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Ever notice that you have swollen fingers after hiking?
Or in the middle of a long day on the trail?
You might have questions about why fluid accumulates in your hands, fingers, feet, ankles and elsewhere when you hike.
Let's tackle those questions.
If your fingers swell after a hike, or you notice swollen ankles after your hiking boots come off, you're seeing fluid that should be in tissue spaces.
This watery fluid can get pushed into your fingers due to gravity, because your fingers are dangling for long periods of time as you hike.
Your blood vessels increase in diameter as your muscle contractions go on and on, also pushing fluid into your fingers.
This can also happen in your face (bags under your eyes, for example).
Important tip: This fluid accumulation should be painless.
There are lots of things you can try to reduce the amount of swelling, or prevent it altogether.
Start by removing all hand and wrist jewellery (use sunscreen or lip balm and a gentle twisting motion).
Sit down where you can prop your elbows above your heart. This returns the fluid more easily to the bloodstream because it works with, not against, gravity.
While you're propped up, consider whether or not you drank enough water during the hike.
And were you dehydrated even at the beginning of the hike?
Also ask yourself if your trail food was unusually salty.
Also think about your upper body clothing in terms of how tight and constrictive it might be.
It's possible that your backpack straps are cinched down too tightly, so check that out before you put it on again.
You can also try cold compresses, or plunging your hands into any available cold stream, lake or snow patch.
The fluid accumulation in your swollen fingers took awhile to get there.
So give it a few hours to get redistributed in your body.
This goes for swollen feet and ankles after a hike, too.
But if your fingers don't return to normal size within a few hours, something else is going on.
Now you know why your hands and fingers swell on a hike.
You also know what to do to manage the swelling, and even prevent it from bothering you again.
No more sausage fingers (or crab claws) for you!
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