So you’re spending more time outdoors, have you started to wonder what you might do in an emergency? Here are 5 outdoor first aid tips and what to do in an emergency outdoors.
Accidents happen and there are a great number of problems you can find yourself with when having fun outside, for example, cuts and scrapes, insect bites, sunburn, heatstroke and dehydration so you’ll need to be prepared.
If you haven’t done any first aid training and you are spending more time outdoors you might be worried about pushing yourself further in case there is an emergency situation. Before taking a trip it is a good idea to ensure that someone in your party has basic first aid knowledge and packs a compact yet extensive first aid kit. Good preparation doesn’t take long and can ensure that you and your party remain safe.
Here we look at some first aid tips, what to do in an emergency and a few beginner outdoor first aid courses. So you can have fun outdoors, safely.
5 outdoor first aid tips
1. Treat a wound with direct pressure
The most common outdoor injury has to be cuts, scrapes and puncture wounds. These are usually just minor injuries but even if a cut seems minor whilst spending time outdoors if it is not properly treated it can become infected and even lead to life-threatening illnesses such as sepsis.
For a small cut or scrape from falling on rocky, unstable terrain you need to keep it clean, free of debris and stop the blood flow as soon as possible.
Stopping the bleeding means finding the source of the blood. Get to the skin so you can actually see the wound. You can stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound. However, make sure you use don’t use your bare hands if possible, use gloves or some kind of non-absorbent barrier such as gauze.
If the injury is to an arm or a leg you can raise the limb so that is above the heart and this will help to slow down the bleeding. Press down directly on the wound, firmly. Maintain direct pressure for five to ten minutes. After ten minutes, check to see if the wound is still bleeding. If it is then spread the pressure over a wider area and maintain it for another ten minutes.
Loss of blood can cause shock which is indicated by increased pulse rate and rapid breathing sometimes even fainting or loss of consciousness. Keep the person warm and try to relieve stress if they are conscious by staying calm and talking calmly.
Prevent cuts and scrapes by watching your footing, wearing the correct well-fitting footwear and taking your time. Ensure your tetanus vaccination is up to date. This is normally free with your NHS GP. Do not take ibuprofen or aspirin if you sustain a cut. They can thin the blood and therefore, increase blood flow/loss.
2. Spot dehydration early
When out on a walk, hike or any outdoor activity it is absolutely vital to stay hydrated. A great tip is to begin your trip fully hydrated. Carry a water bottle and take sips throughout the day, especially during warmer weather. A good way that easily indicates how hydrated you are is by assessing the colour of your urine. If your urine appears to be dark and concentrated take it as a sign you may be dehydrated so you will need to increase your fluid intake.
If you do become dehydrated then you need to immediately increase your water consumption. Oral rehydration salts are available in any pharmacy and can help balance the minerals in your body. If rehydration salts are not available, consuming a snack that is sugary or salty can help too.
Remember that over-hydration is also dangerous as it can lead to hyponatremia. This happens when the body holds onto too much water. This dilutes the amount of sodium in the blood and causes levels to become low. Symptoms include nausea, headache, confusion, and fatigue. So try to spot dehydration early and don’t force water into your body either.
3. Know how to treat burns
Outdoor adventures often include overnight stays and are likely to feature fire at some point! Who doesn’t love to end a long day of activity by sitting by a campfire to recap over the day? Accidents easily happen though, so it’s important to know how to act if someone in your party suffers a burn.
Stop the burning by cooling the area with cold, clean water. Primarily you want to prevent infection. So clean the area with water and apply some type of sterile dressing to the burn injury. Wrap the area with some type of gauze if sterile dressings are not available. Then use some type of clean cloth.
4. Know how to cope with strains and sprains
Strains and sprains are a common occurrence when enjoying the outdoors and most sprains occur in the ankle and knee. A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that attach one bone to another. Ligaments are sprained when a joint is twisted or stretched beyond its normal range of motion. Symptoms of a sprained ankle can be bruising, swelling, and pain with movement. You need to be careful because these symptoms are also similar to a fracture.
First aid for a sprained ankle, remember RICES
REST – Take the stress of the area to prevent further damage.
ICE – If you have or can get somewhere that does. Use ice to reduces swelling and ease the pain. Try to apply it as early as possible for up to 20 minutes.
COMPRESSION – Compression wraps prevent swelling and provide support. If you don’t have compression wraps you could pad the injury with socks or other soft items, then wrap with a bandage or cohesive wrap from your first aid kit.
