An outdoors emergency may develop at any time with lightning-quick speed. Anticipate potential dangers associated with specific outings: High-altitude situations, dehydration and heat problems, problems caused by cold. Take into account the relative accessibility of outside professional medical care.
The following suggestions are from the Sierra Club's "Outing Leader Handbook."
IMMEDIATE FIRST AID:
- Prevent further injury to the victim. Stop arterial bleeding,
restore breathing, check for pulse, and, if necessary, begin CPR.
Maintain adequate body warmth and treat for shock.
- Do not move the victim until you have ascertained the injuries.
- Practice the STOP scenario - Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.
Thoroughly consider the situation before you plan a course of
action. Speed is less important than correct response.
- Decide whether to evacuate the victim with available resources
or send for help. Ideally, one person should stay with the victim
and two should go for help. Messengers seeking help should
have written information as to the location and nature of the
injury. Advise messengers to save strength for the return trip.
- Heat stroke: Victim is uncoordinated, confused, delirious and
convulsing. Body temperature must be lowered immediately
by sponging with tepid water, fanning and cool drinks.
- Heat exhaustion: Victim is cool, clammy, dizzy, has a headache,
and may have cramps. Liquids and rest with a lowered head
- Acute mountain sickness: Caused by too rapid an ascent to above about 9,000 feet. Victim has headache, drowsiness, loss
of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abnormal sleep patterns.
Treat with descent to about 3,000 feet, rest, adequate fluid
intake and headache pain medicine. Do not administer sleeping
medicines as they may mask pulmonary edema symptoms.
- High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE): Symptoms
are shortness of breath and rapid respiration, weakness,
disorientation, cough, frothy pink sputum and racing pulse.
Treatment is immediate descent, rest and oxygen.
- Frostbite: In its beginning stage, flesh is unfrozen but turns
gray and waxy-looking. If there is no chance of refreezing, treat
superficial frostbite by warming affected body parts in 102- to
106-degree water for 30 to 45 minutes. Unless you can maintain
proper treatment, don't begin it; you can walk on frozen feet
but not on partially thawed feet. Rubbing or applying direct
heat to the body parts increases damage.
- Hypothermia: This insidious drain of body energy is often not
recognized until it is life-threatening. Always assess its potential
and be prepared for changing weather. Avoid wet clothing and dress in layers. Beware of wind-chill factor and cover your head
and hands. Take action as soon as symptoms begin.
With mild hypothermia, victim is indecisive, loses fine motor
control, shivers, and is tired. Warm the person in any possible
way, administer warm drinks, and get the victim into warm, dry
clothing. Seek protection from the elements and maintain food
With severe hypothermia, victim is sleepy, confused, irritable,
staggers, and has slurred speech. Pulse is slow, pupils are dilated,
and breathing is shallow. Place the naked victim in a sleeping
bag and have he or she maintain skin-to-skin contact with
- Rattlesnake bite: Get victim away from the snake to avoid a
second strike. Victim should remain calm and lay down to
keep the bite area above the heart. Put pressure on the bite
with a pressure extractor pump or by an elastic bandage. Do
NOT use tourniquets, cut the bite area, or suck venom from the
wound. Evacuate victim immediately.
Common sense, combined with knowledge of the terrain, level
of activity required and weather predictions, can spell life or
death in an outdoors crisis.
THE 10 ESSENTIALS:
These are outdoors outing items Sierra Club leaders say you should never be without, whether on a day- or weeklong outing. Some are handy for use at any time; others may be waterproofed and kept in your pack for emergencies.
- Map of area
- Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb
- Extra food and water
- Extra clothing, including gloves and a warm hat
- Waterproof matches
- Candle for starting fires
- Pocket knife
- First-aid kit