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10 Survival First Aid Tips for the Outdoorsman

Jun 02, 2019 10:17AM ● By Editor

By Jamie Nails of - Posted: June 2, 2019

Venturing into the great outdoors is a favorite pastime for many people. Every year people spend their time hiking, rafting and exploring the outdoors. However, there are dangers you must look out for when having fun outside.

There are a variety of problems you can run into such as insect bites, infections, sunburn, snake bites, heat stroke and dehydration. 

Cold outdoor conditions pose a whole different set of challenges for campers, especially in those used to warm weather. People who have pre-existing medical conditions may run out of medication or have issues such as allergic reactions.While there are many scenarios to consider, it is possible to have a great time in the wilderness and stay safe. You just need to know the basics. Here are 10 survival first aid tips to keep in mind if you need help.

Learning CPR

One of the most valuable skills you can have in the wilderness is CPR.This stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a method that uses a sequence of rescue breathing and chest compression. The goal of this method is to keep someone alive until help can arrive.

Prompt CPR is vital to avoiding brain death. Fast action can save a life. For CPR to be effective, the victim’s body temperature must be above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Chest compression should be fast and hard, on the lower part of the sternum.

The idea behind compression is to keep blood circulating throughout the body so it reaches the brain.

Another technique used in the field is CCR, which stands for cardio-cerebral resuscitation. This is much like CPR but it involves only using chest compression, no rescue breathing. 

Both techniques have the potential to save lives while in the wilderness. Before you go out on your next expedition, consider taking a CPR course given by the American Heart Association. This will ensure you have the proper training to help those in need.

Know How To Clean And Treat A Wound

Anytime you are in the wilderness you have the potential to be wounded. While most wounds are not serious and do not require much more than cleaning, others can be serious. If a wound is dirty, deep or tissues are damaged it is important to clean it well. Having a first aid kit with the necessary tools on hand will make your job much easier. 

An irrigation syringe is an important tool for wounds.It can be used to run clean water over a wound after you wash it with soap. This helps remove debris and infection causing substances. 

Having some Q-tips on hand can help you apply any antibiotic ointment needed after flushing. 

Gauze is also a good thing to have, so you can cover the wound once it is clean. 

Ointments such as triple b or polysporin are best for wounds. 

Cloth medical tape can be used to hold the gauze in place, once you are finished with the dressing. 

While wound care in the wild is not ideal, it is an important step to avoiding infections. 

Learn The Heimlich Maneuver

If you are on an expedition and someone starts choking, you must act fast. Choking is caused by an obstruction in the windpipe, which is usually food. If someone is choking, they cannot speak and tell you what is wrong. It is best if the person choking can force the object out by coughing. If they cannot, it is time to use the Heimlich Maneuver to expel the object.

There are different techniques for adults and babies that must be used to avoid injury. 

The Heimlich Maneuver is a lifesaving technique, but it must be done properly. Here is a link that explains in detail how to perform the Heimlich.

Know What’s In Your First Aid Kit And What Everything Is Used For

A properly stocked first aid kit is an essential part of being outdoors. You can either buy a pre-made kit or make one yourself. 

Your first aid kit should contain basic supplies. These include cotton balls, cold packs, duct tape, petroleum jelly, eye patches, hand soap, bandages, butterfly strips, scissors, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, eye solution and non-latex gloves. In addition, you want to have some over-the-counter medications on hand.

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and antibiotic creams are just a few you may need. Other important items include sunscreen, a whistle, cell phone charger and a waterproof flashlight.

More information regarding first aid kits is available at the American Red Cross.

first aid kitPhoto:  Mat Honan

Treat Sprains

If you are active in the wilderness you may end up with sprains at some point. This is an injury that plagues hikers and rock climbers, but can affect anyone. Sprains are ligament injuries that occur when the fibers are partially torn. This causes pain, swelling and difficulty in movement.

