First Aid During Hiking
Hiking is supposed to be fun. It is fun, and there’s a reason so many people pull on their hiking Gore-tex boots and take a step into the great outdoors all year-round. The health benefits of hiking are well known, but you should also be aware of all the things that can go wrong when getting in fresh air and essential exercise. As much as we want to hope we stay safe on or off the trail, you can never predict what might happen, so it’s vital you set out prepared. To ensure you stay safe, here’s our essential guide to First Aid when hiking to make sure everyone makes it out and gets back in one piece.
What To Pack
Even before you root around in your cupboard for your hiking shoes and pull on your favorite hiking socks, you need to make sure you have all the First Aid equipment ready before you step out the door.
Here is the basic First Aid kit to carry during your hike:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antibacterial ointment
- Bandage adhesive
- Fabric bandages and gauze
- Non-stick sterile pads
- Blister treatment
- Inflammation medication (ibuprofen)
- Insect bite cream
- Sun cream
- Safety pins
- First Aid information pamphlet
If you only ever need this, you’re lucky. However, you may need more in-depth treatment in which case, add these to your First Aid pack:
- Prescription medication
- Throat lozenges
- Eye drops
- Sunburn gel
- Gastrointestinal medicine
- Rehydration salts
- Injectable epinephrine
It’s not just medical supplies you must pack, either. Carrying the right tools with you can help you cut gauze, stay on track, and make shelter, too.
- Blunt scissors
- Safety blade
- Surgical gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Biodegradable soap
- Waterproof container
- Medical waste bag
It may seem like a lot, but these items are mostly small and compact, and while it will add extra weight to your pack, you will be thankful you have them with you should you ever need them.
How To Treat Different Incidents
Wounds And Bleeding
Wounds are the most common issues to encounter during a hike and no matter how small they are, never ignore them as they could become infected.
If you or one of your party suffers a wound, it is imperative you clean it up using antibacterial solution and cover with a band-aid or bandage. If the wound is large and causes heavy bleeding, you must apply pressure to stall the blood before cleaning it and covering with bandages.
Depending on where you hike, the potential for bites will vary, as will the cause of such bites. You may only need to deal with insect bites, but there’s also the chance of bites from larger animals you must know how to treat.
There are a variety of bites you may encounter including bees and wasps, ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, snakes and beyond. Each of these animals has different treatments, so educate yourself (or consult a guide) to help you overcome such problems. If possible, try to prevent any bites by wearing bug repellent or snake boots.
Bones And Muscles
Sprains and strains are likely when dealing with tricky terrain. If you suffer a sprained ankle, take a break and use the RICE method to ease swelling. If possible, find a place to stay and wrap the affected area with supportive material to ease the pressure.
As for broken bones, it’s important to locate help as soon as possible and not put any pressure on the area. It’s likely you won’t be too far from civilization, so get help quickly.
Illnesses such as headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea can ruin your hike, so remember to carry tablets to treat such symptoms. Usually, these problems are not too severe and will pass quickly, but they can get worse if not taken care of. Drink plenty of water and abandon your hike if the problems persist. Always make sure to keep your hands clean when handling food.
You can do everything right and still be stuck in the midst of disaster. If you encounter environmental problems such as storms, flooding, and other extreme weather along with conditions that can come from such events. To ensure your safety and the safety of others, it’s imperative you know what to do.
Learning to recognize when an environmental threat will occur, you must study and understand the area you are hiking in, whether it’s a local or international hiking trip. When you understand this, you can then focus on the potential issues you may encounter.
Hikers can suffer from hypothermia, dehydration, and snowblindness (snow permitting), and knowing what to do if your hiking group (or yourself) is suffering from these symptoms can save your life.
Much like dental problems, extreme issues such as heart attacks, poisoning and similar conditions are rare when hiking, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for it.
These will typically only happen following an accident such as a large fall or an intense activity. But if you know how to spot problems like mushroom poisoning, heart attacks, broken backs, brain injuries, and shock, you can help to save a life.
You won’t be able to overcome all the problems you encounter, though, and should you struggle to find the equipment you need, you’ll need to improvise.
Depending on your surroundings, you can use twigs, branches, leaves, and grass to fashion splints and bandages as a stopgap before professional help arrives. Similarly, there are plants found in and around hiking areas that can act as ointments and medicines for you to treat the patient with should they need it.
This is on the more advanced side of First Aid, though, and it’s unlikely you will ever need to use it. However, if you are serious about getting into hiking in more extreme and challenging areas, it pays to know what to do in an emergency.
Survival Of The Fittest
We hope that the fittest in this instance refers to you, and with this newfound knowledge for hiking whether a short jaunt along your favorite trail or one that means you disconnect from civilization for a few days. Understanding what to do in an emergency is essential, and for hiking, it can be the difference between sickness and health.