First Aid Preparedness and Injury Prevention for the Wilderness and Beyond
Life has its ups and downs and is full of moments that can suddenly turn dangerous. However, if you are prepared and have some basic first aid knowledge, you can avoid personal injuries, delay health conditions from worsening, or even save a life. Knowing what to do in an emergency is critical and can help you avoid situations where you need legal help from Chicago personal injury and accident attorneys. Especially when heading out into the wilderness, it's important to be fully prepared for any challenge you may encounter.Wilderness Survival Basics
On any adventure in the wilderness, everyone should carry a first aid kit as well as some basic outdoor tools, such as matches and water-purifying supplies. The better prepared you are before you leave the safety of your home, the higher the chances are that you will return to your home in the same condition as you left it. However, being prepared isn't just about having the right tools; it is also imperative that you learn some outdoor skills and tricks that can keep you safe and alive if you are ever to become lost, hurt, or stuck in the wilderness.
- Wilderness First Aid Kit
- Emergency Preparedness Checklist (PDF)
- First Aid Checklist
- Wilderness Survival First Aid
- 10 Things You Need for Wilderness Survival
Anyone can go days without food if necessary, but you can't survive for long without water. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are out of water, it is important that you find some right away. In a worst-case scenario, you could drink water straight from a stream or lake, but that puts you at risk of getting sick from bacteria or diseases brought in by animals. If you are not in a desperate situation, you should always purify the water before consuming it. The easiest way to do this is to boil it. If you aren't going to carry the proper implements to boil water, then consider bringing a filtration or purification pump as well as purification drops or tablets. It takes a little time to purify water this way, but when you need drinkable water, these tools are real life-savers.
- Top Ways to Purify Water in the Wilderness
- How to Find Water in the Wilderness
- How to Purify Water: Water Purification Process
- How to Purify Water in the Wild
- How to Purify Water in the Outdoors
In an emergency situation, only one thing can be more critical than water: shelter. Although you can survive three days without water and three weeks without food, in harsh weather, you may only survive three hours. Shelter protects you from rain, snow, sun, wind, hot or cold temperatures, and more. It also provides mental support when you are in survival mode for an extended period of time. In the best-case scenario, you will be able to find a natural shelter such as a cave where you can camp out until help arrives. However, if there is no natural shelter nearby, you can quickly build a shelter with tree limbs. Choose a location that provides the best natural protection and build from there. Remember, a shelter doesn't need to be large; it just needs to keep you protected.
- Wilderness Survival Shelter Tips
- Wilderness Survival Shelter
- Seven Primitive Survival Shelters That Could Save Your Life
- How to Build a Survival Shelter
- Survival Shelters: 15 Best Designs and How to Build Them
After you have taken care of your shelter and water issues, it is time to consider building a fire. If you prepared yourself before going out into the wilderness, you should have some matches, which will make this job considerably easier than if you didn't. Gather your supplies: paper if you have it, pine needles or other small flammable items, small twigs, medium-sized sticks, and larger logs. Try to find a place a safe distance from your shelter that is also out of the wind. Put your flammable items at the bottom, and tipi the twigs over them, leaving enough room for the flame to breathe but placing them close enough that the twigs will catch fire. Use your matches to light the flammable items. Gently blow on the flame to fan the flames. Once the twigs light, slowly start adding the medium-sized sticks. Larger logs are added once the fire is going strong and should be added frequently enough to maintain your fire night and day until it is no longer needed.
- Summer Science: How to Build a Campfire
- How to Start a Fire
- How to Start a Fire Without Matches in Eight Easy Steps
- The Secrets of Bow and Drill Fire-Starting: A Pocket Field Guide (PDF)
- How to Start a Fire Using a Fire Bow (video)
Accidents happen everywhere, and the wilderness is no exception. If you ever find that you are with someone who has gotten hurt and cannot walk, you may need to consider building a stretcher to carry them to safety. The quickest and easiest way to make a stretcher is to use sticks and clothing. The toughest challenge is also your first job, which is to find two sticks that are both long enough and strong enough to form the outside of the stretcher. Once you have sticks that will serve that purpose, take jackets, vests, sweatshirts, or shirts and place them over the sticks, creating a long enough area for your patient to lie safely while you carry them out.
