Posts Tagged With: wilderness survival first aid

DON’T PANIC! A Layperson’s Guide to Surviving Common Wilderness First Aid Emergencies

guide-to-surviving-common-wilderness-emergencies

By Kathleen Starmer, OYOInfo.net

As a rule, I don’t take life guidance from a work of science fiction. But when it comes to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I make an exception. Whether you’re dealing with the sudden onset of a blizzard or an alien invasion, you won’t be of use to anyone if you allow yourself to be seized by the sinister tentacles of panic. Take a breath. Get all zen. Channel your inner monk. NOW you’re in the proper mindset to handle an emergency situation. Let’s proceed!

DISCLAIMER: Before we get into the meat of this article, let me say this loud and clear: I am not a medical professional. In fact, let’s all say that together, shall we? “Kathleen is not a medical professional.” The author accepts no liability for anything that happens to anyone who follows the advice in this article. The information supplied herein is strictly for informational purposes, and will hopefully serve to incite you to sign up for a Wilderness First Aid course so that you can enjoy The Great Outdoors in the safest manner possible. Glad we got that squared away.

Presenting (drum roll, please) three—count ‘em: THREE!—of the most common emergencies you’re likely to confront in a wilderness situation, as well as some suggestions on how best to handle said emergencies with only a basic level of training.

Oh, My Aching Back…or Foot…or…: Muscle Strains and Sprains

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“Hold still! I’m trying to help!”

Ah, the disappointment of a twisted ankle one day into your week-long backpacking trip! Not surprisingly, the treatment for strains and sprains in exactly the same on the trail as it is on the soccer field: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE).

The “rest” part is fairly easy. If your schedule allows, take a day or two to chill out and give the injured muscle, tendon, or ligament a break. Ice can be a bit trickier. I, for one, have never hauled frozen blocks of water into the woods, but you can improvise by immersing the sore area in a cold stream for short intervals, filling a plastic bag with cold water and securing it to the injury, or even by wrapping a wet bandana around the injury and letting the breeze perform some evaporative cooling. That wet bandana can also do double-duty as a compression bandage, or you could break open the first aid kit and use an elastic wrap. Lastly, if the injury is to one of the person’s limbs, prop the offending limb on a backpack, a fallen log, or whatever handy item you can find to decrease swelling and speed recovery.

You can also offer anti-inflammatories to the patient if they wish to self-administer, and there are some fancy-schmancy taping techniques you can learn about in a Wilderness First Aid Course. Taping is especially useful if the patient needs to keep moving before they’ve fully recovered. Plus, it looks bad-ass.

“It’s Just a Flesh Wound”: Abrasions and Lacerations

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Boo boos aren’t only for the wee ones when you’re on the trail

Boo-boos just seem to be a way of life in the outdoors. In fact, lots of folks don’t consider it a successful outing if they don’t come home with at least one “war wound.” But just because skin injuries are common doesn’t mean you should get all devil-may-care about them. You can minimize the risk of complications down the line by following these simple tips.

First of all, if there is significant blood loss, staunch the flow. Just a little bit of blood is fine—in fact, it can even be good, as it will clean out the wound. Otherwise, apply pressure to the wound with a clean bandage. You can learn proper technique in any basic first aid class. Major blood loss, it goes without saying, is beyond the scope of this article.

The second thing you want to do is prevent infection. Since we’re addressing injuries in the boonies, chances are, an open wound is contaminated with nasties. You can use the alcohol wipes found in your first aid kit to clean around the wound, but it’s best not to use those wipes on broken skin because their harsh nature might actually further damage tissue. Your best bet is to irrigate the wound with clean water. Either use copious amounts of flowing, potable water, or if you’re super-prepared, use a special irrigation syringe. In the unfortunate incident of embedded debris, you can use sterilized (read: toasted in your campfire) tweezers to carefully remove it. Now, if we’re talking outright impalement, that’s a whole other issue…again, best addressed by taking a Wilderness First Aid course. Gee, you knew I was gonna say that, didn’t you?

Lastly, you want to promote wound healing. This is simply a matter of applying a proper dressing. Bonus points for elevating the injured area to decrease swelling.

You’re Giving Me a Heart Attack: Cardiac Issues

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Could be a heart attack; could be a bad cheeseburger. Play it safe and treat as a cardiac event.

