head for civilization or else stay resting rather than continuing onward. The last thing you want to do is go even further away from help should you wind up needing it.
If symptoms are severe or persist, it’s important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
4th of July Weekend to Increase the Risk of Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
This holiday weekend’s high temps aren’t going to stop thousands of visitors from making their way to Zion. Unfortunately, the crowds may just contribute to an increase in dehydration and heat exhaustion.
On previous busy holiday weekends, like this year’s Memorial Day, high attendance numbers led to lines of hikers waiting to head to popular landmarks like Angels Landing. This left people standing out in the heat longer than usual. This happened in 2018 as well, which prompted park officials to move the lines this year to give hikers access to restrooms and water bottle refill stations.
Preventing Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
With a little pre-planning and preparation, you can prevent the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration before they start.
Drinking plenty of water not just during your hike, but in the hours and the days leading up to your visit to the park is a must. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water is the recommended amount for adults engaging in normal, everyday activities and is the minimum you should drink in the days leading up to your visit. While you are hiking, you’ll need to increase this to keep up as your body ramps up its efforts. Active, healthy hikers should be drinking at least two liters of water every hour on the trail. When conditions are hot or the trail is strenuous, even more will be necessary to stay safe and hydrated.