- How to Build a Wilderness Stretcher
- An Improvised Stretcher
- Improvised Stretchers
- How to Make an Improvised Stretcher
- How to Create a Stretcher
A bone can break at any time, and you should be prepared with what to do so that you don't make the situation worse. First, stop any bleeding. Apply pressure, or use cloth to create a tourniquet. If a bone is visible, do not try to push it back into place. Use sticks, tape, clothing, or whatever is available to gently create a splint to support and protect the injury. Keep the injury elevated, and apply ice if available. Then, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Wilderness: Fractures and Dislocation Treatments
- How to Treat Fractures in the Wilderness
- Orthopedic Injuries in the Wilderness (PDF)
- Fractures and Dislocation Treatment (PDF)
- Management of Open Fractures
Bugs and animals naturally inhabit the wilderness, so it should be expected that you will encounter them. However, that doesn't mean that you want to get bitten by them or catch a virus or disease they may carry. The best way to avoid bug bites and prevent illness is to use bug repellant. However, if you do get bitten by a bug, there are products that you can get from the drugstore to help treat it. Other than mosquitoes, flies, lice, and fleas, you need to watch out for ticks, which can embed themselves in your skin. Ticks must be removed quickly and completely before they bury themselves in the skin. Bees, spiders, and scorpions are other bugs to watch out for, as they are more venomous. If you are bitten and notice swelling or redness, circle the area with a marker. If the area continues to enlarge outside of the circle, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Typically, animals are not going to run up to you and bite you: If you don't try to touch any wild animals, you should be safe. However, if you do happen to get bitten, clean and bandage the wound and see a doctor right away. Animals can carry rabies, and you will need to be vaccinated. Snakes are different because they will bite even when you weren't trying to touch them. They are not always easily seen, and in an act of defense, they could reach out and strike you. If you are bitten by a snake, try to notice what kind of snake it was and whether it is venomous or not. Poisonous snakes typically will leave two distinct puncture marks. If the snake is poisonous, clean the bite area, restrict the blood flow to the area to prevent the venom from flowing through the rest of the body, and consider using a medical suction device to remove the poison. Seek medical help as soon as possible.
- First Aid for Bites and Stings
- Insect Bites and Stings: First Aid
- First Aid: Bites and Stings (Animal, Insect, and Human)
- Preventing Snake Bites and What to Do if You Get Bitten
- Animal Bites While Hiking and Camping: Tips
- First Aid: Medline Plus covers a variety of first aid topics here that are very helpful in an emergency.
- First Aid: Before you go out into the wilderness, learn what could go wrong and how to prevent and treat injuries here.
- Wilderness and Remote First Aid (PDF): The Red Cross works hard to provide readers with emergency care information, and this pocket guide is the perfect first aid guide for any hiker or camper.
- Wilderness First Aid Basics: The ACLS training center provides an excellent basic guide to wilderness first aid.
- Wilderness First Aid Reference Cards (PDF): Print these cards for your reference when an emergency arises in the wilderness.
- Wilderness First Aid: A Step-By-Step Field Guide: Written by an EMT, this guide is very informative and helpful during a wilderness first aid emergency.
- Wilderness and Remote First Aid Pre-Course Suggested Self-Study Material (PDF): Although the Red Cross intended this material to support one of their wilderness first aid courses, it is an excellent manual for anyone wanting to teach themselves some basic wilderness first aid.
- First Aid Emergency Care for the Injured (PDF): This printable guide teaches everything you need to know about first aid, including primary assessments, circulatory emergencies, respiratory emergencies, and more.
- Are You Ready for a Survival Situation? Do you know what to do if you are hurt or lost and it is getting dark? Read this article from AMC Outdoors and learn how to survive.
- The Complete Outdoorsman Handbook (PDF): Discover what everyone who spends time in the wild needs to know here, including wildlife hazards and first aid for the outdoors.
Written and updated by Jonathan Rosenfeld