Ways to Avoid Heat Injury and Other Desert Hazards

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Michael DeYoung/Corbis

In a desert survival situation, it is unlikely that you will have a medic or medical supplies with you to treat heat injuries. Therefore, take extra care to avoid heat injuries. Rest during the day. Work during the cool evenings and nights. Use a buddy system to watch for heat injury and observe the following guidelines.

Make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Do not travel alone unless it is absolutely necessary. Watch for signs of heat injury for yourself and others in your group. If someone complains of tiredness or wanders away from the group, he may be a heat casualty.

You will be using much more energy than you might realize if you find yourself stranded in the desert. Remember to drink water at least once an hour. Get in the shade when resting; do not lie directly on the ground.  Even if you’re feeling hot, do not take off your shirt and work during the day.  Check the color of your urine. A light color means you are drinking enough water; a dark color means you need to drink more.

Other Desert Hazards

There are several hazards unique to desert survival. These include insects, snakes, thorned plants and cacti, contaminated water, sunburn, eye irritation and climatic stress. Insects of almost every type abound in the desert. Humans, as a source of water and food, attract lice, mites, wasps and flies. They are extremely unpleasant and may carry diseases. Old buildings, ruins and caves are favorite habitats of spiders, scorpions, centipedes, lice and mites. These areas provide protection from the elements and also attract other wildlife. Therefore, take extra care when staying in these areas.

Wear gloves at all times in the desert. Do not place your hands anywhere without first looking to see what is there. Visually inspect an area before sitting or lying down. When you get up, shake out and inspect your boots and clothing. All desert areas have snakes. They inhabit ruins, native villages, garbage dumps, caves and natural rock outcroppings that offer shade. Never go barefoot or walk through these areas without carefully inspecting them for snakes. Pay attention to where you place your feet and hands. Most snakebites result from stepping on or handling snakes. Avoid them. Once you see a snake, give it a wide berth.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Army Survival Manual