The ABC’s of wilderness first aid are very similar to first aid in the city. There are some things that you do have to keep in mind.
- The first thing that you need to take into consideration is the time it will take to get to a doctor’s office or for a wilderness search and rescue team to respond. It’s not like being in the city where you can dial 911 and expect someone to show up with the next 30 to 60 minutes. In the Bush it can be hours or days until your patient could get professional care so you need to be ready to render emergency aid at a high level until that personnel can come.
- You might face environmental extremes if you are out in the bush or the wilderness, things like torrential rain, a blizzard, or even getting lost in the desert. You will need ways to deal with these extremes in an emergency situation..
- Out in the wilderness you need access to resources because when you are administering aid you will be limited to what you have in your pack and what you can get from your surrounding environment. You should always keep up to date on your wilderness survival medicine classes, always fill your first aid kit before leaving on a hike or adventure with more than you think you’re going to need, and always make sure to keep up on all the local flora remedies. This means you may have to be a little bit more adept at identifying plants and using them. Make sure that you know how to make basic splints, braces, crutches, a cot, and a means to move your patient from materials available in the area.
- Although cell phones have much more coverage than they used to, communication tools which are further reaching then a cell phone and the ability to provide top notch emergency care maybe the difference between life and death for your patient. Traveling into the wilderness with a large group that you are responsible for medically, it is advised to always bring a satellite phone. It is further advised to know how to make basic signals to overhead aircraft, basic emergency distress signals on the ground, and possibly bringing a shortwave radio for extended trips. Communications are key to getting help from the outside world in the event of a serious medical disaster and should be a priority right next to making sure you have the ability to provide emergency level care.
Next basic emergency level care that should be rudimentary for anyone with experience, always obtain consent to treat the person if their awake and alert. Then establish how responsive they are to you. If a patient is not awake and alert and cannot consent to treatment, briefly try to wake the patient. Then onto the ABC’s of treatment.
- A stands for check the airway. Always look in the mouth and check the airway for obstruction.
- B is to check the breath. Look closely at the chest to see if it rises and falls. Count the respirations if you can see it rise and fall. If you cannot see it rise and fall listen for signs of respiration. If you cannot hear respiration, feel to see if air is moving in and out of the nose or mouth. If you cannot feel air moving in and out of the nose and mouth, place a chilled mirror or class under the nose and see if it fogs up.
- C is for checking the circulation. Check for a pulse and any major wounds that are bleeding. If there are any major wounds which are bleeding immediately apply a bandage and pressure. After successfully doing this, while checking the pulse make sure to notate what the heart rate is.
- D stands for disability in our ABC’s. Check to see if the patient is disabled in any way. Most especially check for a spinal injury if possible. Ask the patient if they can wiggle their fingers and wiggle their toes. If your patient can wiggle their toes and their fingers, their pupils are equal and reactive, and they can reasonably move on their own without assistance from a crutch, or a splint, then your patient can move on to the next letter.
- E stands for exposing injuries. Now if there is an obvious major wound you must check and stabilize it first. Once you get your patient out of immediate danger then you can move on to the rest of the letters, but in this instance we’re exposing injuries that aren’t life threatening or don’t appear to be life threatening so that they could be fully evaluated. If a patient says that their knee hurts and they can’t walk, then it would be a good idea to take a look of their knee without any clothing obstructing the view to see if it is dislocated or if it just has a scratch or cut.
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