Basic Survival First Aid

Speaking of wilderness survival first aid, can you guess what is the #1 cause of death in the great outdoors? Not lightning, not falling from a height, not even animal attack – panic is a stone-cold killer.

Anyone who has served in the military (thank you!) might well have felt some panic the first time something went horribly wrong during training or maneuvers. That’s why professional outfits like the U.S. Armed Forces hire drill instructors.

Practice does indeed make perfect. Even mentally going over the steps you would take in an emergency is better preparation than none at all.

First aid is an important skill to develop as a youngster and keep sharp as adults for times of need. These times are almost always unexpected – and often inconvenient. Knowing how to cope, quickly and effectively, with a variety of common medical scenarios, can mean the difference between life and death.

A well-stocked first aid kit contains basic supplies that are easy to get – or you can buy one ready-to-go.

If you purchase a prepared first aid kit, be sure you know everything inside it and how to use each item. If several people use the same supplies, designate someone to check it regularly and restock used or missing supplies before an emergency arises.

Following is a list of first aid kit supplies needed to treat four people:

  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Medications (pack more than you need and refresh regularly)
  • Emergency First Aid guide
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • Tweezers
  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 3 in. x 3 in. sterile gauze pads
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress, also found within our First Aid Kit
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 1 emergency blanket

Heart attacks are a leading cause of death and can be brought on my extreme exertion, especially in extreme heat or cold conditions. Every man, woman, and child on Earth should take a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) course and stay recertified for life.

Administering alternating sequences of rescue breathing and chest compression can keep someone alive until first responders can arrive. The recipient’s body temperature must be above 90F. Press down on the chest, on the lower part of the sternum, fast and hard. Compression pumps the blood and keeps it circulating throughout the body so it continues to deliver oxygen to the brain.

A similar technique is called CCR (cardio-cerebral resuscitation) which is basically CPR with only chest compression and no rescue breathing.

Stopping bleeding is a useful survival skill to learn. The good news is that almost all bleeding can be controlled before shock sets in and, if left untreated, death. Cover an open wound with sterile gauze or a clean cloth and apply direct pressure to stop the flow of blood. Leave the original covering on and add more as needed for seepage through the layers. The cloth promotes blood clotting.

Avoid applying a tourniquet and do not elevate the wound. Seek professional assistance as soon as possible if the bleeding doesn’t stop, stops and starts or becomes infected.

Nothing says “great outdoors” like a roasty-toasty campfire. To treat burns (say, from grabbing a hot s’more too soon), the first step is to stop the burn before treating it. If chemicals are involved, clean them off. Turn off electrical sources and cool heat with running water. Cover up sunburns and take them inside, away from UV (ultraviolet) radiation exposure.

Burn severity is gauged by depth and size:

A first-degree burn, such as a mild sunburn, only affects the outer layer of the skin.

A second-degree burn damages both the outer layer of the skin as well the dermis – the layer underneath. The burned skin will hurt to the touch, be blistered, bright red, swollen, and may look shiny and wet.

A third-degree burn doesn’t hurt because it damages nerve endings and destroys the top two layers of the skin. Rather than turn red, it may appear black, brown, white or yellow.

A fourth-degree burn is the deepest and most severe. These burns can kill – they destroy all layers of the skin, as well as the bones, muscles, and tendons.

Perform these first aid steps:

  1. Flush the burned area with cool running water for several minutes. Do not use ice.
  2. Apply a light gauze bandage.
  3. Do not apply ointments, butter, or oily remedies to the burn.
  4. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief if necessary.
  5. Do not break any blisters that may have formed.

In an emergency situation, no matter where, no matter when, don’t panic. Be prepared. Stock up on basic first aid supplies and practice how to use them. May you never need to use them.