Wilderness emergencies have increased in incidence throughout the past years as the popularity of outdoor and wilderness activities have risen. Emergency situations occurring from the wilderness setting can vary from minors cuts to life-threatening asphyxia. Whereas treatment will greatly vary for the different types of emergencies, one must be prepared to handle any kind of emergency that may arise in a wilderness setting, wherein emergency doctors, hospitals and emergency help may be given immediately. Thus, one should have enough knowledge and skills before engaging in wilderness activities.
List of Possible Wilderness Medical Emergencies
The following is the list of possible medical emergencies that may occur in a wilderness setting. It is highly recommended that individuals who plan to go on a trip into the wilderness know how to apply first aid and initiate CPR in case any of the wilderness medical emergencies may arise:
Injury and illness
- Severe burns
- Poisoning: food, venomous, or botanicals (from mushrooms or wild greens)
- Animal bites or stings
- Ballistic trauma (e.g. gunshot wounds)
- Flail chest
- Spinal or brain injury, from falls, etc.
Infections specific to wilderness
- Rabies infection
- Malaria infection
- Salmonella poisoning
- Lyme disease
- Necrotizing Fasciitis
- Altitude Sickness
- Pulmonary Oedema
- Smoke Inhalation
- Respiratory Arrest
- Hypovolemic shock
- Septic shock
Neurological and Neurosurgical
- Subdural haematoma
First Aid Kit for Wilderness Emergencies
It is necessary to have a first aid kit for all possible wilderness emergencies that may arise. The quantity of the items listed below will depend on length of trip, level of training and destination. The following items are generally recommended in first aid kits in the wilderness setting.
- Nitrile gloves
- Wound care and wound cleaning
- Blister care
- One-inch athletic tape
- Gauze/ dressings
- Roller gauze/ vet wrap
- Adhesive bandages
- Waterproof/ breathable wound dressings
- CPR mask and airway management
- Small magnifier
- Trauma sheers
- Compression wraps
- Aluminum foam splint
- Triangular bandages
- Medications: pain managements, gastrointestinal medications, antihistamines, topical antibiotic cream and anti-inflammatory medications
- Personal medications, such as asthma inhalers, epinephrine injections, etc.
First Aid Management for Wilderness Emergencies
First aid management is necessary in all cases of wilderness emergencies. CPR for wilderness emergencies is almost as similar as CPR in regular settings. The main difference is that after 30 minutes of initiating continuous CPR without signs of circulation, it is recommended to stop CPR. The following steps are recommended in cases of wilderness emergencies
- Call for emergency medical services.
- If protective gear is available, make use of them.
- If there is bleeding, it is necessary to control bleeding. Apply deep, direct pressure using an absorbent cloth or dressing. Keep the pressure in place and apply dressings over the old ones.
- Check for the victim’s circulation, airway, breathing, disability/ deformity and exposure.
- Check for the victim’s pulse by the groove on the neck. If no pulse is detected, initiate CPR. Give 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breathings.
- If the victim is unconscious, ensure that there is no obstruction in the airway. Turn the victim’s head to the side.
- To check for breathing, position own cheek a few inches from the victim’s nose and mouth. Feel for air and watch for rise and fall of chest. Begin rescue breathing if necessary.
- If the victim is unconscious but breathing and with pulse, place the victim in recovery position.
- Cover the victim with a blanket or coat to avoid heat loss, unless it is caused by hyperthermia.
There are many possible injuries and emergencies that can arise in cases of wilderness setting. Enrol in First Aid Courses and CPR Training to learn how to manage possible wilderness emergencies