How to Handle Headaches while hiking - Backpacker Backpacker Magazine

When I was on a hike through Nepal a couple of many years back, I awoke to find our guide pushing an acquaintance’s head using both hands, as if it tried to crush an octopus. My friend awoke with an intense headache, possibly due to altitude, or maybe due to a long, sunny afternoon in the hills. The squeezes helped a bit, perhaps an effective distraction from the crushing.

When you’re away far from home, a headache can cause tension, anger or even sadness and despair. As caretaker, headaches frustrate me, as well. They can be anything from a minor inconvenience , to serious bleeding or swelling in the brain. The first step in dealing with headaches is to rule out the potentially dangerous ones and offering any possible treatment is in the vicinity (although I’m not convinced that I can verify the head squeeze).

Do you need to be concerned? If you experience a “thunderclap” migraine that is at its highest intensity in moments or seconds after the headache began can be an indication of a genuine emergency and requires urgent attention. Extreme, “worst-ever” headaches warrant an evacuation to a front-country medical facility. A headache that is accompanied by neck stiffness or fever and difficulty speaking, or weakening on one side of the body could also indicate problems. I wouldn’t risk any of them in the backcountry. If you come across any of them on the trail, be sure to get away immediately.

Luckily, less harmful causes such as headaches caused by tension headaches and migraines are the most common causes of headaches. Both can be uncomfortable and at times, unbearable. A lot of people suffering from migraines have suffered similar symptoms before and are able to tell if they’re suffering from like a “typical” migraine. Fortunately there’s no migraines nor tension headaches or migraines are usually life-threatening and they can be treated in the wild (see below for ).

A change in routine could lead to headaches such as travel and sleep deprivation or dehydration, as well as the stress levels can trigger. A withdrawal from caffeine can cause headaches also, so if you’re used having a plethora of double espressos each morning, make sure you have enough consumption of caffeine during your hike or prepare for a headache from withdrawal within up to 2 days after cutting back (luckily there’s an easy solution for this).

The hike at higher elevations comes with certain risks. The headaches that occur at high altitudes usually signal the appearance of additional symptoms of mountain sickness such as sleeplessness nausea, dizziness or dizziness. The time to adjust and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen are helpful at high altitudes, but as always, descending is the best option for any kind of high-altitude illness. Be aware of the warning symptoms: an abnormal neurological examination, such as a lack of control (can’t walk, difficulty with balance) could be a sign of a life-threatening brain swelling which means it’s time to seek medical attention. Remember that headaches are a primary indication of carbon monoxide poisoning which is why a headache during cooking in huts, tents or any other close-quarters environment is a sign to be concerned, particularly in the event that a lot of people suffer from symptoms.

The treatment requires some individualization. In some cases, Ibuprofen Acetaminophen, or a hot coffee drink can do the trick. In other cases taking a break, drinking water, or staying away from bright lights and loud sounds could be the solution. Relaxation techniques that aren’t pharmaceutical such as biofeedback, meditation, and meditation are great methods to help yourself. Also, having a good understanding of techniques such as the acupressure technique can be a wonderful supplement to your medical backcountry kit.

While on a recent backpacking adventure one of my friends got up at about midnight with a horrible headache. He was a mess: hot, sweaty, and dizzy. Fortunately, we were able to rule out certain red-flag headache triggers: he was not feeling weak or confused and the headache started slowly, and he’d suffered similar symptoms of migraine previously. He fought through it and, with a few medications along with rehydration and an evening of rest and a good night’s sleep, we were back in the trails in the early morning.