Overlanding and camping offer an exhilarating way to explore the outdoors. It also serves as a great opportunity to acquire new skills, gain independence, and discover self-sufficiency. It is essential to be aware of the health risks and hazards inherent in overlanding and camping so that you can take necessary precautions and remain secure during your adventure.
Overlanding has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its flexibility and low cost compared to other forms of travel like airfare or train tickets. However, there are some health risks involved that you should be aware of before embarking on your next overlanding adventure!
In a Nutshell: Overlanding & Health Risks / Hazards
While overlanding and camping are generally enjoyable experiences, they do come with certain health risks. Some common health risks encountered during these activities include:
- Dehydration: Due to increased physical activity and exposure to sun and wind, dehydration is a common concern. It is essential to drink plenty of water and monitor your fluid intake to avoid dehydration-related issues.
- Foodborne illnesses: Consuming spoiled or improperly stored food can lead to food poisoning or other foodborne illnesses. Proper food storage, handling, and preparation are crucial to minimize this risk.
- Insect-borne diseases: Mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects can transmit diseases like Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and malaria. Using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and using insect-proof tents or shelters can help reduce the risk.
- Waterborne illnesses: Drinking untreated or contaminated water can result in waterborne illnesses such as giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, or cholera. Always filter or purify water before consumption.
- Altitude sickness: Camping or overlanding at high altitudes can cause altitude sickness, which may manifest as headache, nausea, dizziness, or difficulty breathing. Acclimatize gradually and be aware of your limits to minimize the risk.
- Sunburn and heat-related illnesses: Overexposure to the sun can lead to sunburn, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. Use sun protection measures like sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats, and take breaks in the shade to stay cool.
- Hypothermia and frostbite: In cold environments, there is a risk of hypothermia or frostbite. Dress in layers, wear appropriate clothing, and stay dry to prevent these cold-related issues.
- Injuries and accidents: Outdoor activities can lead to injuries like sprains, fractures, or cuts. Be prepared with a well-stocked first aid kit and know basic first aid procedures.
- Exposure to wildlife: Encounters with wildlife can pose risks, such as snake bites, animal attacks, or exposure to zoonotic diseases. Keep a safe distance from wild animals, store food properly, and know how to react in case of an encounter.
- Mental health challenges: Being in remote areas for extended periods can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, or depression. Maintain open communication with your travel companions, practice self-care, and seek help if needed.
By being aware of these risks and taking appropriate precautions, overlanders and campers can minimize potential health issues and enjoy their outdoor experiences more safely.
There are additional health and environmental risks to consider while overlanding. These risks can vary depending on the location, climate, and individual circumstances. Some of these risks include:
- Air quality: Overlanding in areas with high levels of air pollution or dust can exacerbate respiratory issues like asthma or allergies. Wearing a dust mask or avoiding heavily polluted areas when possible can help mitigate this risk.
- Allergies: Exposure to new environments and vegetation can trigger allergic reactions. Carrying appropriate medication, like antihistamines, can help manage symptoms.
- Traveler’s diarrhea: Consuming contaminated food or water can cause traveler’s diarrhea. Practice good food hygiene and water purification to reduce this risk.
- Motion sickness: Some individuals may experience motion sickness due to the constant movement and vibrations of overlanding vehicles. Over-the-counter medication or natural remedies can help alleviate symptoms.
- Infectious diseases: Overlanding can expose travelers to various infectious diseases like hepatitis, typhoid, or yellow fever. Researching the destination and getting necessary vaccinations beforehand can help reduce the risk.
- Ecosystem damage: Off-road driving can damage vegetation, erode soil, and disrupt wildlife habitats. Stick to designated trails and practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize environmental impact.
- Waste disposal: Proper disposal of human waste, greywater, and trash is crucial to prevent contamination of water sources, soil, and the surrounding environment. Use established facilities or pack out waste when necessary.
- Fire hazards: Campfires and cooking equipment can pose a risk of wildfires, especially in dry or windy conditions. Follow local regulations, use designated fire rings or portable stoves, and ensure fires are fully extinguished before leaving the area.
Dealing with: Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke
When working or exercising in hot temperatures without adequate air flow, your body can become overheated. This could result in heat exhaustion or, if left untreated, heat stroke – a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical assistance.
People with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, obesity, mental illness and sickle cell trait are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses than others. Children and adults over 65 also have a slower capacity for adapting to heat stress than other populations.
