Camping First Aid: Common Injuries and How to Treat Them!
As you pass into the tree line, you close your eyes for only a moment. In that brief moment you notice the damp scent of the forest that fills your nose, the soft cushion of pine needles below your feet, and the call of birds easing your soul into a state of pure and uninterrupted relaxation… camping is truly an amazing experience.
But when the call of the wild has summoned you away from the busy-ness of city dwelling, there are certain things you need to do to be prepared for living in a tent without the comforts of home. That is where camping first aid comes in handy! As relaxing as camping is, you are also out of your element (which is the whole point) so accidents can happen and you will need to know how to help when emergencies occur and assistance is far away. Take a look at this camping first aid guide and learn the common injuries that can occur around the campsite, and learn how to treat them according to the Canadian Red Cross curriculum!
Burn from Fire
It’s time for dinner, which means you need to get the fire built up hot enough to cook your meal. As you reach in to shift a log in the already-lit fire, you bump your hand against the grate, leaving a severe burn mark across the side of your hand.
Burn First Aid Care:
Because you were smart and planned ahead, you prepared for just this instance by packing along a First Aid Kit! You remember your training of camping first aid, and know to properly treat the burn by:
- Cooling the burnt area with a clean damp compress or water at a cool temperature (not freezing temperature) for about 10 minutes.
- Removing any obstructions (jewelry, clothing, gloves, etc.) from the area of the burn – but do not attempt to remove anything that is stuck to the burnt skin.
- Using a sterile dressing from your first aid kit, you cover the burn loosely.
- After treating the burn, you continue to monitor and observe the area for any signs of blistering or further reaction.
In extreme instances of burns, seek immediate medical assistance by being driven to a medical facility or calling 911 in instances where:
- The patient is having difficulty breathing because of the burn
- The burn is caused by chemicals, explosions, or electricity
- The burn shows signs of severe blistering
- The burns cover a large surface area of the face, neck or hands
Breathing Emergency from Allergic Reaction
Your group is hiking within the woods near your campsite when Jack is stung by a bee – something he is severely allergic to. He calls out to you for help as his breathing becomes labored, sounding high-pitched, and the affected area has begun to swell. All of the symptoms suggest to you that Jack is suffering from anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis First Aid Care:
Recalling your camping first aid knowledge, you know that anaphylaxis is a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction, and medical assistance is needed as soon as possible.
- Call 911 alerting them of your emergency. If your phone does not have coverage, use an emergency radio or send a friend back to the campground to use the phone to call for help.
- Ask another friend to retrieve the AED you packed (way to be prepared!), or if you did not pack one along also request the retrieval of an AED from the individual calling 911 at the campground.
- If Jack has an epi-pen (epinephrine auto-injector), help him use it – remember ‘blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.’
- Ensure that you hear the click and hold the auto-injector in place for 5 to 10 seconds.
- After injecting the epinephrine, rub the injection site for about 30 seconds, keeping a close eye on the individual’s breathing and level of consciousness.
- If the symptoms do not improve, repeat the dose of epinephrine after 5 minutes and wait for the arrival of medical assistance.
- If Jack collapses or goes into cardiac arrest, use the defibrillator you brought with you, or if one is not available, begin CPR compressions and breaths until further help arrives.
Choking on Food
The day is done and now it is time for a snack around the campfire! What better treat to have when camping than s’mores? As Tracey takes a big bite of the delicious cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate combo, she inhales at the wrong time, sending the large cracker lodging in their throat. She tries to cough it out, but it is blocking her airway completely. Unable to speak or cough, Tracey’s hands are at her throat, and her face begins to turn red and then blue.
Choking First Aid Care:
- As soon as you observe her choking, you rush over to help.
- Someone immediately calls 911 or goes to the nearest camping office to use the phone to call for help.
- You alternate between back blows, abdominal thrusts, and chest thrusts to help dislodge the item from her throat.
- If this does not work and she becomes unconscious, you begin CPR right away, starting with chest compressions, until the item is dislodged, or she becomes conscious and is able to breath once again, or until medical assistance arrives.
Wound and External Bleeding Care
The fire has begun to dwindle, but the night is still young! Matthew takes the axe you packed along for your camping trip, and heads off to chop some more fire wood. But just as he begins his work, he yells out in pain as the axe slips from his grip and hits his shin. The wound is deep and he has begun to bleed heavily.
Wound and External Bleeding First Aid Care:
Matthew is conscious but in pain. You retrieve your camping first aid kit and run to his side to assist.
- You use your cell phone or radio to call 911. If you do not have service, you send another friend to the camping office to call for emergency help.
- You tell Matthew to place firm and direct pressure on the area. Once you are by his side and have put on your safety gloves, you apply a dressing and bandage to the wound, bandaging it in place to try and control the bleeding.
- After a few moments, you realize that the bandage is being soaked through and the bleeding is becoming difficult to stop. You place another bandage on top of the existing one, still keeping firm and direct pressure on the wound.
- The bleeding continues and the bandages become soaked through. It has now come to a point that the injury could be life-threatening. The direct pressure is no longer helping and it is time to consider using a tourniquet.
- Removing the tourniquet from your first aid kit (or creating one with a scarf and stick), you remember from your Red Cross training that it should be placed “one hand’s width above the injury and at least two fingers’ width above any joint.” Because the cut on Matthew’s shin is close to the knee, you place the tourniquet two fingers’ width above his knee.
- You tighten the tourniquet until the bleeding stops, securing it in place so it does not move.
- Quickly you take note of the time that you tightened the tourniquet (writing it on the leg if possible) and, while monitoring Matthew’s condition and allowing him to rest quietly, you wait for emergency help to arrive.
Keep these camping first aid tips in mind the next time you venture out into the great unknown. By having this knowledge of how to treat common camping injuries, you will be prepared for anything and ensure that your getaway is that much more relaxing and stress-free! Happy camping!
Want to check everything off of the camping preparedness checklist? We have the perfect list with everything you need to remember! Looking to learn the skills that will help in times of accident or emergency? Register your camping buddies for our Group First Aid Training and gain the skills necessary to save lives!