You might be surprised to learn that heart attacks are among the top three causes of wilderness fatalities. It’s certainly not as “sexy” as a dramatic fall from a canyon wall, but a cardiac event has the potential to be just as deadly. So do yourself a favor: get in shape before you head out for that three-day backpacking adventure. Step away from the deep fried, gravy drenched chocolate cheesecake. Have a doctor give you the all-clear before you embark on that 14,000 ft summit hike. Do everything you can to stack the deck in your favor.

However, even the best-laid preparations can go awry, so it behooves you to know the signs of a cardiac emergency. While it’s true that less-serious conditions can cause some of these symptoms, when you’re in the wilderness, treat any patient with the following signs as though they are experiencing a heart attack until proven otherwise by a medical professional. Better safe than sorry. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the most common symptoms of heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort, typically in the center of the chest and lasting for several minutes. It may feel like painful pressure, squeezing, or a sense of “fullness.”
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or even the stomach.
  • Shortness of breath that is not due to exertion, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs could include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness/dizziness, or an impending sense of doom.

(Although the most common symptom of a heart attack for women is the classic chest pain shown in the movies, females are also more likely to experience the symptoms I’ve indicated in italics above.)

If you have any reason to suspect someone is your wilderness party is experiencing a cardiac emergency, sit them down, give them 325 mg of uncoated aspirin to chew for about 30 seconds and swallow, and make them comfortable. Ask if they are carrying nitroglycerin tablets. If they are, give the tablet container to them so that they can self-administer one dose. Keep them calm and quiet. If you have cell reception, call for emergency rescue by qualified professionals. If you are out of communication range, pick the fittest person in your party to hoof it back to civilization and bring help ASAP. A heart attack is serious business, and there are all sorts of special situations and qualifiers for this dilemma; your best bet is to get your Wilderness First Aid certification before your next outing so that you’ll know the proper course of action for your particular scenario.

So there you have it! A quick-n-dirty layperson’s guide for dealing with common wilderness emergencies. And I know I’ve said it 127 times already, but once again, with feeling: sign up for a Wilderness First Aid course today! Your life—or at least your comfort—may depend on it!

Author Bio:

guide-to-surviving-common-wilderness-emergencies

After over a decade of working as an academic ecologist and another 13 years at NASA, Kathleen Starmer created http://OYOinfo.net with the intent of bringing practical emergency preparedness to The Every(wo)man. She is particularly concerned with helping people who live in urban areas deal with the fallout from climate change-related disasters. You can follow Kathleen on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/oyoinfo), Twitter (http://twitter.com/oyoinfo), Instagram (http://instagram.com/oyoinfo), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/oyoinfo). You can also amuse yourselves with her amateur video production skills on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmamAXUReXQyKZOX-jf6wrQ); encouraging emails may be sent to inquiry@oyoinfo.net (mailto:inquiry@oyoinfo.net). 

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P.S. Don’t forget to register to win a $75 gift certificate from Trayer Wilderness. The giveaway ends November 3rd! Click here to enter.

Categories: Camping, First Aid, Medical, Preparedness | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

47 Creative Uses for Self-Aid in Your 10 Piece Kit

by Todd Walker

Fall is a season where many of us head out to enjoy the outdoors. Crisp air, colorful leaves, deer in rut, and clear mountain streams lure us to nature. Unfortunately, there are times when things go sideways on day hikes and canoe trips. When they do, you’ll need knowledge, skills, and resources to get home safely.

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The goal of wilderness survival is simple… to effect self-rescue or be found alive. Even “minor” injures in a 72 hour scenario can decrease your chances of meeting that goal.

Self-aid should become a top priority on your skills list. Why?

You’re likely to come in contact with sharp stuff, hot stuff, slippery stuff, and/or stinging stuff on outings. I rarely leave the woods without one of these most common wilderness injuries:

  • Cuts/Abrasions
  • Burns
  • Breaks/Strains/Sprains
  • Bites/Stings
  • Blisters

You may choose to carry a first-aid kit to treat these injuries. That is a smart option. Let me state upfront, if you require daily medication for health issues, by all means, be sure to pack enough of your meds.

Can your 10 piece kit double as a self-aid/first-aid kit? Indeed it can!

