Why Do Hands Swell When Hiking? Fix Swollen Hands

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What's up, hands? We've all been there before. You're out on a hike, enjoying the great outdoors, and getting some exercise when all of a sudden, your hands start to swell up.

It's not just uncomfortable - it can make it tough to grip your hiking poles or hold on to anything at all.

But it's not just you - this is a common issue for hikers, especially on longer treks. So why does it happen? And more importantly, how can you make it stop? Read on to find out.

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Swollen hand on table

Why do hands swell when hiking?

The most prominent reason why hands swell when hiking is due to gravity. When you constantly move your hands downward, gravity pulls the fluid in your hands down. This can cause the pressure in your hand to increase, and eventually, the fluid will start to seep out of your blood vessels.

This is why you often see people with swollen, puffy hands at the end of a long hike - they have been battling gravity the entire time!

There are several factors that can contribute to hand swelling while hiking, as well. Here are a few of the most common:

An illustration of top 5 reasons of swollen hands during hiking

1. Strong backpack straps

Blood transports oxygen through your heart or your entire body, but anything obstructing that circulation might result in swelling.

That's why one of the most common causes of swollen hands while hiking is simply wearing too-tight backpack straps. If they're cinched down too tightly, they can restrict blood flow and cause your hands to swell.

The solution here is simple - make sure your straps aren't too tight! You should be able to slip a few fingers underneath the straps while they're being worn. If you can't, loosen them up a bit.

2. Jewelry

You might not think that your jewelry would have anything to do with your hand swelling, but it can actually be a big factor!

Anything that constricts the blood flow in your hands - like rings, bracelets, or even watches - can contribute to swelling. That's because it limits the amount of blood that can circulate through your hand, which can eventually lead to fluid leakage.

If you're planning on going for a hike, it's best to leave your jewelry at home. If you absolutely must wear it, make sure it's not too tight and that you can still move your fingers freely.

3. Blood vessel expansion

Another common reason for swelling hands while hiking is simply the fact that blood vessels expand in warm weather.

When it's hot out, your body tries to cool itself off by expanding the blood vessels in your skin. That increased blood flow can cause swelling, especially in the extremities like your hands.

There's not much you can do about this one except to take breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Wearing loose, breathable clothing will also help your body regulate its temperature better.

4. Dehydration

Of course, speaking of water, one of the most common reasons for swollen hands while hiking is dehydration.

If you're not drinking enough water, your body will start to retain fluid in an attempt to keep itself hydrated. This can cause all sorts of problems, from headaches and fatigue to - you guessed it - swollen hands.

A dehydrated woman hiker

The solution is straight - make sure you're staying hydrated on your hike!

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike. And if you're hiking in a hot climate, consider adding an electrolyte-rich sports drink to your water bottle.

5. Excess salt intake

If you're sweating a lot while hiking - and let's face it, you probably are - then you're also losing electrolytes like sodium.

If you don't replace those electrolytes, your body will start to retain water in an attempt to balance things out. And as we know, that can lead to swollen hands (among other things).

To avoid this, make sure you're drinking enough fluids and eating foods that are high in electrolytes. Salty snacks, sports drinks, and even coconut water can help replace the electrolytes you're losing while sweating.

6. Hyponatremia

Of course, it's possible to drink too much water - and that can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia occurs when the level of sodium in your blood becomes too diluted. This can happen if you drink too much water without replacing the electrolytes you're losing through sweat. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, and - you guessed it - swollen hands.

If you think you might be suffering from hyponatremia, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, stop drinking water and try to replace the electrolytes you've lost with sports drinks or salty snacks.

7. Altitude

If you're hiking at high altitudes, the lack of oxygen can cause your blood vessels to constrict. This reduced blood flow can lead to all sorts of problems, including swelling in the hands.

To avoid this, take it slowly when hiking at high altitudes. Drink plenty of water and give your body time to adjust to the thinner air.

8. Humidity

Humid conditions can lead to swelling of the hands, particularly during the summer. A hot day increases blood circulation to hand tissues that heat faster. Normally, the sweat evaporates and helps cool the skin.

In extremely humid conditions, our bodies cannot evaporate heat, which causes moisture loss. The liquid beneath the skin cannot be removed, so the fingers swell up. Couple an extremely humid day swinging your arms while hiking to increase the swelling in your hands.

The best way to combat swollen hands due to humidity is to take breaks often, drink lots of fluids, and wear loose-fitting clothing.

9. Allergen

Many people are allergic to poison ivy, oak, and sumac. The oils from these plants can cause an itchy, blistering rash. This reaction is called contact dermatitis, which can occur on any part of the body that has come into contact with the plant oils.

If you think you might have come into contact with one of these plants, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible.

You can also try applying a cool compress to the area to help reduce swelling.

10. Insect Bites

Being bitten by insects is not only annoying, but it can also cause your hands to swell up. Insect bites can cause an allergic reaction that leads to swelling, redness, and itching.

