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Outdoor First Aid

From eDiets - working with Howtobefit.com to improve your health and fitness

The summer months will offer numerous opportunities to participate in outdoor activities. The majority of outdoor emergencies involve sprains, strains, fractures, dehydration, non-specific viral syndromes and diarrhea. Although not considered emergencies, blisters, small bleeding wounds and head injuries can also be problematic.

Sprains and strains can result from walking on uneven or rugged surfaces. If such an injury occurs, the RICE [Rest Ice Compression Elevate] principle should be applied. After 20 minutes of RICE, the area should be allowed to re-warm naturally.

If the injured part cannot be moved or the pain is severe, there may be a fracture. See a physician as soon as possible. Wearing high-top boots, taping or simply emphasizing trail awareness may prevent recurring injuries to the ankles.

Diarrhea field treatment is limited to rest and plenty of fluids. Carry medication for diarrhea in a first aid kit. Improved hygiene and water disinfection practices will prevent diarrhea.

Hydration and heat maladies can be avoided by drinking the normal amount of water required daily -- six 8-oz. glasses. This amount must be increased if strenuous activity and/or high temperatures result in fluid loss through perspiration.

Since thirst is not a reliable indicator, you should drink water in appropriate amounts regardless of thirst. Remember to encourage children to drink regularly. Salt tablets and commercial products with added sugar and electrolytes are not necessary. Replacement is adequately made through regular meals. Drinking alcohol and/or sodas, natural dehydrating agents, can be counterproductive.

Water is the safest, most convenient, economical and satisfying hydrator. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: heavy sweating and cold, clammy skin, dizziness, a rapid pulse, throbbing pressure in the head, chills, flushed appearance, nausea and/or confusion. If such symptoms appear, the victim should be cooled immediately by dousing with cold water and fanning to promote evaporation. If the condition does not rapidly improve, you should seek medical help.

There should be no further activity until the following day, and then it should be preformed at a reduced intensity. Symptoms of heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition, may also include cessation of sweating, low blood pressure, confusion, unconsciousness and/or ashen or gray skin. If such symptoms appear, begin cooling the victim immediately with ice water and transport to a medical facility as soon as possible.

Blisters should be pierced at the edge with a sterilized needle, being careful to leave the skin in place after the fluid has drained. Application of an antiseptic is recommended. Place a protective donut bandage over the drained blister. Wearing two pairs of socks and keeping your feet dry can also prevent blisters.

Small bleeding wounds can be cleaned with antiseptic after the bleeding has stopped. If you don’t have antiseptic, wash with soap and clean water. Be sure to flush with clean water to remove all soap residue. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing and check it daily for signs of infections.

Head injury symptoms range from fluid or bleeding from nose or ears to unusual bruising around eyes or ears and include persistent vomiting, large unresponsive or irregular pupils, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, severe and worsening headache, double vision, excessive drowsiness and/or convulsions. If any of these symptoms appear within 48 hours of an accident, get medical help.


Eston R. Dunn recently received his Master's in Health Science from Stafford University. Eston has been in exercise videos and is certified in exercise leadership/weight-room training through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), personal training through the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and health-fitness instruction from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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