NOTE: In this blog post I will not be giving specific details of how to administer First Aid as I am not a trainer. I will only be sharing my classroom and hiking experiences.
NOTE: This post is in no way sponsored by NOLS. The thoughts and experiences of the author belong to her alone.
A couple weekends in June I wanted to go hiking with a friend who lives in Cheyenne. We made plans to meet up at Vedawoo to do the Turtle Rock Trail. As both weekends approached, the National Weather Service said severe weather and possible flooding were to hit the area. One of the first rules of Wilderness First Aid is prevention, so we called our hike off.
It ended up not raining much in Saratoga. I don’t know about Cheyenne. While I’m bummed we didn’t go hiking, I’m glad we both made the smart decision to not go hiking, because the weather could have been as predicted. And we could have put ourselves in a dangerous situation.
On June 1st I took a course on Wilderness First Aid taught by NOLS, which is a nonprofit global wilderness school that seeks too help people “step forward boldly as a leader.” In addition to wilderness first aid, they offer courses on wilderness first responder, medicine and rescue, etc.
I took Wilderness First Aid for a couple reasons. First, it is a requirement to be an ambassador for Women Who Hike. (Oh yes! I’m an ambassador for Wyoming now!) Second, I just felt like it would be good knowledge to have under my belt.
Wilderness medicine has several differences from urban medicine. First time. Contact time with the patient is greater. Additionally, time from the onset of illness or injury to definitive care is greater, often more than one house. A patient’s condition and needs may change over the course of times. Finally, the patient’s injury may merit a different treatment approach than it would in an urban context to improve long-term outcomes.
The environment may cause a primary problem or could exacerbate injuries or illnesses. Cold, heat, wind, rain or altitude can play a huge role. Other factors include long and rough distances for evacuation and increased stress on rescuers.
In the wilderness, rescuers also need to improvise equipment needed for treatment and evacuated. They must also make independent decisions regarding patient treatment and evacuation, often without any outside communication.
During the course, I learned about patient assessment, emergency and evacuation plans, spine, head, musculoskeletal and cold injuries. I also learned about shock, heat and altitude illness, chest and abdominal pain, and wilderness wound management.
In emergency and evacuations plans, pre-planning can go a long way in supporting an efficient emergency response. You should always research local search and rescue, sheriff’s office or emergency services and know how to contact them. Tell someone trustworthy where you plan to go and when you plan to return. If I’m by myself I also leave a note on my car giving an approximate time I will return. I’m more concerned about someone knowing I’m out in the wilderness than somebody stealing something from my car. Besides, I don’t keep valuables in there. I also heard from another woman that she takes a picture of what she’s wearing on her hike and sends it to the person she told her travel plans too. I’m going to start implementing this as well.
You should also pack a communication device and a signaling device. Also pack navigation tools and a first aid kit. With these items, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THEM!
I DID NOT learn about using plants to cure illnesses or symptoms. After I took my class I had a few people send me links of “medicinal plants.” I was not taught by an expert to use plants, so I will absolutely not do that.
I’d say the summary of the class is to determine whether or not a person needs to be evacuated from the wilderness. If so, you evacuate them in the safest way possible.
When first analyzing a person, those who are certified in Wilderness First Aid are to inform the individual and ask permission to assess their injuries or ailments. After a FULL analysis a certified person stops any bleeding, checks the usability of any injuries, splints any unusable injuries, etc. and evacuates, if needed.
Thus far, I’ve only had to deal with blisters. I’m glad I have moleskin in the my first aid kit, because it is the thing I use the most. This material is for hot spots, to keep them from turning into blisters. As soon as I start feeling some pain in my feet I look for hot spots and address them with the moleskin.
If you’re interested in talking a Wilderness First Aid course from NOLS, you can click here.
Are you looking to fill your first aid kit? Here are some suggestions for items to carry from NOLS.
2nd Skin dressings
Tincture of benzoin swabs
For Small Wounds
12cc irrigation syringe
Antibiotic ointments packets
1×3 fabric bandages
Knuckle and fingertip fabric bandages
3×4 non-stick gauze pads
3-inch conforming roll gauze
Wound closure strips
Other useful items
4-6 inch elastic wrap
Wire or SAM splint
Water disinfection device/chemicals
Note: You should re-pack your first aid kit for each trip. Check for expiration dates on medications, for sterile items that have been torn open, damaged or dampened. KNOW HOW TO USE EVERYTHING IN YOUR FIRST AID KIT.
What’s next for That Solo Hiker Chick?
I’m looking into getting CPR certified. This will enhance my abilities if I am to ever come across an unconscious patient.
Over the 4th of July weekend I went to the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area. I’m working on putting together a blog post and video on my adventure. This landscape is in jeopardy of oil and gas development, and I want to shine a light on the beautiful area.
Later this month I’ll be taking part in Wyoming Moose Day where I will hike a trail and log signs of moose.