Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine

Field Guide to Wilderness MedicineIt's an unfortunate truth of camping that sometimes things go wrong, sometimes drastically. The Boy Scouts have long known how important it is to "Be Prepared" and so should you. Preparation comes in two parts, bringing the proper materials and having the knowledge to conduct first aid. There are some basic maladies and injuries that tend to recur in outdoor activities. It is these dangers for which you should be most prepared.

First Aid Kit

first aid kit

On the preparation end of things, it's incredibly important to carry a well-stocked first aid kit on every camping trip. A basic kit should include a first aid booklet to help guide you on more obscure injuries. Your first aid kit should also include tweezers for removing splinters and ticks. One-use items should include multiple bandages, butterfly closures, antiseptic towelettes, mole skin, scrub sponges, gauze, medical tape and non-adherent dressing. Finally, you'll want some ointments and drugs, including iodine, antibiotic solution, antihistamines, acetaminophen and benzoin. Finally, you'll want latex gloves and a mouth-guard for dealing with blood or conducting mouth-to-mouth during CPR.


Sunstroke is especially risky on hot days and during long hikes. The problem is often compounded by dehydration and high humidity, which prevents sweat from lowering your body temperature. Headache, nausea, disorientation, convulsions and unconsciousness can all occur when suffering from sunstroke. Get the sufferer into the shade immediately, remove clothing and treat with cold compresses and wet cloth. The goal is to get liquid to start evaporating off their skin. Rehydrate slowly. Severe sunstroke is considered a severe emergency that will likely require hospitalization and intravenous fluids.



While the injuries suffered in the outdoors can come from a variety of sources, chances are that any severe injury will require additional treatment for shock. Victims of shock will have clammy skin, a rapid pulse and will likely be disoriented, if not unconscious. Treat victims of shock by first lying them down and loosening tight clothing. Raise the sufferers feet higher than their head. Even on a hot day sufferers should be blanketed and kept warm. If the sufferer begins to vomit turn them on to their side.


Certainly one of the most annoying pests, ticks should be removed as soon as possible. Contrary to common practice, ticks should not be removed with a match. This will cause the tick to expel its fluids into your blood stream, increasing your risk of disease. Instead, grasp ticks with your tweezers as close to your skin as possible, then pull away from your skin. You want to try and pull the tick up without removing its head.

Article Written By Louie Doverspike

Based in Seattle, Louie Doverspike has been a professional writer since 2004. His work has appeared in various publications, including "AntiqueWeek" magazine, the "Prague Post" and "Seattle Represent!" Doverspike holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hamilton College.

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