To avoid being bitten by insects, try to hike in areas where there are fewer insects. If you do get bitten, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cool compress to help reduce swelling.

11. Menstrual hormones

If the period is not fun enough, some women will experience fluid retention and swelling in their extremities - including their hands. The fluctuating levels of hormones cause this during the menstrual cycle.

There's not much you can do to avoid this, but try to take it easy on days when you're feeling particularly bloated or swollen. Drink plenty of fluids and try to get some extra rest.

12. Pregnancy

Pregnancy can also cause fluid retention and swelling in the hands. This is caused by the increased levels of hormones and the extra fluids that are needed to support the growing baby.

To help reduce swelling, try to keep your hands elevated as much as possible, drink plenty of fluids and put your feet up when you can. Try to avoid standing for long periods of time and wear loose-fitting clothes.

How To Reduce Swelling In Hands? (Overall)

When we figure out the causes of hand swelling on a hike, everyone will be able to find an easy solution. It's easy to do something to stop it from happening.

1. Water

Water is essential to human circulation. It makes up almost 70% of the body. As mentioned, Dehydration is one of the primary causes of hand swelling.

When we don't drink enough water, our body begins to shut down non-essential systems to preserve what little moisture it has. This can cause our blood vessels to constrict and our hands to swell.

So, the best way to reduce swelling in your hands is to drink plenty of fluids. Make sure you're drinking enough water before, during, and after your hike.

However, drinking too much water will not ensure even blood circulation to all body parts. Cold and wholesome beverages will replenish your body and keep it hydrated.

Keep away from beverages that are high in alcohol, caffeine, or carbon.

2. Sodium

The simple habit of drinking plenty of water on hikes can only cause your hand to swell or cause more pain. Does this contradict? This can be explained by keeping the sodium levels in your body safe while also keeping yourself hydrated.

If one drinks lots of water without any sodium, it lowers its sodium level, causing hypothermia and causing swollen fingers.

But too many or too few does not make sense. In addition to the effects of excessive sugar consumption on the skin and joints, you may have to use more water to eliminate the toxins in your system.

And, just like with anything else in life, moderation is key.

3. Retrograde massage

If you are suffering from hand swelling, you can use a retrograde massage to help improve circulation. This is a type of massage that is performed in the opposite direction of blood flow.

To perform a retrograde massage, start at the fingertips and massage towards the wrist. Perform this massage for about 5 minutes or until you feel the swelling begin to reduce.

4. Remove all bracelets and rings

Many hikers forget to remove bracelets or rings from their hands when exercising. After hours of exercise, your muscles grow bigger, and the bracelets that fit your wrists and fingers may be tighter during this period.

It can cause your wrist and hands to become swollen and sore in your hands. Although you can quickly recognize this problem, it is hard to get them out when your hand or palm has become puffy. So remember to take them off before going on a hike!

5. Pumping exercise

Besides retrograde massage, you can also do some hand exercises to reduce swelling. One effective exercise is called "pumping."

To do this exercise, make a fist with your hand and open it as wide as possible. Repeat this process about 10 times. You should feel the blood flowing to your hand, and the swelling begins to reduce.

6. Raise your hands

Lift your hands above you and place them in fists to decrease swelling. This allows the elasticity of the hand to redistribute fluid through the arms. This helps your muscles reduce swelling too.

7. Wear gloves

If you are going to be hiking for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to wear gloves. Gloves will help protect your hands from the elements and keep them warm.

Wearing gloves will also help to reduce the amount of sweat that your hands produce. This will help to keep your hands from becoming too slippery and reduce the risk of blisters.

Many different types of gloves available can help you fix swelling in your hands. Choose a comfortable pair that will allow you to move your fingers freely.

8. Take breaks

If you are doing a lot of hand-intensive work on your hike, make sure to take breaks often. This will give your hands a chance to rest and will help to prevent them from getting too tired or sore.

If you are going to be hiking for an extended period of time, it is also a good idea to take breaks every hour or so. This will help your body to stay fueled and will also help to prevent dehydration.

Hands swell while hiking – Is it safe?

If your hands are swollen after a hike, it is generally safe to assume that the swelling is due to fluid retention and is not a serious concern.

This can happen when you are dehydrated or when you have been sweating a lot. In most cases, the swelling will resolve itself within a few hours, provided that you drink plenty of fluids and allow your body to rest.

If the swelling does not go down within a few hours, or if you experience any pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands, it is important to seek medical attention. These could be signs of an underlying condition that needs to be treated.

It is also important to note that you should consult with your doctor before embarking on a hike if you have any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease. These conditions can increase your risk of developing complications from hand swelling.


Despite the discomfort, swollen hands are generally not a cause for concern. However, there are some steps you can take to help reduce swelling and make your hike more comfortable.

Follow these tips to fix swollen hands while hiking, so you can enjoy your time in nature without worrying about your hands!

Have you experienced swollen hands while hiking? What solutions worked best for you? Share your tips in the comments below!

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