What to pack in your first-aid kit
Longleaf Wilderness Medicine visits Boise three times a year to offer a two-day wilderness first aid course. The next classes are planned for Saturday and Sunday, and Jan. 28-29. The classes run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day with a cost of $195. They include classroom instruction and hands-on practice. The course “is designed to prepare you to respond to medical emergencies, treat injuries and illnesses and improvise solutions with the items you carry,” according to the company. Registration is available at longleafmedical.com.
Katie Cartier, a program manager for Longleaf, produced this list of essential, basic information everyone should know:
▪ First aid kit: Having one that is appropriate to the activity you are participating in and the people you are with (ninja bandages for kids —and adults! — often can reduce tears) is key. Knowing not only what is in it, but also how to use the items, is more crucial.
▪ Bleeding control and wound care: In most situations, bleeding can be controlled with direct pressure by placing a piece of gauze (or other absorbent material) over the wound and holding firm. This can be done either by you or the patient; ideally, if you are providing first aid to another person, you are wearing gloves to protect you and the patient. Once the bleeding is under control, the wound can be cleaned with soap and drinkable water and bandaged as appropriate. For bigger bleeds, it may be appropriate to simply hold the absorbent material in place and wrap with an ace bandage while plans are made for evacuation.
▪ Blisters: Prevention is the key, starting with synthetic socks and well-fitting shoes that are tied appropriately. Ideally, blisters can be caught when they are just a hot spot, but if not, additional care should be taken to pad the blister with a tool such as moleskin or, if necessary, to drain the blister with a sharp object sterilized in a flame. This is particularly important if the blister is going to pop on its own in an environment such as a sweaty sock in a dirty boot. Drain the blister by putting a small hole in the bottom of it, squeeze the fluid out, then treat it as an open wound, bandaging it appropriately.
▪ Dehydration: Maintaining adequate hydration is important to keep body systems functioning properly, including digestion, blood perfusion and brain function. Ensuring that you and members of your party are regularly drinking water in conjunction with sources of electrolytes (powdered drink mix or salty snacks) is important to avoid minor annoyances such as chapped lips and muscle fatigue, as well as bigger issues (if profound dehydration occurs) including severe headaches, dizziness and poor decision-making as the brain begins to shut down.
▪ Stomach issues: Think about what you touch throughout the day. If you aren’t washing your hands, all sorts of bacteria and other funk are sticking around. One of the best prevention tips is to encourage proper hygiene in the backcountry, making sure that, at minimum, people are using hand sanitizer after using the bathroom or before food prep, with an ideal being that people wash their hands with soap and water at least once per day. Other stomach issues can result from new or different foods, different schedules, bathroom shyness that can result from the lack of traditional bathroom facilities, drinking untreated water and many other factors.