Wilderness Survival Myths

Wilderness Survival MythsSurvival in an emergency situation in the wilderness often depends on being able to sort out myth from reality. People who find themselves in precarious scenarios may be forced to deal with such things as how to stop bleeding, how to help a snake bite victim and how to treat a badly sprained ankle. Knowing what works and what is an old wives' tale can be of great aid and possibly even save a life.


Many people have heard that the best way to stop bleeding is by using a tourniquet. Nothing could be further from the truth. The tourniquet should be the last resort and is only a viable choice if someone has lost a limb or a limb has been partially rendered from the body by a horrible accident. The pressure that a tourniquet applies will severely damage blood vessels and can often result in tissue death, making it possible that a limb will need to be amputated. Heavy bleeding should be handled by applying pressure directly to the wound or to the area right above or below the wound. Once bleeding has been controlled the wound can be cleaned, packed and a pressure bandage applied. Less serious wounds should be allowed to bleed until they stop as this process will usually keep any organisms capable of causing infection from entering the wound.


Snake Bites

Many misconceptions and myths surround snake bites and how these dilemmas should be treated. A rattlesnake does not always warn someone of an impending attack as is widely thought, and even though this species has potent venom a person rarely receives a full dose of it when bitten. Many times, no venom at all is injected into the person. When a person is bitten by a suspected poisonous snake, a tourniquet should never be applied for the reasons previously mentioned, and the area should not be cooled or iced. The myth that cutting an "X" shaped incision over the wound and then sucking the venom out, perpetuated by countless examples on film and television, has never been proven to provide any relief. This procedure in truth would only be responsible for tiny volumes of the venom being removed from the bloodstream but would make the person vulnerable to extremely dangerous infections. The proper way to treat snakebite is to clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water and to keep the bitten area below heart level. If possible, carry the person to a vehicle and get her prompt medical attention; if she must walk then have her move slowly.

Sprained Ankle

How to treat a badly sprained ankle, which for a hiker or backpacker can be a serious situation when out in the wilderness, has always been subject to myth, with a large portion of the population thinking that warmth should immediately be applied. However, the opposite is true since heat will make the swelling and pain increase and slow down the healing process. If you spend time on trails and out camping, remember the acronym RICE. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. The ankle should be quickly rested and iced if possible or soaked in cold water from a stream. Even snow can be used as a substitute for ice. Ice the ankle for 20 minutes to half an hour and then put a compression bandage such as an elastic wrap on it to give it support. Elevate the affected foot. Repeat this procedure up to four or five times a day until the swelling goes down.


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