Ok, my last blog on injuries did not really cover much other than assessing the situation , so let’s actually cover some common, yet non life threatening injuries you may encounter on your typical camping, hiking, hunting or just simple outdoor recreation excursion.
Let’s begin by covering simple injuries like a muscle pull or a strain which can happen any time while hiking or camping. Let’s face it, alot of recreational campers are not in the best of physical shape and it’s very easy to underestimate the activity level of just setting up camp or going on a simple hike. Most people are used to sidewalks, groomed paths and level ground with little to no obstacles (rocks big and small, plants, branches, sticks and so on), thus making sprains, muscle pulls, ligament and tendon injuries quite easy to occur. With strains and pulls, the muscles, ligaments or tendons are stretched but not Torn, again it is recommended to carry a first aid manual with help in diagnosing the severity of the injury such as range of motion (can you move it, if so how well), the inability to put pressure on it or hold weight, how tender is it or pain level, did it happen suddenly (sprain) or did it happen gradually (meaning did it hurt a little and then got worse) suggesting you overused your muscles or joints. If a tear is suspected then immobilize and seek further medical attention promptly. With common pulls and sprains, those that have had training may have heard about it, we use what is called RICE. That stands Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Rest, meaning don’t aggravate the injury any further by staying off of the injured extremity or not using the muscle or muscles pulled. Ice or cool the injured area for roughly 20 to 40 minutes every 2 to 4 hours for 24 to 48 hours depending on severity. This is done to help with swelling and pain. if Ice is not available a wet cloth or rag will do. Compression, wrap the injury with a bandage snugly, but making sure it’s not too tight that you’re cutting off blood flow to reduce swelling. Pain meds like Ibuprofen or acetaminophen will also help with swelling as well as Elevation. Elevate the injury above the level of the heart if possible. For proper wrapping of the injured area refer to your first aid manual. A good one should have instructions on how to do so, as well as the proper way to tie and apply a sling and so on.
Cuts, scrapes, bumps, blisters and bruises are very common while camping and hiking, sometimes a little more so when adult beverages are involved for some odd reason. Most are minor, but outdoors, infection is a very serious possibility and can turn a simple injury into a serious one. Branches, trees, bushes and large rock tend not to move out of your way and can cause some nasty little injuries. Setting up and breaking down camp, cooking, going for a hike, climbing, swimming, fishing and general activities sometimes cause you to get cuts, scrapes, bumps and bruises. For bruises the same applies as described in the paragraph above, RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Most are not serious but should be assessed (as with any injury) to determine the seriousness of the injury and make sure nothing else is wrong. Cuts and scrapes are considered open wounds and require a bit more attention. Scrapes, however minor should be well cleaned disinfected and covered, helping them heal faster. Cuts are any injury that goes deeper into the skin and treatment depends on their severity and location. First is Stop the Bleeding using Pressure and Elevation. Most texts and training will tell you to put pressure directly on the wound to stop the bleeding, which works and the first thing you normally do. From experience though I have found when dealing with bleeding the simplest thing to do is, while elevating the wound if possible, apply pressure directly above and or below the wound to reduce the blood flow. On extremities such as arms, legs hands feet, ect. applying pressure next to the wound on the side closest to the torso will reduce blood flow to the open wound, at least enough to somewhat clean it to see the extent of the injury. Second thoroughly clean and disinfect the wound and cover it with sterile gauze, promptly wrap it with a bandage or apply a band aid, depending on severity, applying pressure to the wound itself. Slowly release pressure from next to the injury. This will cause the blood to start flowing again and it may begin to soak though the bandage or band aid. Continue to elevate the wound and closely monitor the bleeding while putting pressure directly on the wound. Clotting should start to take effect shortly and reduce blood flow. This goes for simple cuts or severe cuts. Any cut over 1 inch may need to be stitched. Assessment to the severity of the wound should be done while treating the wound to determine if further urgent professional medical aid is necessary. Keep wound covered at all times. Puncture wounds. Puncture wounds happen when a sharp pointed object pierces the skin (thorn, sharp stick, ect.) Things like thorns and splinters can easily be pulled out and treated much like a small cut. Deeper more severe puncture wounds are treated differently depending on where the object penetrated, how deep and if the object is still lodged in the wound. Often, if the object is still lodged in the body, pulling it out is not recommended as the object may have pierced a major blood vessel or organ depending on location. For injuries like these it is important to leave the object in place, immobilize the victim as much as possible and seek immediate professional emergency medical help. Blisters happen all the time. Blisters are easy to treat, for small blisters a simple band aid to cover it and prevent further direct friction on the affected area will do. large blisters you’ll want to drain and treat like a minor cut or scrape, again keeping the area covered to prevent infection.
Burns. In first aid classes you learn about the types of burns which can occur. these burns are Chemical, Thermal, Radiation, and Electrical. Then there are the severity which are First, Second and Third degree burns. While camping the most common will be Thermal ( contact with fire, a hot pan or hot water) and Radiation burns (Sun Burns). Chemical burns are rare unless you come into contact with solvents, battery acids or other corrosive substances. Electrical burns in the outdoors would be likely through lightning. Both of the latter are not likely to happen. Burns are pretty much treated the same and every first aid class and books will tell you the same thing. Cool the burn, clean the burn and dress the burn. With burns from a fire, chemical and electrical burns first remove yourself or the victim from the source. Chemical burns are a bit different as you will try to neutralize and remove the chemical from the skin. More details are available in your first aid guide. Cool the burn by applying cool water or wet towel or rag to the burn site. Check the severity of the burn. If the skin is red and the burn painful the burn is more than likely superficial or a first degree, clean the area treat with antibiotic ointment and wrap. If the skin is red, appears moist and blistered it may be a deeper second degree burn, if the area is dry,charred pale or gray it may be a deep third degree burn that require professional medical attention. Clean the area with cool water remove any debris form the wound, if there is anything melted to the wound do not try to remove it and clean around it. Do not pop any blisters just gently clean, treat with burned area with antibiotic ointment and cover with sterile gauze and wrap, change dressing once a day and monitor for infection. Ibuprofen for pain. Sunburns, well we’ve all had those, treat these the same as you always do.
Infection, To prevent infection make sure you keep the wound clean and dry,clean and disinfect the wound regularly (daily), change the dressing regularly (if possible). Redness and swelling, heat coming from the wound, pus and or pain are signs of mild to moderate infection and you should continue to thoroughly clean and disinfect the wound regularly. Watch for fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and or red streaks radiating from the wound for these are signs of serious infections that may require professional medical treatment. Oral antibiotics should be started early if available. To treat in the field, clean and drain the wound and soak the affected area in warm water or warm antiseptic solution for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a day. If it does not improve,
starts to spread within 12 to 24 hours seek immediate professional medical attention.
I do not get into major detail in my blogs for reasons of time and length of the articles. If you would like more detail or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or suggestion in the comment section and I can get back to you. I highly suggest taking a basic first aid course whether you are an outdoors enthusiast or not for the knowledge comes in handy in many situations. There are plenty of books and manuals on wilderness first aid that go into far more detail if you are interested, I only cover the basics here. I will continue with the first aid topic on my next blog dealing with things such as bug bites, rashes, cold and heat injuries and so on. Until then. Have fun!