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First Aide

{Back and Neck Injuries } { Bleeding } { Blisters } { Dislocations } { Exhaustion } { Fractures } { Shock } { Sprains } { Wounds } { First Aid Kit }

Backpackers and hikers may encounter a wide variety of terrain and climate conditions along the trail. You should be prepared for the possibility of injury or illness. Preparation is the key for a safe and fun trip. If possible, every backpacker should take the free courses in advanced first-aid and cardiopulmonary-resuscitation (CPR) techniques given by the American Red Cross, in most communities. If an accident occurs, treat the injury first. Examine them carefully, noting all possible injuries. If outside help is needed, and you are with a group, at least one person should stay with the victim. Two people then should go for help and take with them notes on the exact location of the accident, what has been done to aid the victim, and what kind of help may be needed. The injured will need encouragement, assurance of help, and confidence. Treat them gently. Keep them supine, warm, and quiet. Protect them from the weather with insulation below and on top, or shade them from the sun.
Back and Neck Injuries
 Immobilize the victim’s entire body where they lie. Protect the head and neck from movement if you even think the neck is injured, and treat as a
fracture. This injury must be handled by a large group of experienced people. Obtain help from outside.
Stop the flow of blood by using a method appropriate to the amount and type of bleeding. Apply pressure over the wound with your fingers or hand, with or without a dressing. Minor arterial bleeding can be controlled with local pressure and bandages. Major arterial bleeding might require compressing an artery against a bone to stop the bleeding. Elevate an arm or leg above the heart. To stop the blood in a leg artery, place your hand in the groin, and press toward the inside of the leg. To stop the flow of blood in an arm, place your hand between the armpit and elbow and then press toward the inside of the arm. WARNING: Apply a tourniquet only if you are unable to control severe bleeding by pressure and elevation. This method should be used only when the limb will be lost anyway. Once applied, only medical personnel equipped to stop the bleeding by other means and to restore the blood that was lost should remove a tourniquet. The tourniquet should be placed between the wound and the heart. If there is a traumatic amputation, (the loss of a leg or arm), place the tourniquet two inches above the amputation.
Place adhesive tape or moleskin over the area of developing redness or soreness. If irritation can be relieved, allow the fluid in the blister to be reabsorbed into the body. If a blister forms and draining is necessary, wash the area with warm soap and water. Then prick the edge of the blister with a needle that has been sterilized by the flame of a match. Bandage with a sterile gauze pad and moleskin.
The dislocation of an arm or leg joint is extremely painful. DO NOT try to put it back in place. Immobilize and splint the entire limb in the position it was found.
Eating an inadequate amount of food, dehydration and salt deficiency, overexertion, or all three causes exhaustion. The victim may lose motivation, gasp for air, slow down, and complain of nausea, dizziness, weakness, or headache. Treat by feeding, especially carbohydrates. Slowly replace lost water (normal fluid intake should be 2-4 quarts per day, or more, depending on weather and terrain). Give salt dissolved in some water (one teaspoon per 8oz.cup). In the case of overexertion, the best thing to do is rest.

When the fracture of an arm or a leg occurs it must be splinted before the victim is moved. Use any available material that will provide firm support (tree branches, hiking poles, etc). Pad each side with soft material, supporting and immobilizing the joints above and below the injury. Bind the splints together with strips of cloth.
Shock is a potentially fatal depression of bodily functions that is made more critical with improper handling of the victim, cold, fatigue, and anxiety, and should be expected after all injuries. Relieve pain from the injury as soon as possible. DO NOT give aspirin if there is severe bleeding, Tylenol or any no aspirin pain reliever is safe. Nausea, paleness, trembling, sweating or thirst, are all signs of shock. Lay them flat on their back, and raise their feet slightly, or position them, if they can safely be moved, so their head is downhill. Protect them from the weather and keep as warm as possible. A campfire will help.

Look or feel for soreness or swelling. Bandage and treat as a
fracture. Cool and raise the joint.

Clean with warm water and soap (except eye wounds). Apply a clean and sterile bandage to protect from further contamination. An eye wound should be covered with a sterile bandage and seek outside treatment as soon as possible.
First Aid Kit: The following kit is suggested for people who have no first aid or other medical training. It only costs about $15.00 and weighs about a pound, and is about 3”x6”x9”.
  • 8-4”x4” Gauze pads
  • 4-3”x4” Gauze pads
  • 5-2” Bandages
  • 10-1” Bandages
  • 6-Alcohol prep pads
  • 10-Large butterfly closures
  • 1-Triangular bandage(40”)
  • 2-3” Rolls of gauze
  • 20-Tablets of non-aspirin pain reliever (Tylenol)
  • 1-15’ Roll of 2” adhesive tape
  • 1-3” Ace bandage
  • 20-Salt tablets
  • 1-3"x4" Moleskin
  • 3-Safety pins
  • 1-pair of small scissors
  • 1-pair of tweezers
  • 1-Small note pad and pencil (to note place and type of injury).
  • Personal medications as necessary

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