Hikers, hunters, cross country skiers and bicycle enthusiasts can be miles from home when an injury occurs. The injury if severe enough can leave you stranded and put your life in peril. There may be several people in your group and one becomes injured, which means you have to render first aid to the injured party. An injury can prevent you from building a shelter, collecting water and performing other vital tasks for survival. You of course, only expected to be gone for a few hours, so you packed accordingly, which means you have limited supplies, and no first aid kit.
The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered medical advice.
Control Bleeding First
An arterial wound will be spurting blood usually in rhythm with the heartbeat. These wounds can be fatal in a matter of minutes unless you control the bleeding. Arteries carry blood from the heart so they are under pressure, which causes the spurting. Venous blood is blood returning to the heart through veins and is not under as much pressure.
Direct pressure is needed to stop arterial blood flow. Hands can be used to apply pressure in an emergency until the flow is slowed enough to apply a compression bandage. A compression bandage is tightened more than you would tighten a pressure bandage for non-arterial wounds. Tighten the compressions bandage enough to stop the blood flow yet not so much it completely restrict flow to the limb or surrounding tissue. Use a bandana, piece of clothing or even certain slender vines to secure a compression bandage. Do not remove the bandage even when it becomes blood soaked.
A tourniquet can be used if you cannot slow the blood flow. Use any type cordage, bandana, or strips of clothing. Place the tourniquet 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) above the wound and between the heart and wound. Tighten until the blood stops and then clean and dress the wound. If you have applied the tourniquet to yourself and you are alone do not remove it. If you applied it to someone else loosen every 15 minutes for 1 to 2 minutes to allow blood flow to the tissues to prevent permanent damage to the area.
If a tourniquet is improperly applied and left in place to long, it will cause permanent damage to tissue and limbs and can result in gangrene, which is a very serious condition and if left untreated is fatal.
Assume anyone with a bleeding wound or other type of trauma is in shock and treat for it immediately after treating the wounds. Lay a conscious person on their back and elevate the lower extremities 8 to 10 inches. If the person is unconscious, lay them on their side with their mouth turned so they do not choke on vomit or other fluids. Cover with a blanket and/or get to a shelter.
If the blood is not spurting from the wound wrap a pressure bandage around the wound and tighten enough to slow blood loss but not so tight it restricts blood flow to tissues.
Using Plants to Treat Wounds
Sphagnum moss can be found in many wilderness areas, and it can be used as a topical treatment for wounds. Some studies even indicate that some types of sphagnum moos have some levels of iodine. However, what researchers and other experts do know is that sphagnum moss has a high acidity content, which can destroy and prevent bacteria growth. Ideally, you would wrap the moss in an absorbent cloth to make a poultice and place on the wound. The moss is absorbent and can draw infection from the wound while the high acid content prevents the growth of bacteria.
The yarrow plant can be used to slow bleeding in a wound, can reduce swelling around the area and is known to destroy and prevent the growth of bacteria. Crush into a mash to bring out the plant’s oils and wrap in an absorbent cloth making sure the oil makes contact with the wound and surrounding skin. If you do not have any cloth, crush the leaves and place directly on the wound. Yarrow is also considered an astringent, which means it can draw wounded tissue together.
Aloe Vera is used to treat burns and other skin wounds as well as intestinal problems and is taken internally by some for its nutritional value. The juice from the Aloe Vera plant is used to treat open wounds and burns by providing a protective layer that has anti-bacterial properties. The protective layer prevents bacteria from getting into the wound and properties in the liquid help the wound heal faster.
Open or closed fractures are common injuries for hunters and hikers. An open fracture causes the bone to protrude through the skin and you must stop the blood flow before immobilizing the limb. A closed fracture is a broken bone but the bone has not broken through the skin.
The main concern with any fracture is movement of the broken bone severing an artery. The bone must be immobilized as quickly as possible to restrict the bones’ movement. Use any stout sticks for splints along with strips of cloth or any cordage available to immobilize the area. Secure a splint on both sides of the fracture. Pad the splints where they contact the body if possible. Muscle flexing and other movement will cause the splints to loosen so they must be checked periodically.
Sprains can be treated with cold water, compression and rest. Keep weight off the ankle. Make sure however, it is only a sprain by moving the joint and feeling for grating bone. Soak cloth in water and drape over the area. Wrap whatever material is available around the joint to immobilize and keep the area elevated. If nothing more than a sprain then the swelling should be reduced after several days. Wrap mashed yarrow leaves in cloth and keep pressed to the sprain to help reduce swelling.
Keep Yourself Together
Panicking will only compound the situation so always keep yourself composed whether you are treating yourself or others. You must be able to concentrate on administering aid with whatever is available.
Keep your hands clean by washing your hands briskly with clean to remove what bacteria you can. Use a cloth that will not be used for wound treatment to wash your hands. You must do what you can to prevent the spread of bacteria to wounds.
My Name is Rex Michaels and for the past 30 years, I have had the privilege to train Special Operations Teams, Military Academy Cadets, Military Recruits and civilians in mastering survival techniques and methods.
–Rex Michaels, US Army Retired