ELEVATION – Elevate the ankle and foot above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.
STABILISATION – Tape or splint the sprained ankle and foot preventing further injury.
5. Carry a first aid kit!
A good basic but extensive first aid kit for exploring the outdoors should include:
- Antiseptic cream or spray.
- Sterile dressings.
- Micropore tape.
- A knee and ankle support.
- Ibuprofen and paracetamol tablets.
- Ibuprofen gel.
- Oral rehydration salts.
We recommend the Tianbo 120 piece outdoor first aid kit, great for camping, survival weekends, hiking and outdoor adventures with the family. You can keep this handy-sized outdoor first aid kit in the car or your rucksack. Buy it now from Amazon for just £19.99
What to do in an Emergency Outdoors
1. Assess the scene and if possible put on a pair of gloves.
If you are uninjured you are the most important person in the scene because you are able to help. Assess the scene first and consider hazards.
2. Shout or call for help.
The more help the better in an emergency situation you never know who is nearby and who can hear you.
3. Roll unconscious casualties onto their side.
If there is any casualty that is unconscious you need to turn them onto their side. Rolling them onto their side gives them a stable open draining airway which will give them every opportunity to breathe.
4. Deal with heavy bleeding.
Above we have discussed how to deal with heavy bleeding, another tip is that waterproof clothing is a great way to obscure heavy blood loss if you’re stuck for something to apply pressure and create a barrier quickly.
5. Keep casualties warm.
If anyone is outside and staying still for long enough they will get cold at some point. It’s important to think about how to insulate and protect your casualty from the environment, especially if you’re outside for a long time.
6. Call 999.
You could even download the OS Locate app to your phone. This app will quickly give you your grid reference even without any signal.
7. Try to stay calm.
Even an unconscious casualty may be able to hear from you. So try to stay calm and talk calmly.
Outdoor first aid courses available to further your knowledge
There are lots of different types of outdoor first aid courses you can take part in that are designed for different types of activities. A quick google search will find the one most suitable for you and local to you. We have picked a few outdoor first aid courses for you to have a look at that are the perfect starting point for beginners.
Peak Mountaineering – Located in the peak district, Peak Mountaineering offer an 8hr outdoor first aid course. The 1-day ITC outdoor first aid course is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts seeking training so they are better prepared if the worst happens or for those acting in a supporting role who will be accompanied by a more qualified first aider. You can find out more and book here.
The course involves 8 hours of tuition and includes an element of assessment. The main difference between this course and the 2-day Outdoor First Aid course is its focus on treating life-threatening emergencies without time being spent on longer-term incident management. The aim of the course is to enable students to recognise when someone has a medical emergency and be able to give immediate appropriate assistance at first aid level.
They also offer a 16hr outdoor first aid course. The 2-day ITC outdoor first aid course is suitable for national governing body outdoor qualifications. It is also ideal for outdoor enthusiasts seeking training so they are better prepared if the worst happens. You can find out more and book here.
Wilderness Development – All public courses take place in Manchester. Courses can be offered at alternate locations in the area on-demand. Winter courses take place indoors. In summer, parts of the course can take place outdoors, weather permitting. They offer a one day (8 hour) outdoor first aid course which teaches you everything you’ll need to know to deal with first aid emergencies and outdoor emergencies that you may face away from the classroom or office. Suitable for anyone with an interest in providing emergency first aid in an indoor and outdoor setting. They use practical first aid scenarios that are designed to match the situations that you are likely to encounter, whether you are an individual, instructor, activity leader, scout, family, or commercial organisation.
You can get more information and book here.
Gritstone Adventure Activities
Gritstone Adventure Activities – Not your ‘ordinary’ first aid course. This course is delivered by a highly experienced, multi-activity instructor with many years of outdoor activity experience. The course is delivered in a no-nonsense, to the point style which is easy to remember and easy to understand and apply to your outdoor context. There will be minimal PowerPoints and the course is heavily practical and encourages discussion and active participation.
This 16-hour outdoor first aid course takes place in the Peak District. The first aid course will validate all outdoor NGBs including MIA, MIC, ML, SPA, BCU, BCA, TCL, MBL and is also suitable for D of E Leaders, Scout Leaders, Youth Workers, National Park Rangers or anyone working or simply enjoying the outdoors for leisure.
We hope you found these outdoor first aid tips useful! Let us know your experience of outdoor first aid courses in the comments. We love to hear from you!