Dehydration, inadequate acclimatization and the consumption of certain medicines such as diet pills or sedatives can all cause heat-related health complications. Furthermore, excessive alcohol or caffeine use may further exacerbate these effects.
Heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, exhaustion and rash are the most prevalent. Heat stroke is the most serious of these, which may cause unconsciousness or even lead to death.
If you or someone you know has any symptoms of heat exhaustion, dial Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance and try to cool them down by laying them down in a shady area and using cool water sponges or sprays.
Another method for keeping people cool is applying ice packs to the head, neck or ears. However, Santosh Sinha MD at Dignity Health Medical Group – Bakersfield cautions that offering someone with heat stroke ice water may actually do more harm than good since it constricts their capillaries and makes it harder for their body to rid itself of excess heat.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are conditions that can strike anyone, regardless of age or physical fitness level. They usually occur due to prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures and can take place indoors or outdoors.
Dealing with: Dehydration
Dehydration is a serious health concern that can have dire consequences for those who spend time outdoors. This condition occurs when your body loses more fluid than what can be replaced through drinking water and other liquids.
Your body loses water daily through sweat, tears, breathing and urine. To replace this lost fluid you should drink fluids and consume foods that contain water.
However, dehydration can occur quickly due to illnesses and conditions like fever, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme exercise. Dehydration is especially likely in hot weather or with excessive sun exposure so it’s essential that you drink enough water when going on long hikes or camping trips.
Dehydration can be identified by symptoms such as thirst, a dry mouth and lack of urination. While these signs may be mistaken for altitude sickness or headaches, they should never be ignored.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to dehydration, as their bodies lose fluids more slowly than younger ones do. It may be difficult for them to recognize when they’re thirsty, and medical problems or physical limitations could make getting a drink difficult.
Dehydration can manifest itself in severe cases as fainting and lightheadedness when standing, disorientation, low blood pressure, a rapid heart rate and confusion. If you or someone close to you experiences any of these symptoms it is imperative that they seek medical assistance immediately.
Dehydration can be prevented by hydrating yourself beforehand and drinking frequent, small cups of water. In extreme cases, you can try rehydrating with fluids that contain electrolytes–found in sports drinks, water, and other liquids–but remember to do this slowly and steadily so your body has time to absorb the fluids.
Dealing with: Insects
Insects and other arthropods can sting, bite, parasitize and transmit diseases. They may cause allergic reactions, irritate skin layers and infest wounds.
Although the precise effects of insects on human health and welfare are difficult to measure, medical entomologists around the world are working diligently to reduce these negative consequences in order to promote improved public health.
One of the most detrimental insect pests to humans are those responsible for transmitting diseases like malaria, West Nile virus and bubonic plague. Mosquitoes can spread these illnesses through their ability to change hosts and spread infection through direct bloodstream contact with humans.
Ticks, fleas and mosquitoes can spread a variety of pathogens like bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms to humans. These illnesses range from mild infections that don’t even require medical attention to serious illnesses like cholera or amoebic dysentery which could prove deadly if left untreated.
Another potential risk lies in consuming certain plants and berries, such as blackberries or raspberries without proper knowledge. Some of these fruits and plants may be poisonous while others are generally safe but could result in severe sickness or hospitalization if not consumed carefully.
Additionally, contact with sewage and garbage can lead to the spread of infectious diseases. These germs are spread by flies that visit the waste, as well as other insects living in water or soil.
Overlanding and camping in remote areas can be dangerous if you don’t take the proper safety precautions. Research your route carefully, understand your vehicle’s limits, and create a contingency plan just in case something goes awry. It’s also wise to bring along a satellite communication device, inform someone trustworthy of where you’re going, and practice using all equipment before embarking on such an adventure.
Insect-borne diseases are a concern for anyone who spends time outdoors, but especially for those who are camping or traveling in areas where these diseases are common. The most common insect-borne illnesses include: Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick (the blacklegged tick, also known as “deer tick”). Ticks can be found throughout North America and Europe, including Canada and the United States.
West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds; it has spread across much of North America since its discovery in 1999. Malaria is caused by parasites that live inside female Anopheles mosquitoes; these insects breed in still waters such as lakes and ponds, which makes them more likely to be found near campsites than other types of mosquitoes–but they can also breed in standing water around your tent! Zika virus may not be present where you’re camping but could become active during your trip if there’s an outbreak nearby.
Dealing with: Contact with Animals
Around the world, people engage with animals in many ways – as companions, pets, livestock or wildlife. These relationships offer many benefits such as food, fiber, entertainment, sports and education.
