If you enjoy wilderness activities like hiking, camping, climbing, and so on, then you likely have a basic understanding of the dangers involved. But no matter your experience level, emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time. So knowing basic wilderness first aid is essential.
When emergencies occur in the wilderness, you may not be able to contact emergency services immediately. That means you’ll need to administer first aid to the best of your abilities while you work on getting the person professional medical attention as quickly and safely as possible.
Read on to learn more about administering wilderness first aid, from preparing in advance to responding to accidental injuries.
What Is First Aid?
First aid is emergency aid given immediately on the scene of a sudden injury or health crisis. The first few minutes after an emergency occurs can be critical to the person’s survival, and there often isn’t time to wait for medical professionals to arrive. So it’s important for people of all professions to know basic first aid and be willing to help in an emergency.
Whether you’re at home or in the wilderness, first aid comprises a wide range of skills. A few examples include:
- Administering CPR
- Putting a person into the recovery position
- Helping a person who is choking
- Bandaging a wound or stabilizing a broken bone
You don’t have to be a medical professional to administer first aid, but the more first aid knowledge and skills you have, the better equipped you’ll be to help someone in need.
What Wilderness Situations Require First Aid?
One of the first steps you should take in an emergency is to call emergency services so medical professionals can help as soon as possible.
But there are some situations — especially while exploring the wilderness — where you may be unable to call for help, or where it may take longer than usual for help to arrive. That’s why wilderness first aid is so important — because you’re even more likely to be the only person available to help.
According to Yale Medicine, some of the most common medical emergencies that occur during wilderness activities include “gastroenteritis from improperly treated or contaminated water, injuries such as ankle sprains, broken bones, scrapes and lacerations, as well as heat injuries such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion.”
These and other wilderness emergencies can be caused by environmental factors like weather, terrain, or wildlife or by a person’s existing medical condition. If you’re planning an excursion, it’s important to prepare in advance so you can respond to environmental changes and accidental injuries and administer wilderness first aid when needed.
What Are the Basics of Wilderness First Aid?
First aid can make the difference between life and death, and this is especially true in wilderness situations where you may not have easy access to medical supplies or assistance. Here are some tips for administering wilderness first aid:
- Be prepared. This cannot be emphasized enough — emergencies can happen to anyone, anywhere. The more prepared you are, the better your and your companions’ chances of surviving a wilderness emergency. Carry a well-stocked first aid kit with you, and brush up on your first aid skills and knowledge before you go.
- Hydrate. Many medical emergencies, in or out of the wilderness, are caused or exacerbated by dehydration. Making sure everyone stays hydrated is an important preventative measure and can help mitigate symptoms of ailments such as heat exhaustion.
- Assess the scene. When an accident occurs, such as someone falling from a rocky ledge, your inclination may be to rush after them and try to help. But while every second is critical, endangering yourself in the process is likely to result in two injured people instead of one. First, make sure it’s safe for you to approach, then take action.
- Stabilize. Even in the wilderness, the goal of first aid is to stabilize the person’s condition until you can get help. If there’s an open wound, stop the bleeding. If there’s a broken bone, put it in a splint. And no matter what, get the person medical attention as soon as possible.
Above all, when a wilderness emergency occurs, try to remain calm and avoid putting yourself or others in danger as you administer first aid.
Are You Prepared?
If you’re planning a wilderness adventure, it’s important to be aware of potential dangers and to be prepared for any emergencies that might occur.
But even if you don’t think you’re likely to end up in a wilderness survival situation, remember that unexpected emergencies can happen to anyone. Knowing basic wilderness first aid could save your life or the life of someone you know.
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