DISCLAIMER: The following information is not intended, nor should it be assumed to be, a substitute for formal training in First Aid treatment and procedures. This information is presented to raise awareness of some medical conditions which can arise on canoeing, camping or hiking trips so that participants may better prepare themselves for all eventualities. The information presented is not intended to replace advice or instructions given by trained professional medical personnel. Information herein is gleened from various professional medical resources including the US Navy On-line Hospital web site, the American Red Cross web site and other reliable resources. It must be realized that improper or inadequate treatment of injuries can result in damages that sometimes are greater than doing nothing at all. Whenever possible and practical the assistance of trained, professional medical personnel should be summoned to administer treatment for serious injuries. The nature of outdoor recreation is such that injuries sometimes occur in remote areas far from available professional assistance. The information in this section is intended to be a helpful guide for treatment of injuries in such cases when getting professional help is not immediate and the nature of the injuries requires prompt attention. Marc McCord is not a trained medical practitioner, and makes no claim of expertise in treatment of injuries. Marc McCord and Southwest Paddler are not responsible for improper treatment of injuries and resulting damages that may occur.
Cuts and abrasions are common injuries that occur during outdoor recreation activities. Usually, such injuries are minor, and can be adequately treated at the scene by almost anybody with even a rudimentary kowledge about First Aid. Serious cuts, however, can result in substantial blood loss, shock, temporary or permanent loss of use of a body part or, in extreme cases, even death. It is important for those participating in outdoor recreation activities to be able to identify the severity of cuts and abrasions, then take appropriate actions to field treat those injuries while making decisions about the need for professional medical assistance.
In most cases, a cut or abrasion can be effectively treated by cleaning the wound with clean water and a sterile gauze pad or piece of cloth, then sterilizing the injury with hydrogen peroxide before applying a bandage to prevent dirt or other foreign matter from getting into the cut or abrasion. In the case of simple abrasions, treatment can be as easy as applying an appropriate quantity of hydrocortizone ointment or cream, then covering to prevent contamination. If substantial blood loss is occurring, then it is mandatory to stop the bleeding and get the victim to professional medical help as quickly as possible. Proper steps should be taken to prevent shock and further injury (see Treating Bleeding Injuries for additional information about health and safety aspects of bleeding injuries.)
Bleeding (or hemorrhaging) is the flow of blood from veins, arteries and capillaries, either internally or externally. Veins carry blood to the heart, arteries carry blood away from the heart and capillaries are the very small channels that carry blood to all parts of the body. Blood flowing from a capillary will be slowly oozing, as from a minor cut. Flowing from a vein, blood will be a steady flow of a red or dark red color. Arterial bleeding will spurt from a wound in a bright red color, and is definitely life-threatening - it must be stopped quickly to prevent death to the victim, but it is also difficult to control, especially without proper medical training. It is important to understand how blood flows, why it flows and what can be done to control blood loss without causing the onset of gangriene, a condition that often results in amputation and/or death.
The body of an adult contains roughly 10-12 pints (5-6 quarts) of blood, and can lose about a pint without serious side-effects, as is the case when donating blood. However, a loss of 2 pints will usually cause on the onset of shock, and losing 5-6 pints will usually result in death. Depending upon the nature and severity of bleeding, prompt actions should be taken to stop the loss of blood and save the life of a bleeding victim. In the case of an internal broken bone determining the presence and extent of bleeding may be very difficult, but with open fractures it is quite evident. Internal bleeding can be diagnosed by observing blood flow from the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, rectum or other body openings. While severe, there is generally adequate time to calmly think and act with measures that will control bleeding and reduce injury to the victim.
For a complete reading on treating bleeding please click HERE .
Cuts can often be efectively treated by cleaning and sterilizing, then covering with a Band Aid. However, due to the nature of outdoor recreation activities, where strenuous activity is exerted, and especially where immersion in water is likely, the wound should be covered with a gauze bandage or Telfa pad, then securely taped into place to prevent its premature removal. A good First Aid kit should contain everything an outdoorsman needs for treating minor cuts and abrasions. Injuries of a more serious nature must be treated immediately and effectively enough to stop or greatly reduce the loss of blood before transporting the victim to a hospital or other medical facility. Direct pressure on the wound is often required stop the flow of blood, and a secure bandage that is tight enough to prevent excess bleeding, while remaining loose enough not to completely cut off blood circulation, is necessary as a field dressing. Butterfly bandages, if available, are very effective ways of closing cuts, but strips of cloth can be effective in a crunch when other materials such as tape or butterflies are not available, as long as unsterilized material is kept away from the wound.