Outdoors & Wilderness First Aid Tips & Techniques

Written by Shayle Follows

So you’re spending more time outdoors. Have you started to wonder what you might do in an emergency? Here are our outdoor and wilderness first aid tips and techniques.

Accidents happen, and there are many problems you can find yourself with when having fun outside in the wilderness, for example, cuts and scrapes, insect bites, sunburn, heatstroke and dehydration, so you’ll need to be prepared. This article looks at first aid tips and what to do in an emergency. So you can have fun outdoors, safely.

Wilderness first aid tips

5 outdoors & wilderness first aid tips

If you haven’t done any first aid training and are spending more time outdoors, you might be worried about pushing yourself further in case of an emergency. Here are five outdoor first-aid tips to get you started.

1. Treat a wound with direct pressure

The most common outdoor injuries are 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 correctly treated, it can become infected and even lead to life-threatening illnesses such as sepsis.

Treat a wound with direct pressure.

For a small cut or scrape from falling on rocky, unstable terrain, you need to keep it clean and free of debris and stop the blood flow as soon as possible.

Stopping the bleeding

Stopping the bleeding means finding the source of the blood. Get to the skin so you can see the wound. You can control the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound. However, ensure you don’t use your bare hands; use gloves or some non-absorbent barrier such as gauze.

If the injury is to an arm or a leg, you can raise the limb so that it is above the heart, which will help slow down the bleeding. Press down firmly on the wound. Maintain direct pressure for five to ten minutes. After ten minutes, check to see if the wound is still bleeding. If it is, spread the pressure over a wider area and maintain it for another ten minutes.

Keep the person can when injured outdoors or in the wilderness.
Keep the person calm

Blood loss can cause shock, 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 time. Ensure your tetanus vaccination is up to date. This usually is free with your NHS GP. Do not take ibuprofen or aspirin if you sustain a cut. They can thin the blood and increase blood flow/loss.

2. Spot dehydration early

Staying hydrated is vital when out on a walk, hike, or any outdoor activity. A great tip is to begin your trip fully hydrated. Carry a water bottle and take sips throughout the day, especially during warmer weather. An excellent way to quickly indicate how hydrated you are is by assessing the colour of your urine. If your urine appears dark and concentrated, take it as a sign that you may be dehydrated, so you must increase your fluid intake.

Stay hydrated.

If you become dehydrated, you need to increase your water consumption immediately. Oral rehydration salts are available in any pharmacy and can help balance the minerals in your body. Consuming a sugary or salty snack can also help if rehydration salts are unavailable.

Over-hydration is also dangerous

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 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.

3. Know how to treat burns

Outdoor adventures often include overnight stays and will likely feature fire at some point! Who doesn’t love ending a long activity day by sitting by a campfire to recap? Accidents quickly happen, though, so knowing how to act if someone in your party suffers a burn is essential.

Girl enjoying firepit.

Stop the burning by cooling the area with cold, clean water. Primarily, you want to prevent infection. Clean the area with water and apply sterile dressing to the burn injury. Wrap the area with some gauze if sterile dressings are not available.

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. Be careful because these symptoms are similar to fractures.

Sprained ankle.

First aid for a sprained ankle, remember RICES

REST – Take the stress off the area to prevent further damage.

ICE – If you have or can get somewhere that does. Use ice to reduce swelling and ease the pain. 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 heart level to reduce swelling.

STABILISATION – Tape or splint the sprained ankle and foot, preventing further injury.

5. Carry an outdoor and wilderness first aid kit!

First aid kit.

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. Preparation doesn’t take long and can help you and your party remain safe. An excellent basic but extensive first aid kit for exploring the outdoors should include:

  • Antiseptic cream or spray.
  • Plasters.
  • Gauze.
  • Sterile dressings.
  • Bandages.
  • Micropore tape.
  • A knee and ankle support.
  • Ibuprofen and paracetamol tablets.
  • Ibuprofen gel.
  • Sunblock.
  • Oral rehydration salts.

What to do in an emergency outdoors

What to do in an emergency outdoors.

1. Assess the scene and, if possible, wear gloves.

If you are uninjured, you are the most critical person on the scene because you can help. Assess the scene first and consider hazards.

2. Shout out or call for help.

The more help, the better. In an emergency, you never know who is nearby and who can hear you.

3. Roll unconscious casualties onto their side.

If there is an unconscious casualty, you need to turn them onto their side. Rolling them onto their side gives them a stable, open, draining airway, providing them with 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 profound blood loss if you’re stuck for something to apply pressure and create a barrier quickly.

5. Keep casualties warm.

If anyone stays outside long enough, they will get cold. It’s essential to consider insulating and protecting your casualty from the environment, especially if you’re out 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 are available to further your knowledge

There are many outdoor first aid courses you can take part in that are designed for different activities. A quick Google search will find the most suitable and local to you. We have picked a few outdoor first aid courses for you to look at that are the perfect starting point for beginners. Click here to learn more.

We hope you found these outdoor first-aid tips helpful! Let us know your experience of outdoor first aid courses in the comments. We love to hear from you!


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