Tips and Advice for the Outdoors

Basic First Aid in the Outdoors

Many camping areas are far from professional medical facilities. Even when rescuers and paramedics can fly in by helicopter (which they do only in extreme emergencies), it can take hours to locate the victim. In circumstances that could otherwise be minor incidents, but might turn major without treatment, campers are on their own. That means, a little first aid knowledge can go a long way.

The first lesson is simply to be prepared, both educationally and with the proper supplies. Learn what you need to do and take supplies with you to do it.

Minor scrapes and cuts can become infected and often turn much worse in the wild than in the city. Lack of proper cleansing, lower hygiene and other factors can quickly complicate what would otherwise be a trivial problem.

To head that possibility off at the outset, be sure to take along clean water, bandages (both wrap around and stick on), and disinfectant. Carrying both a combination pain-killer/disinfectant spray as well as cream is a good idea. The first acts really fast and allows you to easily cover the entire area, the latter lasts longer.

Closing wounds cleanly, quickly and effectively is vital, with larger ones more dangerous than smaller, obviously. The skin is the body’s first and best defense against germs and helping it along is essential. Unless you’re treating a compound fracture (a bone break in which the bone protrudes through the skin), you should wrap the wound after cleaning and applying anti-bacterial spray and/or cream.

With compound fractures, unless you have the medical knowledge to safely move the bone back, it’s best just to immobilize it and wrap the limb as well as possible. Then seek emergency medical assistance as quickly as possible. If you can’t contact anyone (many cell phones don’t work in the wild), go get help. If it represents low risk of making the situation worse, take the patient to them.

A splint can often be improvised from branches, but you need something to tie them together with. Hence, one more reason to have ample wrap around bandages, gauze typically. A good addendum is aspirin, for those whose stomachs can tolerate it. Take care about dosage, though.

One good way to treat potential medical problems is to avoid them in the first place. Learn the appearance of poison ivy, poison oak and other toxic plants – and avoid them at all costs. They’re more than merely an annoyance. Exposure to them results in an itchy rash that even anti-itch cream does only so much to relieve. Continual scratching will lead to an open sore and probable infection.

Scissors, or better still a multi-purpose Swiss Army style knife, is a must. The latter often contains a knife for slicing, small scissors for cutting and tweezers for removing splinters – all of which can be tremendously helpful while camping.

Minor problems can quickly grow to spoil a trip. Having the right tools and supplies along and the knowledge of how to use them, can keep most things under control. That allows everyone to still enjoy the experience.

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