Wilderness Survival: First Aid & Health
| Breathing |
Bleeding | Fractures |
Dislocation | Sprains
| Concussions | Heat
Exhaustion | Sun Stroke
| Cramps | Burns
| Snow Blindness | Frostbite
| Blisters | Headaches
| Snakebites | Bee
Stings | Hypothermia
journeying into the wilderness it is important to
carry a complete first aid kit and book. It is also
wise to take a first aid course. A good diet, cleanliness
and appropriate clothing will lower the risk of harmful
infection and often, insect bites can be avoided when
maintaining a proper diet. It is important to bathe
daily but if this is not possible be sure to wash
your hands frequently. Soap can be made using ashes
and animal fat or by boiling the inner bark of a pine
tree. Construct a toothbrush by mashing the end of
a green twig. When setting out for your journey remember
to pack a wide range of clothing and extra footwear.
an accident occurs in the wilderness it will be your
responsibility to deal with the situation. The specific
sequence of actions when dealing with this situation
Remain calm, providing your patient with quiet,
efficient first aid treatment.
2. Keep the patient warm and lying down.
Do not move this injured person until you have discovered
the extent of the injuries.
3. Start mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration
immediately if the injured
person is not breathing.
4. Stop any bleeding.
5. Give your patient reassurance. Watch carefully
for signs of shock.
6. Check for cuts, fractures,
breaks and injuries to the head, neck or spine.
7. Do not allow people to crowd the injured
8. Do not remove clothing unless it is imperative.
9. Decide if your patient can be moved to
a proper medical facility. If this is not possible,
prepare a suitable living area in which shelter,
heat and food are provided.
is a depression of all of the body processes and may
follow any injury regardless of how minor. Factors
such as hemorrhage, cold and pain will intensify shock.
When experiencing shock the patient will feel weak
and may faint. The skin becomes cold and clammy and
the pulse, weak and rapid. Shock can be more serious
than the injury itself.
the following method to prevent and control shock:
When treating injuries:
i. restore breathing
ii. stop bleeding
iii. treat breaks and fractures
2. If there are no head or chest injuries
place the patient on his/her back with the head
and chest lower than the legs. This will help the
blood circulate to the brain, heart, lungs and other
3. If severe head and chest injuries are
present elevate the upper body. If chest injuries
are present, elevate the injured side to assist
in the functioning of the uninjured lung.
4. If the injured person becomes unconscious,
place him/her in a face down position to prevent
choking on blood, vomit or the tongue.
5. Keep your patient warm and under shelter.
breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Place the patient on his/her back and follow these
To open the airway lift the patient's neck and tilt
the head back.
2. Keeping the neck elevated, pinch the nostrils
to prevent air leakage.
3. Place your mouth completely around the
victim's mouth and blow, watching for chest expansion.
4. After removing your mouth, listen for
air leaving the patient's lungs and watch for the
chest to fall. Check for an airway blockage if the
chest does not rise.
these steps approximately 12 to 15 times per minute.
If treating a child, cover the nose and mouth with
you mouth. Use smaller puffs of air and repeat this
method 20 to 25 times per minute.
control bleeding, elevate the wounded area above
the heart and apply pressure using either gauze, clean
cloth, dried seaweed or sphagnum moss. Use pressure
at the pulse point between the injured area and the
heart if bleeding fails to stop. If bleeding still
persists, use a tourniquet between the injury and
the heart. This method should only be used in extreme
situations. After bleeding has been controlled, wash
the wounded area with disinfectant and apply a dressing
fracture is classified as either a simple (closed)
or compound (open). Signs that a fracture is present
Pain at the affected area.
2. The area may or may not be deformed.
3. The victim is unable to place weight on
the area without experiencing pain.
4. A grating sensation or sound may be present
during any motion of the injured area.
is as follows:
If in doubt, treat the injury as a fracture.
the joints above and below the fracture.
3. If the fracture may penetrate the skin,
it could be necessary to apply traction to straighten
4. Be sure to pad your splints.
5. Check the splint ties frequently to be sure
they do not hinder circulation.
6. Cover all open wound with a clean dressing
happens when the ligaments near a joint tear, allowing
the movement of the bone from its socket. It is unwise
to treat a dislocation unless you are a trained professional
as permanent damage may occur. The affected extremity
should be supported using a sling or other device
and pain controlled with aspirin or other suitable
sprains by applying cold to the area for the first
24 hours then once the swelling has subsided, let
the sprain sit for a day. Apply heat the following
day to aid in the healing process. The sprain should
be splinted and rendered immobile until the pain has
or other head injuries are often accompanied by a
leakage of watery blood from the nose or ears. Other
symptoms may include convulsions, an unresponsiveness
of the pupils or headache and vomiting. Keep the injured
party warm, dispense a pain killer regularly and allow
time for the body to rest and repair.
exhaustion is not uncommon when water is not sufficient.
The body becomes dehydrated and salt-depleted, resulting
in nausea, faintness, a weak, rapid pulse and/or cold
and clammy skin. Treatment includes plenty of rest,
liquid and salt tablets.
may occur when the body is exposed to excessive sun.
The body becomes overheated and provides too much
blood to the circulatory system resulting in a flushed,
hot face, rapid pulse, headache and/or dizziness.
Treat sunstroke by resting in a cool area and applying
and consuming cold liquid. Prevent sunstroke by wearing
cramps occur when the muscle accumulates excessive
lactid acid or a loss of salt through perspiration.
Treatment includes resting, deep breathing and stretching.
