Outdoor Survival - First Aid

Your basic first-aid kit should contain at the very least:

  • Sticky plasters
  • Bandage
  • Cotton wool
  • Safety pins
  • Headache pills
  • Anti-septic cream
  • Sun cream
  • Pair of tweezers

You can buy compact first aid kits, although sometimes it’s better to put your own kit together, as this allows you to choose items specifically for your needs. Another important item to take though not first aid related, is a needle and thread. It’s surprising how often things start to fall apart at the most annoying moment. You can purchase tiny emergency sewing kits very cheaply; in fact mine is from a Christmas cracker and even contains a couple of spare buttons! Another must have item for “just in case” is string.


Now on to some more serious stuff

Broken Bones
Try not to let the ends move. If they are in a bad position then try to set them correctly. Make a splint with a piece of wood, but avoid putting it directly onto an open wound. Then wrap the whole thing together, maybe with cloth or even tree bark.

Strains and Sprains
Raise the injured part and keep it raised to reduce swelling.

Raise the injured part and apply pressure to the wound until the bleeding stops. This usually takes about fifteen minutes. In extreme cases, you can use a tourniquet tied above the wound. However, be very cautious with this method and make sure that you loosen the tourniquet approximately every twenty minutes to allow some blood flow.

Healing wounds
Keep the wound dry and covered. Clean seawater is good for cleaning out wounds. When the skin around the wound loses its redness, this is a sign that the infection has gone.

Immerse the burned area in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes. If water isn’t available, wrap the wound in clean cloth. Never break burn blisters.

How to recognise heatstroke :
The victim will have a high body temperature with the absence of sweating. The skin will be red and pulse rate raised. There may be difficulty in breathing and disorientation. In severe cases, heatstroke can lead to coma and death.

How to treat heatstroke :
Get to a shady area, remove clothing and apply cold water to the skin. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in one litre of water to replenish lost salts and liquids.

If you have forgotten the sun cream, a natural remedy for sunburn is to cover the affected area with well boiled nettles.

How to recognise hypothermia:
You will be shivering and feeling tired and as things progress you might start to stumble as your coordination suffers. You might feel apathetic and your speech may become slurred. The heart rate becomes irregular. When the body cools below 89.6°F (32°C) the shivering mechanism stops and at this point, you are in a very dangerous position. People have been known to remove clothing as their mental stability deteriorates.

How to treat hypothermia:
Put all available clothes on removing wet clothes if dry clothes are available. Wrap your sleeping bag around you and make a hot drink. Set up camp if you can. Share a sleeping bag if you are travelling with others. Keep the body moving if possible to generate heat and try to eat something high in carbohydrates. Never force someone to eat or drink if you are unsure they are fully conscious as this could cause choking.

Thaw the affected part in lukewarm water and avoid using direct heat on the area, such as a fire. Don’t rub the area as this will destroy the tissues. After treatment, wrap the affected part in a dressing and leave any blisters undisturbed.

Drink plenty of water and eat small amounts of plain food. Blackberry juice is known as a helpful natural remedy.

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