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7 Dangerous Things to Watch out for in the Desert

Updated on February 15, 2018

Everyone knows the desert can be a dangerous place. But, just what exactly makes it dangerous in the first place? If you said because it’s hot, you’re partially right! Aside from that, there are a couple other things to watch out for in these dry and dusty regions of the Earth.

For the record, some of these are jokes and others are not. I think it's easy to distinguish between them. Or at least I hope!

A nasty sandstorm (Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army)
A nasty sandstorm (Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army)

Sandstorms (#7)

Just when things couldn’t get any more dry and dusty, here comes a big blast of wind to throw some of that sand and dirt right in your face. It’s really a pain, but it can also cause serious complications. If you get stuck in a sandstorm on foot, the best course of action is to find some sort of shelter that is blocking the wind. This is in an ideal situation, if it’s not possible to find shelter than you should cover your mouth and nose with anything available, even your shirt. If you have water with you, make the cover damp for better air filtration. Your eyes need protection as well; any sort of cover will work for this purpose. In the event you are in a car, you should probably pull over. If pulling over is not an option, slow down to a crawl, turn off your AC and shut the vents, and turn your headlights on.

Scorpions (#6)

These are some ugly little suckers. Scorpions are actually not exclusive to the desert; they are commonly found within savannahs, rainforests, grasslands, and some caves as well. Still, when most people think of a scorpion they think of the desert. The most dangerous thing about a scorpion is its venomous sting, capable of causing sickness and, in some cases, death. Fortunately, in the thirteen years I’ve lived in the desert, I’ve not once encountered a scorpion. Either I’m really lucky, or just really blind (more than likely it’s option number 2). Scorpions will typically be active at night during the summer months, and in the winter and spring months they will come out during the day. Just remember that they’re just like anyone else, they really hate the scorching heat that is common in the desert.

If you’re really worried about being stung, don’t be; scorpions usually only attack in self defense. Also, in the western US there is only one species of scorpion that has poison potent enough to be dangerous to humans, that being the bark scorpion. Across the world, there are 25 additional species that carry dangerous venom, but the mortality rate is very low in this day and age. If you do live in Arizona (the most likely location to find a bark scorpion) just be aware that those little guys can climb pretty well.

Flash floods don't take long to build up.
Flash floods don't take long to build up.

Flash Floods (#5)

Strange as it may seem, flash floods are a seriously dangerous thing in the desert. When it rains, there is little to hold back the flow of water. Whether this is due to lack of natural water channels, poor absorption ability of the dry ground, or a combination of the two, when you see it start to rain in the desert you need to get to higher ground or a rural/urban area with flood ditches. This should take place immediately, as the threat in a “flash” flood is that it happens fast. And no, you’re not really safe in your car; it’ll get swept away or become a boat if the flood is severe enough.

Aliens (#4)

They are really particular to long stretches of desert highway at night. In fact, the state of Nevada was even so bold as to devote a particular stretch of road to our green friends, called the Extraterrestrial Highway. I wonder how they feel; offended of our mockery of their ways, or thankful that they have more “specimen,” in particular European tourists.

As for equipment to handle an alien sighting, you’re best defense is a tin foil hat. Unfortunately, since Amazon does not sell such an important item, you’ll have to resort to crafting your own. And while you’re at it, buy an alien outfit. They’ll either love your devotion, or be deeply offended by your lack of taste and do terrible things to you. For such a low price, how can you say no?

Heat Exhaustion (#3)

On a more serious note, heat exhaustion is another peril of the desert. More likely to affect people with high blood pressure, the elderly, or those working or exercising in the heat, heat exhaustion has a plethora of symptoms. The illness will show symptoms within days or even hours, depending on the person’s intake of fluids and body type. Such symptoms include muscle fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea, and heavy sweating.

If you or someone around you seems to be experiencing heat exhaustion, the best action is removing the person from the sun and heat. This will reduce the symptoms over time, and can be further improved by cold non-alcoholic beverages, a cold shower or bath, and rest. Though heat exhaustion is not dangerous per se, if left untreated it can lead to a heat stroke. Heat strokes can and will cause death and/or permanent brain damage.

Dehydration (#2)

This one is pretty obvious, but even so deserves a spot at number 2. Dehydration is the lack of vital fluids in your body that allow it to function, caused by inadequate water intake, or loss of water through means such as perfuse sweating. The dangers of dehydration can include heat stroke as mentioned before, as well as kidney failure and going in to a shock or coma.

There are two easy ways to tell if you’re dehydrated. In normal situations, if your urine is a light to dark yellow color, it usually means you need to drink more water. As you become hydrated, your urine will turn a clear color, meaning that your body has plenty of fluids and is dumping the excess out. The second way to tell if you are dehydrated is if you stop sweating in hot weather. Sweating is the body’s natural way to cool you down, and it requires water to do so. If it’s not, you may be running dangerously low on vital fluids.

And finally, last but not least . . .

Those People from The Hills Have Eyes (#1)

I haven’t even WATCHED either of these movies and it still freaks me out. No, I’m not kidding, live in the desert for a while; drive along and see some small homes, abandoned or occupied, out in the middle of nowhere. I’m not insulting anyone for their choice of living where they want, but after The Hills Have Eyes came out you’re going to have to live with the fact some people find it creepy (namely me).

