Pre-Trail: Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
Over this past weekend I took a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) class with The Kane Schools. A comprehensive weekend course that I think will be really handy on the trail. I learned how to help other people in the wilderness, but I also learned some ways in which I can help myself. An overview of what we learned is listed below:
Sizing up the scene
The ABC's (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)
Primary (physical) Assessment
Secondary (mental) Assessment
Splinting and Slinging
RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
Heat and Cold Injuries (Hypothermia, Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion, Frostbite)
Burns and Frostbite
The Rule of Nines
Wounds and Long Term Wound Care
Asthma and Anaphylaxis
Any padding in a backpack can be removed and used for splinting.
Try to get patients up off of the ground (i.e. onto a sleeping pad or into a shelter) to help them maintain their body temperature and stay dry.
A good old cotton t-shirt can be your best friend:
Cut up to use as ties in splinting
Stuff in a splint for padding
Use for wound dressing
Use to soak up blood while compressing a wound if no other option
Cut on a seam to use as a sling
Soak with water to make a cold compress
A good irrigation syringe can be made in many ways:
Cut a bit of the corner off of a baggie and fill with water, squeeze, refill, repeat.
Take the valve off of a water bladder hose. Holding the bladder under your, elbow squeeze the bladder and aim hose toward wound, refill, repeat.
A children's syrup medicine syringe
A disposable water bottle with a 'sport top'
Water is one of the most dangerous and useful wilderness factors:
Dangerous: It is an electricity conductor
Useful: Can be used to cool sprains, burns, fevers, infections, etc.
Dangerous: Makes terrain slippery, unpredictable, and risky.
Useful: Can be used to clean open wounds if purified
Getting the wilderness performance triangle right can completely change your (or your patient's) performance.
My recommendation: take a WFA course if your going to be in the woods for multi day hikes, if you will be responsible for other people (i.e. students, children, campers, etc.) on your hikes, or if you think you might be interested in wilderness medicine in general. Rather than tell me what I 'should' or 'need to' carry in my first aid kit, Bill explained to us how to use padding from our backpacks, uses for t-shirts, how to use what the patient might be carrying, etc. Using your resources was the number take away that really stuck with me.
At the end of the training we got our CPR (BLS basic life saver) certifications as well as Wilderness First Aid certification cards. I think it was well worth the $160.