Warning over hiking in UAE heat after latest rescue

Police rescued five hikers in Ras Al Khaimah on Sunday after they ventured out in high temperatures

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Hiking in high temperatures can be extremely dangerous, experts have warned after five people were lost in a Ras Al Khaimah valley on Sunday.

Police rescued the group after officers responded to a distress call.

“They lost their way in the Wadi Qada’a area. It turned out they were in a rugged area that could only be accessed by a helicopter,” said Col Yousef bin Yaqoub, director of Ras Al Khaimah Police’s Special Task Force.

The hikers were airlifted to safety.

Temperatures have dipped in recent days, making mornings and evenings feel cooler. But the mercury still hits about 40ºC by early afternoon.

People don’t understand how their body reacts when exposed to intense heat combined with the physical exertion required for hiking
Amy Subaey, owner of UAE Trekkers

“After rescuers provided them with support and ensured they were in good health, they took them to the car park where they left their vehicles,” Col bin Yaqoub said.

“But one of them was taken to hospital after suffering from extreme exhaustion.”

He urged people to avoid hiking until cooler weather arrives in the autumn.

“We are fully prepared to provide help and rescue people in distress but for better public safety it's advised that members of the public avoid rough mountains.”

Wait for cooler conditions

Amy Subaey, owner of UAE Trekkers, an adventure tourism company, said people often set out in the cooler mornings, not realising how rapidly temperatures will rise.

“People don’t understand how their body reacts when exposed to intense heat combined with the physical exertion required for hiking,” Ms Subaey said.

She said hikers can find themselves in a medical emergency in a matter of minutes if they do not have enough water, have weak mobile signals or a faulty map.

“Dehydration, heat exhaustion and ultimately, heat stroke all are serious medical emergencies that require immediate medical attention,” she said.

The symptoms can also be very confusing to people who do not have training or experience, leading them to underestimate the risks they may face.

“If people really want to hike now, they can go on trails that they know well from 5am to 7am, but no later.”

Ms Subaey said bodies that are accustomed to air conditioning can go into a shock very quickly.

Dr Adil Sajwani, consultant in family medicine at Fakeeh University Hospital, said more cases of heat exhaustion and heat strokes arrive at hospitals during the summer.

“These can be life-threatening and increase because of hiking during the summer,” he said.

“This is because people are not drinking the amount of water their bodies need and also when hiking in mountains, they must know oxygen levels drop causing some people to suffer from breathing difficulties.”

Dr Sajwani urged people to simply not go hiking during the hot weather.

“If you want to go, you need to be well trained and keep in mind that you must remain hydrated, eat fruits that retain water such as bananas, apples and dates,” he said.

“Avoid drinks and food that make you lose water such as coffee and spicy food.”

He also said that breathing exercises are important to increase lung capacity when hiking in mountains.

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Updated: August 30, 2022, 7:35 AM