Restore the salt balance immediately.
are most commonly followed by shock. Administer a
pain reliever immediately, apply gauze covered in
Vaseline to the affected area and bandage. The patient
should consume more water than usual.
of snowblindness include scratchy or burning eyes,
excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, headache,
halos around light and temporary loss of vision. Bandage
the victim's eyes and use cold compresses and a painkiller
to control the pain. Vision will generally be restored
after 18 hours without the help of a doctor. Always
wear snow goggles or sunglasses in snowy areas to
occurs when the tissue of an area, most commonly the
toes, fingers or face, is frozen either from direct
exposure to the elements or high wind. First degree
frostbite turns the area cold, white and numb. When
heated the area becomes red and can be compared to
a first degree burn. A blister will form after warming
with second degree frostbite. Dark skin, gangrene,
and a loss of some skin and tissues is common in third
degree. Fourth degree frostbite causes irreparable
damage. The affected area will remain cold and lifeless
and generally a part of the area is lost. With adequate
clothing frostbite can easily be avoided. Superficial
frostbite may be treated by cupping one's hands and
blowing on the affected area, warming from another
warm hand or, with fingers, placing them in your armpits.
For more severe cases, medical aid should be sought.
are the painful, and common, result of ill-fitting
footwear. At the first sign of discomfort, remove
boots and socks and place a piece of adhesive tape
over the affected area. If it is absolutely necessary,
open a blister by first washing the area thoroughly
then inserting a sterilized needle into the side of
the blister. Apply disinfectant and a bandage.
are often experienced in the mountains due to inadequate
eye protection, tension in the neck, constipation
or "water intoxication", a swelling of the
brain tissue which happens when the hiker has sweated
excessively over a period of days and consumed large
quantities of water without taking salt tablets. Aspirin
may be used to alleviate the pain but one should find
the source of headache to prevent further discomfort.
bites are not overly common in British Columbia.
One species of venomous snake, a rattlesnake is found
in the dry belt of the southern interior. If you come
across a snake slowly ease back. A snake bite rarely
causes death; victims may be left untreated for up
to eight hours.
an attack occurs:
Keep the person calm, reassuring them that bites
can be effectively treated in an emergency room.
Restrict movement, and keep the affected area just
below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
2. Remove any rings or constricting items
because the affected area may swell. Create a loose
splint to help restrict movement of the area.
3. If the area of the bite begins to swell
and change color, the snake was probably poisonous.
4. Monitor the personís vital signs -- temperature,
pulse, rate of breathing, blood pressure. If there
are signs of shock (such as paleness), lay the victim
flat, raise the feet about a foot, and cover the
victim with a blanket.
5. Get medical help immediately.
stings are common and harmless unless you are
allergic. Remove the stinger then apply disinfectant
and clod water to reduce the swelling.
A change of diet, dirty cooking utensils or the consumption
of tainted water may result in diarrhea which in turn
will cause a loss of nutrients and precious body fluids.
Take extra care in cleanliness and boil water for
an additional three to five minutes to avoid diarrhea.
the temperature of your body falls to a level at which
your vital organs can no longer function you are experiencing
hypothermia or exposure sickness. Hypothermia will
develop rapidly and is caused by cold, wet and/or
windy weather that chills the body at a speed faster
than it can produce heat. A lack of energy-producing
food and proper clothing will heighten the speed at
which hypothermia will affect you. Always remember
to bring extra clothing. It is important to hike at
the speed of the slowest member of your party. Take
frequent breaks and keep a close watch for members
experiencing signs of fatigue. Exposure sickness generally
occurs in temperatures of less than 10 C (50 F).
are easily recognizable:
Feeling cold and constantly exercising to keep warm.
2. Uncontrollable shivering and numbness.
3. Violent shivers. Your mind becomes slow
and starts to wander.
4. Violent shivering ceases and muscles begin
to stiffen and become un-coordinated. Exposed skin
becomes blue and thoughts are foggy. Victim usually
lacks the capability of realizing how serious the
5. Pulse and respiration slows.
6. Victim will not respond and becomes unconscious.
7. The section of the brain controlling the
heart and lungs ceases functioning.
must be quick and efficient:
Move the victim to a sheltered area, out of the elements.
2. Remove wet clothing and replace with dry
clothes and if possible, a sleeping bag.
3. Wrap warm rocks and place them near the
4. Do not let the victim fall unconscious.
5. Give the victim a warm, non-alcoholic drink.
6. Allow another person in the sleeping bag
to share body heat.
7. Exhale warm air near the vicinity of the
patients mouth and nose.
is a result of the body being overheated due to increased
air temperature, solar or reflected radiation, poorly
ventilated clothing, a low fitness level or excess
avoid hyperthermia, avoid strenuous activity on hot
days, wear loose clothing and a hat, drink plenty of
fluids and take salt tablets.
Heat cramps may occur and should be treated by moving
the victim to a shady area and supplying water and
2. Heat exhaustion is a mild form of hyperthermia
and includes symptoms such as headache, dizziness,
fainting, clammy skin, blurred vision, nausea and
vomiting. Treatment is the same as heat cramps.
3. Heat stroke is the most serious degree
of hyperthermia. The victim will have little or
no perspiration, a hot and flushed face, full pulse,
and become either apathetic or aggressive. Cool
the victim as quickly as possible paying extra attention
to the head, neck and chest. If the bodies temperature
continues to rise, unconsciousness, delirium, convulsions
and ultimately death may occur.
venturing into the wilderness check weather forecasts
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