Knees, ankles and elbows are the most commonly sprained joints. Minor sprains are often soothed using the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate. Apply cold packs for the first 24 hours after injury. After that, heat packs may reduce the pain best.

You should have compression bandages in your first aid kit and OTC pain medications to ease the discomfort. Knowing how to treat sprains before you are in the field is key to getting the pain under control fast.

Recognize Dehydration Early

Dehydration can happen very fast when you are outdoors in the sun and heat, particularly when you are active. This condition can be sneaky and symptoms can occur suddenly.Dehydration happens when you lose more body fluids than you take in. When you are busy outdoors, it can be easy to forget to drink enough water or sports drinks. This means your body is in need of fluid, especially after urinating and sweating.

Dehydration can happen to anyone, but babies and elderly people are at the greatest risk.

There are some early warning signs that may indicate someone is dehydrated. 

These include not producing tears, dry mouth, skin that sags when you pinch it and dry eyes. 

If you have babies or small children, it is always best to be sure they have adequate fluid intake while you are outside. The best way to treat dehydration is to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

Dehydration can be serious. If you see the early warning signs of dehydration, you must get medical attention quickly to avoid serious complications. 

Treat Burns Correctly

Burns are one of the most painful injuries you can have. Unfortunately, burns occur often while camping in the wilderness. 

Lighting campfires and cooking over an open flame are two ways many people get burned outdoors. 

If this happens to you, it is important to know how to treat burns correctly. 

You will need to know the difference in treating chemical burns and burns from heat sources like fire. In addition, everyone in your party needs to know how to stop, drop and roll to prevent fire from spreading. 

Quick action is key to reducing the amount of area burned on the body. Mild burns are more easily treated in the wilderness than severe burns. However, if anyone suffers a serious and painful burn, medical treatment must be sought. 

This website offers information you need to know about treating burns in the wilderness.

Understand Hypothermia

Hypothermia is the second leading cause of death in the wilderness. When the temperature of the body drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia can set in. 

This is a life-threatening condition and requires emergency treatment as soon as possible. Before heading out into the wilderness, you need to understand hypothermia and how to avoid it. 

Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to cold weather or wet conditions. 

Being in cold water can also cause this condition to occur. Experts state that if you fall into cold water and cannot get out in 5 to 15 minutes, you may not be able to get without help. Depending on the temperature of the water, you have 90 to 180 minutes before suffering a cardiac arrest from hypothermia. 

If you are at risk of developing hypothermia outdoors, avoid consuming alcohol at all costs. In addition to causing impaired judgement, alcohol dilates your blood vessels. This slows the blood from being distributed throughout your body and you lose precious body heat at a faster rate. 

There are some symptoms of hypothermia that make it easy to recognize. 

In most people, shivering is the first sign your body is too cold. This is the way the body tries to warm itself. 

If you begin having trouble speaking or walking, get help immediately. 

More information is available about hypothermia and how to avoid it on the Wilderness Skills Institute.

Be Prepared

In addition to taking along a first aid kit, consider taking a wilderness survival book with you. While you most likely will not need it, these books contain information that could save your life if an emergency arises. It is easy to panic under stressful outdoor situations. Panic is the leading cause of death in the outdoors. 

On your adventures, be sure to pack plenty of food and water, just in case you stay longer than you planned.

There are also several small items that every hiker, camper, hunter, outdoorsman, etc. should have on them at all times.

Taking the time to be prepared is the best way to keep from having an emergency when you are outdoors. If you have plenty of supplies on hand and feel confident in your ability to handle any situation, you will have more fun. 

You can also take comfort in knowing you can help take care of your family and friends if an emergency arises. When it comes to surviving outdoors, knowledge is always power. 

Stay In Good Shape

Being in good physical condition is another way to stay healthy when you are outdoors. The better shape your body is in, the more likely you are to be able to swim or walk long distances for help if needed. 

Eating a diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruits on a regular basis is the best way to ensure maximum health and strength. 

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