Outdoor First Aid Guide
From wilderness camping and hiking to simply taking children to a playground, any outdoor hobby comes with risks. Therefore, it is essential that the aspiring outdoor hobbyist is aware of safety best practices and first aid. While awareness and prevention are the best way to avoid injuries or illness, sometimes medical emergencies are unavoidable. In the event that someone in your party requires medical assistance during an outdoor activity, knowing how to properly care for them and having the right tools available can help control the situation until medical professionals arrive. It could even save a life.
Common Ailments and How to Treat Them
Many things can go wrong while exploring the great outdoors. In some situations, especially during activities like camping and hiking out in the wilderness, the group may find itself far away from other people who could help, and it may be difficult to find cell phone reception to call for assistance. Even in less isolated conditions, an ill or injured person may need help right away, and cannot wait for an ambulance without intervention. In this scenario, it is important to know how to administer first aid safely and correctly. An important first step is being aware of situation; first, assess whether it is safe to approach the afflicted person and render aid, then ascertain what type of assistance the person requires. Some common conditions have warning signs you should look for in members of your party. For example, it is helpful to know the symptoms of an impending heart attack, stroke, or anaphylactic shock. It is also essential for an outdoor hobbyist to recognize the warning signs of dehydration and heat stroke in warm weather, and frostbite and hypothermia in cold weather. Other afflictions, such as broken bones, sprains, or bleeding wounds, will often occur suddenly. Be aware of conditions, such as slippery surfaces or large drop-offs, that may lead to injuries. Avoiding the situation in the first place is the best way to be safe.
- General First Aid Steps
- The Importance of Staying Hydrated
- First Aid for Head Injuries
- What to Do in Case of Heart Attack
- Perform CPR: Instructions for Adults, Children, and Infants (PDF)
- How to Treat a Person in Shock
- Aid for Fractures and Broken Bones
- Managing Sprains and Strains
- Tending to Wounds and Bleeding
- Treating Dehydration and Heat Stroke
- Signs and Treatment of Altitude Sickness
- Emergency Care for Frostbite and Hypothermia
- How to Treat a Snake Bite
Outdoor Dangers from the Natural World
In addition to naturally-occurring illnesses and injuries, there are several environmental factors that pose significant risk. Weather conditions, natural disasters, hazardous plants, and dangerous animals can all pose a risk to your party. Even the most careful travelers who avoid injuring themselves can come to harm as a result of factors outside of their control. Therefore, it is important to be aware of these natural dangers, so as to avoid a situation where emergency care may be needed, or survive the situation should they find themselves unable to avoid it.
- Bear Safety 101
- Lightning Risk Management (PDF)
- Venomous Animals
- Poisonous Plants (PDF)
- A Quick Guide to Wildlife Safety
- Campfire Safety (PDF)
Building Your Kit
Even the safest and most careful outdoor hobbyists should always carry a first aid kit. A basic kit should include sterile medical supplies such as gloves, bandages, gauze, a CPR face mask, medical tape, blister pads, scissors, and tweezers. Many people also include over-the-counter medications in their kit. Some helpful medications to carry with you include painkillers, fever-reducers, decongestant, antacids, anti-diarrheal medication, and eye and ear drops. Outdoor enthusiasts who spend extended periods of time in the wilderness may also benefit from keeping prescription antibiotics in their kit. It is also essential to carry any prescription medication specific to members of your party with a medical condition, such as insulin or epinephrine. In additional to a basic medical kit, carry some survival supplies, in case your party gets lost. Some basic survival kit components include food and water, flashlights, batteries, blankets and warm clothes, a source of shelter, fire-starting supplies, and basic tools. There are many online resources that will help choose which items to include in a first aid or survival kit. Consider your party’s individual needs when packing your kits.
- The Basic First Aid Kit
- The Survival Kit
- Kit Supplies for Pets
- How to Choose and Build Kits
- Kit Item Checklist (PDF)
Keeping Children Safe Outdoors
Outdoor activities with children can be fun, but also pose extra challenges. No matter what the length of time or difficulty level of your outing, it is important to always bring your medical kit with you, along with making sure your children have extra water and snacks. Kids often need more breaks than adults during physical exercise, so let the kids set the pace of the activity. Make sure your children are aware of and follow basic safety ground rules, and keep a close eye on any potential dangers. Children are not always aware of whether or not conditions are hazardous, and need to be reminded to take precautions like using sunscreen or bug spray, bundling up in winter weather, and being careful around hazardous terrain. Always closely supervise children outdoors, and take frequent breaks to make sure they are adequately hydrated and rested.
- A Parent’s Guide to Outdoor Safety
- Common Outdoor Dangers to Children
- The Dangers of Ticks to Children
- Camping and Hiking with Kids
- Summer Weather Safety
- Winter Weather Safety