7 Dangerous Things to Watch Out For in the Desert
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!
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.
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 (#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.
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.
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.