However, animal-human contact also poses health risks. Animals can transmit diseases from humans that could be life-threatening or cause permanent disability in some cases; these illnesses are known as zoonoses.
Zoonoses can cause serious illness to a range of groups, but young children and the elderly are especially at risk. These illnesses may include bacterial infections such as E. coli O157 or Cryptosporidium parvum, which in humans may result in diarrhea or kidney failure.
To reduce health risks, animal-contact areas should be thoroughly cleaned after each visit. People should refrain from eating or drinking in these areas, smoking or using items that encourage hand-to-mouth contact (e.g., pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups), and they must be supervised by a responsible adult.
Overlanding and camping are both great experiences, but they differ in how people get around and what they pack for their trip. Whether you choose to backpack out of a vehicle or bring along all your own gear and camping equipment, the main objective is still the same – to get outside and experience America’s vast landscape.
Overlanding and camping offer great chances to learn new skills, connect with people with similar interests, and form new habits. But before you embark on your trip, there are a few important things to consider: know your vehicle’s specifications; map out an itinerary; research weather conditions, road conditions, meals options, as well as local wildlife sightings. With these in mind, you can safely enjoy every minute of the journey! Overlanding is an amazing way to explore the world while connecting with nature. No matter which route you take, overlanding offers wonderful opportunities to discover the world through exploration – however you choose!
Dealing with: Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can pose a health risk to humans as they carry pathogens that spread diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, malaria, encephalitis and West Nile virus. These illnesses are serious – in some cases even lethal – for humans.
The Aedes mosquitoes (family Culicidae) are one of the most hazardous groups of mosquitoes to humans. These species have been known to transmit various diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika virus.
Aedes vexans, commonly known as the inland floodwater mosquito, breeds in flood-saturated soil and often lays eggs on top or within water-filled pits. Once matured, these larvae float to the surface and develop into adult mosquitoes.
Asian tiger mosquitoes and tree hole mosquitoes are container-bred mosquitoes that lay their eggs in water-filled holes in trees and shrubs, which can be found throughout the United States.
To reduce the population of these pests, EPA suggests people remove unwanted containers that may hold water such as old tires, empty flower pots and broken toys. Furthermore, check septic tanks and rain barrels to make sure they are covered with a tight mesh.
Insecticide spraying is a method used to kill adult mosquitoes and prevent their reproduction. While these treatments are usually successful, there can be side effects.
Malaria is caused by protozoan parasites that infect a female Anopheles mosquito, who feeds on blood. Once infected, these parasites can spread to the host’s liver and lead to life-threatening illness if left unchecked.
Mosquito-borne infections that can be transmitted to humans include Japanese encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, tularemia and filariasis; they may even cause heartworm disease in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, these illnesses tend to be extremely severe with an increasing number of deaths annually from these illnesses.
Dealing with: Environmental Hazards
The first thing to consider is the environment. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with camping and hiking in an unfamiliar area, especially if you’re going solo.
- Lightning strikes are one of the most common hazards encountered during overlanding trips, especially those that take place in areas with a high risk of thunderstorms or lightning storms. If you find yourself caught out in a storm, seek shelter immediately! Do not stand under trees or tall objects–they provide excellent conductors for electricity and can lead directly into your body if struck by lightning. If there is no place nearby where you can get out of harm’s way (such as inside a vehicle), crouch down on hands and knees as low as possible until the storm passes by–this will help reduce your chance of being struck by lightning but does not guarantee protection against all strikes.*
- Flash floods are another concern when camping outdoors during rainy seasons; they can happen quickly without warning due to heavy rainfall over short periods of time.* Wildfires are also common during summer months when wildfires often break out due to dry conditions caused by heat waves.* Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius), which could happen if someone gets lost overnight while camping without proper clothing or shelter.
- Wildfires: Dry conditions, high winds, and human negligence can lead to wildfires. Follow local fire regulations, use designated fire rings or portable stoves, and make sure your fire is fully extinguished before leaving.
- Falling trees or branches: Camping under dead or unstable trees can be dangerous, as they may fall during high winds or storms. Inspect the area for potential
- Unstable ground: Avoid camping on loose or unstable ground, such as cliffs, steep slopes, or areas prone to landslides. Choose a flat, stable area for your campsite.
- Avalanches: When camping in snowy or mountainous areas, be aware of the risk of avalanches. Research the area, avoid camping in avalanche-prone zones, and learn avalanche safety practices.