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Basic first aid is a very valuable skill to have when going on a camping trip or extended hike.

Knowing how to
identify and avoid hazards, and treat injuries in the field can even save a life.

And no matter how well you plan, chances are that you’ll encounter something that you didn’t plan on. Taking a
basic first aid course can teach you about treating for shock, hypothermia, broken bones, and open wounds.
Below is a brief list of less-severe or minor injuries that you can prepare for and even teach your scouts with a
brief basic first aid class:

With minor cuts, you want to be careful to keep the area of the wound clean to avoid possible infection. Treat
the cut with first aid cream or iodine to prevent infection. If the cut has not stopped bleeding, raise the
wounded area above the heart and place pressure on the area to stop the bleeding. For larger wounds, locate
the artery closest to the area and apply pressure on the artery to stop bleeding. Again, assuming that it’s a
smaller cut, clean the area thoroughly, then apply some antibiotic cream and bandage. The bandage should be
snug, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.

Blisters can turn a fun walk in the woods into a miserable experience. If you’re prone to blisters, put the
moleskin on your trouble spots on Day 1. Blisters are an open wound and can get infected if not cared for.
Change your bandage and socks and keep the blistered area clean. Make sure that you pack different size
bandages, gauze, and first aid cream. Areas where the pack straps touch your shoulders are also prime targets
for blisters. Use BodyGlide or Vaseline here before you start your hike, too…you’ll thank me later.

If you’re lucky enough to live in areas of glacial till (i.e. rocky), your ankles may take a beating when you hike. If
you’ve got a heavy pack on your shoulders, it can be very easy to twist your ankles. Walking sticks can be a
hiker’s friend on rough terrain and save your balance when a rock or root trips you up. A good elastic or ACE
bandage should be packed in the unfortunate event that you or someone with you twists an ankle. This can help
immobilize the sprained area until you can get medical attention. ACE bandages are also valuable for larger
wound areas, and can help make a good splint with a few straight sticks.


The woods can have lots of thorny shrubs and other prickly friends. It’s a good idea to pack a pair of tweezers
and some alcohol wipes, just in case. These are also handy in removing ticks. After you remove the splinter or
tick, clean and bandage the wound with first aid cream to prevent infection.No matter how short your camping
trip is, learn some basic first aid skills before you go. Knowing how to treat small field ailments is good to know
can prevent small injuries from getting infected or hampering too much of your camping fun. If you encounter
more severe injuries, or if the symptoms are accompanied with fever or signs of shock, seek immediate
medical attention. A basic first aid course is worth attending for symptom identification and treatment of more
serious injuries.
What Causes Abrasions?

Abrasions are common, everyday occurrences, and can happen in many ordinary situations. Children, people
who are often “on the go,” and those who play contact sports are just some examples of people who commonly
experience injuries from abrasions, cuts, and scrapes. Abrasions are most commonly caused by falling, skidding,
or other types of accidents. Many abrasions occur suddenly and without warning, and may not even be noticed
until after the injury.

Laceration, tearing of the skin that results in an irregular wound. Lacerations may be caused by injury with a
sharp object or by impact injury from a blunt object or force. They may occur anywhere on the body. In most
cases, tissue injury is minimal, and infections are uncommon. However, severe lacerations may extend through
the full thickness of the skin and into subcutaneous tissues, including underlying muscle, internal organs, or
bone. Severe lacerations often are accompanied by significant bleeding and pain.

Puncture wound: An injury that is caused by a pointed object that pierces or penetrates the skin. Puncture
wounds carry a danger of tetanus.

In medicine, an avulsion is an injury in which a body structure is forcibly detached from its normal point of
insertion by either trauma or surgery (from the Latin avellere, meaning "to tear off").

Broken bones, sprains and dislocations are painful injuries that should receive medical attention as
soon as possible. When these injuries occur in the backcountry, first aid techniques may be used to
help immobilize or support the injury until medical help becomes available.

Fractured Bones
The adult human body contains just over 200 bones, all of which could become fractured during an
accident. The severity of a bone fracture can vary from a small hairline fracture to a severe compound
fracture. First aid varies for different types of bone fractures. Usually, to treat a broken bone in the field,
the injured area should be immobilized or supported. For most arm and leg fractures, a splint may be
used. A SAM Splint is one example of a customizable splint that can be molded or cut to support
several different injuries. Most first aid courses will cover several techniques that can be used to splint
or support broken bones. Fractures to the vertebra and skull are very serious injuries. If you suspect a
potential spine injury or a fractured skull, do your best to keep the person immobilized until help arrives.