First, here are the 10 essential items that should go with you on every trip to the woods…

The 10 C’s of Survivability (10 Piece Kit)

  1. Cutting tool
  2. Combustion device
  3. Container
  4. Cover
  5. Cordage
  6. Cotton bandana
  7. Cargo tape
  8. Cloth sail needle
  9. Candling device
  10. Compass

Look beyond the obvious uses for these 10 items – shelter, fire, navigation, water, etc., etc. With a little creativity, your 10 C’s can effectively treat each of the most common injuries in a 72 hour wilderness survival scenario.

Here’s how…

(Adapted from Brian Manning’s hand-out and Jason Hunt’s class on wilderness self-aid at The Pathfinder School)

Cuts and Abrasions

  1. Cutting tool – use knife to remove debris from wounds
  2. Combustion device – sterilize tools
  3. Container – irrigate and wash wound with water
  4. Cover – (drum liner, plastic tarp) bandage and cover wounds
  5. Cordage – tourniquet as a last resort
  6. Cotton bandana – wipe/clean wound, bandages, dressings, tourniquet
  7. Cargo (duct) tape – all-purpose Band Aid, DIY butterfly Band Aid
  8. Cloth sail needle – remove debris from wound and stitch/suture in extreme cases
  9. Compass – good compasses have a magnifying lens that can be used to inspect wounds closely
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Using your knife to cut a duct tape butterfly bandage. Keep your knife outside the Triangle of Death. You don’t need another wound.

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Pull the wound together after securing one side of the bandage to the skin. The cut should be pinched together slightly. This is a temporary fix.

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Shemaghs make great slings. Get one that is 100% cotton.

Breaks, Sprains, and Strains

  1. Container – water bottle used as a hot or cold pack
  2. Cordage – splint wraps, slings (add padding)
  3. Cargo tape – immobilize limbs by taping makeshift splints in place
  4. Cotton bandana or shemagh – slings, splint wraps, padding under splints (tie smaller bandanas together for longer slings)
  5. Cover (drum liner) – water collection (cold/hot pack), splint wraps, slings
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If using a folding saw or machete as a makeshift splint, tape the cutting edge before taping it to your limb.

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Immobilizing a limb. Add padding under your splint before taping.

Burns

  1. Cutting tool – remove debris and clean burns
  2. Container – use to pour water for irrigation, stop the burning process, and cold pack
  3. Cotton bandana – cover burn loosely, retain moisture on burn
  4. Cloth sail needle – clean burns
  5. Cover (drum liner) – cover and protect burns
  6. Compass – mirror and magnifying lens used to inspect burns and hard-to-reach areas on the body

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Bites and Stings

  1. Cutting tool – knife to scrape/remove stingers and splinters
  2. Container (water bottle) – cold compress to reduce swelling, irrigation – in the case of venomous snake bites, keep location cool, immobilize, and get medical help ASAP.
  3. Cargo tape – DIY Band Aids, bandage tape, remove stinger
  4. Cloth sail needle – remove stinger or splinter
  5. Compass – mirror and magnifying lens used to locate and inspect hard to reach areas on the body (i.e. – tick removal and bites)
  6. Cotton bandana – Band Aid/bandage material, pressure dressing
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Sighting mirror on compass used to inspect embedded tick on the back of the calf in the dark. A headlamp frees both hands for the task.

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Cold water in a water bottle

Blisters

  1. Cargo tape – cover/shield developing hot spots
  2. Cloth sail needle – pop blister at base to drain
  3. Container (water bottle) – irrigate and clean area

Additional self-aid uses for the 10 piece kit

  • Your candling device (head lamp/flashlight) can be used for inspection and treatment at night with all the common injuries.
  • Metal water bottle and cup is useful for preparing infusions, decoctions, and sterilization of your knife or needle before cleaning wounds.
  • Besides using a tarp/emergency space blanket for core temperature control (CTC), these items can also serve as a stretcher, water collection device, and sling material.
  • Use your pack for immobilization and elevating injured limbs and or dealing with shock.
  • And of course, a proper fire kit affords you the ability to maintain CTC, heat natural medicinals, and heat compresses.

Your 10 piece kit should always accompany you on wilderness adventures. As you can see, these multi-purpose tools have many redundant uses. Heck, the 10 C’s of Survivability should go with you no matter where you’re headed.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, First Aid, Medical, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , | 39 Comments

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