Hiking Basics

If you are planning on enjoying the wonderful weather and hitting the trails for a nice scenic walk, bike ride, or hike, take into account some simple basic preventative measures that may help you want to go again, versus wish you had stayed home!

Bug – bite basics:

Prevention against Mosquitoes bites, tick bites, bee stings, and other noxious bugs. Pack some bug spray. You can find handy small portable spray bottles to pack in a small bag or back pack. Use as directed on the label. For mosquito protection use a product that contains DEET. It ranges from 4% to 100%. The higher the concentration the longer lasting it is. For example: A product containing 23.8% DEET provided an average of 5 hours of protection from mosquito bites; a product containing 20% DEET provided almost 4 hours of protection; a product with 6.65% DEET provided almost 2 hours of protection; and products with 4.75% DEET were both able to provide roughly 1 and a half hour of protection.

Wear breathable, light colored clothing. This will allow you to find ticks easier and not attract the flying stinging insects as much. Make sure you check your entire body after hiking for small ticks and remove them as soon as possible. Check again a few hours later in case there were small ones that you missed. They will get bigger as they fill with your blood. You can remove them with tweezers grasping the head firmly and pulling.

For mosquito bites, try not to scratch! Secondary infections are not fun. You can apply a little household ammonia to help tame the itch if needed. For bee stings, ice applied directly to the sting can help with the pain after making sure the stinger is not still in your skin. If it is, you can scrape it out with a credit card or use tweezers. Benedryl can help with the redness and swelling either orally or topically. And as always, watch for signs of infection after a bite of any kind: increased redness, purulent drainage, fever and severe pain.

Sun protection:

Make sure you bring along sunscreen and apply it before you leave and every 2 hours while you are out. Application may be needed more often if you are sweating it off or get wet (swimming). Use at least a 30 SPF and make sure it contains ingredients that will also protect you against UVA rays (ie: avobenzone, zinc oxide, tidioxide or mexoryl) rather than just UVB only. Older versions only protected against UVB. Never use sunscreen that is over 1 year old. It is not guaranteed to work as well, the older it gets!


Wear comfortable tie shoes of the appropriate size for your foot; with socks to prevent friction and rubbing that leads to painful blisters. Make sure your shoes are in good condition and not worn out. This can lead to sore feet from the lack of support needed for those hiking trails. If a blister occurs, wash with soap and water, dry well, apply Neosporin and a Band-aid. Bring an extra pair of socks if your feet sweat a lot to change them through your hike. Moisture and friction will lead to painful blisters!

Poison Ivy/oak:

Watch where you walk and what you brush up against. There are many places where poison ivy/oak hide! “Google” poison ivy or oak and see what pictures you see before you go out into the wilderness so you know what to look for. When in doubt, avoid it.

There are some over the counter (OTC) barrier creams you can also put on before going out. Check out your local pharmacy. The other option is to wear protective clothing and change immediately when you get home. Try to avoid touching the areas of clothing that may have the oils from the plants on them. That is what spreads the rash. Wash your clothes and shoes promptly to prevent getting the oils on your skin. If you do get exposed and develop the blistery rash, apply OTC hydrocortisone creams to the areas. Keep them clean and dry. Do not pop the blisters! That will increase your risk for infection. If OTC meds are not helping the rash, come in for an appointment for evaluation for infection and a prescription for oral steroids.

We hope these simple tips will help keep you enjoying and exploring the great outdoors!

Questions? Call UIS Campus Health at (217) 206-6676.