A sprain is caused by trauma to one or more ligaments in a joint. Common sprains include ankle, knee,
wrist, finger and toe sprains. Symptoms of a sprain include pain and mobility loss at the affected joint.
Swelling and bruising are also common. First aid for sprains typically includes immobilizing or
supporting the affected area, similar to treating a fracture.

Tendon Injuries
An inflamed, torn or ruptured tendon can be a very painful and debilitating injury. Common tendon
injuries occur at the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and ankle. An injured tendon will typically cause pain
and loss of mobility at the affected area. In the field, these injuries should be treated just like sprains.

A strain occurs when muscle fiber is damaged as a result of overstretching or overexertion. Pain,
bruising and discoloration are three indications of a muscle strain. Hamstring and groin injuries are two
common types of strains suffered by athletes. Depending on the severity of the strain, an injured person
may remain ambulatory long enough to self-rescue. If necessary, help by supporting some of the
person’s weight and by periodically stopping to rest. If the person is unable to walk with aid, call for help
right away.

A dislocation injury is caused by an abnormal separation within a joint. This may also damage
surrounding tendons, ligaments, muscle fiber and nerves. Joints that can be dislocated include the
shoulder, elbow, knee, hip, foot, fingers, toes and jaw. Symptoms of a dislocated joint include pain,
reduced mobility, deformation, bruising and swelling. Dislocated joints should only be set back into
place by a doctor or trained medical professional. This type of injury should be immobilized or
supported in a similar manner to a sprain until medical aid becomes available.


Wounds like cuts and scrapes will usually cause bleeding. The amount of blood loss depends on the severity and
location of the wound. Superficial wounds typically damage the capillaries, causing minor bleeding. Damage to
veins will cause venous bleeding, which flows more steadily. Arterial bleeding, which occurs when an artery is
cut or damaged, is the most severe type of bleeding injury.

To stop bleeding, apply firm, steady pressure to the wound using a sterile pad or trauma pad. Once the bleeding
has stopped, leave the pad or cloth in place. Wrap the injury with gauze or tape to secure the dressing. Be sure
not to wrap too tightly, as this could cut off blood circulation.

If the bleeding does not stop or reduce after several minutes of steady pressure, this could indicate a serious
injury. If possible, elevate the wound above the person’s heart. Continue to apply firm, steady pressure. Have
someone call for medical help immediately. If a pad or dressing becomes soaked through with blood, do not
remove it, as this may damage any clotting that has already occurred. Apply an additional dressing over the
existing one and continue applying pressure until the bleeding has subsided.

Internal bleeding can occur from trauma beneath the skin and damage to internal organs. This can be a life-
threatening injury and requires immediate medical attention. Do your best to keep the person comfortable and
protected from the elements. Watch for signs of shock and monitor breathing.


Small cuts can usually be treated without the help of a medical professional. Once any bleeding is stopped,
gently clean the wound with an antiseptic swab or soap and water. Before dressing a deep or gaping wound, you
may need to apply wound-closure strips to prevent the wound from re-opening. Seek medical attention as soon
as possible, since deeper lacerations may require stitches and are more prone to infection. Periodically check
the wound to make sure bleeding has not resumed.


Scrapes and abrasions should be treated in a similar manner as cuts. First, stop any bleeding with a sterile pad.
Next, clean the wound with antiseptic wipes, doing your best to remove any dirt or debris. Apply a small amount
of antibiotic ointment to the bandage or dressing. Use gauze and medical tape to keep the dressing secure.

When applying first aid to a puncture wound, stop any bleeding first. Next, clean and dress the wound. Anyone
who has suffered a puncture wound should strongly consider getting a tetanus booster as soon as possible,
unless they’ve already received one within the past 10 years.


An infected wound is very dangerous, so it’s extremely important to seek medical attention right away if you
suspect an injury may be showing signs of infection. According to WebMD, warning signs include:

Redness and/or swelling of the surrounding tissue

Increased pain

The wound feels warm or hot to the touch


Drainage or puss

Red streaks emanating from the wound

A dirty wound is more likely to become infected, so it’s a good idea to clean superficial injuries with antiseptic
wipes or warm, soapy water before applying bandages. It’s also important to change dressings and bandages on
a regular basis, especially for weeping wounds. Severe injuries that bleed excessively should not be cleaned, as
this could reopen the wound. Once the bleeding is stopped, leave the dressing in place and seek medical