Best ways to prepare? Well for starters, do not watch this movie if you plan on visiting any desert regions. This includes but is not limited to western states such as Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, and Mexico. If you have already watched these movies, you might get a little freaked out by some of the more quaint towns of the west. Unless you’re a tough guy who likes to explore, that’s fine with me; you’ll be the first one to get eaten.

Either way, it could be worse.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i love scorpions

    • Kosmo profile image


      7 years ago from California

      I've always loved the desert but never wanted to live there - even Palm Springs. Did you forget to mention rattlesnakes? They can definitely be a problem in the desert, unless you're hungry, and then they can be a godsend. Eat 'em raw if you have to. But only if you're sufficiently hydrated. Yes, I watch "Man Vs. Wild." Later!

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      I'm glad you pitched in the humor or I a 24/365 desert dweller would have felt poorly, smile, I can attest to the eyes as two are mine and often I look through glass. Wanting to keep the load down I use the glass on my rifle, that makes you a few second target and the first to know, oops I pulled the trigger. HA! 50

    • Austinstar profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Scorpions! I HATE scorpions. I live in a valley in the hill country of TX and for some reason, there are a ton of bark scorpions here. They've stung me in my bed! The little creeps.

      When you mentioned aliens, I thought you were going to go with the illegal brown kind. Those can be dangerous as well. But the green kind are scarier. LOL

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      I appreciate your sense of humor. I hate scorpions, but I fear aliens more than scorpions. Those creatures would be the worst thing to encounter. Give me scorpions any day.


    • Mmiller_89 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Miller 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks for stopping by Road Trip Amy, I really enjoyed reading Road Trip Tips, congratulations on winning.

      Denise, I really appreciate your reading and supporting my hub. Looking forward to reading some of your hubs.

      Thank you Pamela! I've lived in Nevada for 15 years now, so I figured I'd write a bit about the desert, which can be dangerous if you're not familiar with the unique problems it presents. Fortunately I was also in a bit of a goofy mood. Really appreciate your comment.

      You're right Anna Marie. I thought about putting spiders after scorpions. To be completely honest, it was either because I liked the number 7, because I was just too lazy to write more, or a combination of both. Regardless, they are definitely worthy of the list! I see spiders in my apartment all the time. I'll work on updating this hub soon, thanks for the comment.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Some really great tips, and some humor as well! You did forget spiders, though. I lived in Arizona for four years, saw a few scorpions, but more often than not, I saw a lot of spiders; including a few Brown Recluse and quite a few Black Widows. I used to find Black Widows in my laundry room. Gross, deadly suckers!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from United States

      Wow! The desert is more dangerous than I thought! I loved your sense of humor.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I like your style...writing with wit. :) Marked it 'up'. Good luck in the hubnugget contest.

    • Road Trip Amy profile image

      Road Trip Amy 

      7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I'm just here scoping out the competition for the hubnuggets contest, and I must say that I'm devastated to see how great your hub is! Seriously though, helpful and amusing stuff. A worthy competitor... :)

    • Mmiller_89 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Miller 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas

      Money Glitch - I thought flash floods were unusual for the desert as well, but they really are dangerous. Thanks for the comment!

      traven_man1971 - I've only experienced the western US desert, so it's interesting to hear about the Middle East. Sandstorms would probably be a bit higher on the danger list over there huh?

      ripplemaker - Thank you for the congrats : )

      elayne001 - Sounds freaky! I've also had similar experiences, or feelings to say the least. Sometimes it turns out to be just an animal, but you never know.

      fujoshicat - Thanks for reading and for the praise : )

    • fujoshicat profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Enjoyed reading this... Some useful information and also very funny! =D

    • elayne001 profile image


      7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      We had a scary experience in the desert near Palm Springs - We were resting by the side of the road and felt something watching us - and we took off and didn't look back.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Oooh this sounds scary.....(teeth rattling) LOL

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To go to the Hubnuggets and see your nomination, this way please: Read and vote, read and vote and promote!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Congrats on your nomination, Miller!

      Exhaustion and dehydration, I can overcome the first one if I have lots of water. I've been a seaman for the past decade and we often encounter situations, like sansstorm, when loading cargo in the Middle East (Qatar,Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.)We're prohibited to venture at the unfamiliar grounds of their desert unguarded by local guides.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      What a unique way of writing about the hazards of the desert. I must admit that I never thought about flash floods, however, was definitely aware of the aliens and the hills having eyes. LOL! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being nominated to the HubNugget Wannabe's Contest for this week. Good luck! :)

    • Mmiller_89 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Miller 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas

      Enelle, Duchess and Stephanie:

      Thanks for your wonderful comments! I'm surprised that this hub got a nomination, but it's motivation to keep writing. :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Funny, readable and useful! Great hub!

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      7 years ago

      A great read. Humorous but enlightening. Good job and congratulations on the hubnugget nomination

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Great hub - love the humor! Will definitely invest in a tinfoil hat ;)


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