petroglyphs from Valley of Fire State Park

Hiking with POTS: Planning Your Hike

Hiking with POTS or other disabilities can be difficult.

petroglyphs from Valley of Fire State ParkSome days it can be down right impossible.  POTS or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is a form of dysautonomia that causes your heart rate to increase upon standing.  POTS can cause a wide range of symptoms like dizziness, swelling, and loss of consciousness.  All of which can make hikes or long walks difficult.  For more information about POTS, you can visit the Cleveland Clinic page.  Here are some tips for hitting the trail with POTS.

  1. Carefully plan your route.  Out and back trails tend to be my favorite for hiking since I became ill.  With out and back trails, you can turn around at any point. You are already familiar with the terrain as you just hiked through it.
  2. Pay attention to the weather.  For most POTS sufferers, heat can trigger symptoms or worsen existing symptoms.  Avoid long periods of hiking during the hottest parts of the day.  Hiking in the early morning or evening hours tends to be more comfortable than marching around at high noon.  Some individuals with POTS or other forms of dysautonomia may not be able to regulate their body temperature very well.  Dressing in layers can help you react to how your body acclimates to the trail.
  3. Avoid trails with steep drop offs, cliffs, or rough terrain.  Many people with POTS struggle with dizziness, vertigo, pre-syncope, and total loss of consciousness.  For my own safety, I avoid taking any trails where losing my balance could be disastrous.
  4. Begin hydrating days before your hike.  Anyone with POTS can confirm the importance of maintaining adequate hydration levels.  I pay very close attention to my hydration levels in the days prior to my hike.
  5. Bring a buddy.  I’ve never gone off into the woods by myself before I got sick, but the days where I ever would have considered that option are long gone.  Bring someone with you and let someone else know where you are going and when you are expected to return.  It is particularly helpful if your hiking buddy can assist with the drive home.  Due to dizziness, swelling, and general fatigue, I am not always able to drive myself home after a hike. 
  6. Plan a back up route or activity.  Sometimes the best laid plans fall through.  You could wake up the morning of your hike and not feel up for it.  A storm could roll in at the trail head, like what recently happened at Yellowstone National Park.  Anything can happen.  Its helpful to plan back up options.  Having to cancel a hike because you aren’t feeling up for it is heart breaking.  Knowing you can check out a nearby museum instead, can help take the sting out of it (particularly if you have children in your group).    Just don’t forget to let your emergency contact know your plans have changed.

I hope these tips have been helpful!  Please stay tuned, as I will be posting some tips for the day of your hike soon.  Subscribe to our email list below to be notified when our next post goes live!

1 thought on “Hiking with POTS: Planning Your Hike”

  1. Pingback: Hiking with POTS: During the Hike - Traveling Fiction

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *