When I first mentioned this technique to a student, I was met, rightly so, with a look of horror. But before I delve into some of the more interesting improvisation techniques for treating injuries in the wilderness, here is one BIG proviso, please do NOT try this at home, or for that matter, on the trail, unless trained, or necessitated to do so. With that said, learning to use your brain as much as your FA kit can pull you out of many sticky situations.
Wilderness First Aid for the most part is a step far removed from urbanville, and the many resources to be found there, including fast response from 911. Sometimes you have to think outside the box, or rather, the standardized first aid kit, when one might not be available, or depleted. The following is a sampling of techniques that have been drawn from an array of medical experts, who are specialized in the field of wilderness medicine, and can really bail you out in a pinch. NB: we have, for the obvious reasons, deliberately left out the how-to of tongue pinning – this is for the experts!
The tee-shirt bandage: Tried and tested. Cut a tee shirt in one continuous diagonal strip, 3-4 inches wide, as if you were peeling an orange, and voila. Fun part about this is that you can stock up your own kit with an assortment of fun, coloured ‘tensors’, cut from old (but clean) tee shirts. Store in small, clean zip-lock bags, and use a straw to ‘shrink wrap’.
Tie your hair up to close a scalp wound: If you have hair that is, and it’s long enough. Pull the hair together from both sides to bring the sides of the wound together then use a piece of cord, elastic band, or other, to keep the hair together.
Honey as a non-stick dressing: a layer of Vaseline, antibiotic ointment, or even honey, thinly layered over the gauze, or whatever else you have available, will create a non-stick layer. Did you know honey has antibacterial qualities, and can aid in reducing infection and promotion of healing, as well as in a pinch, used as a sugar substitute in diabetic emergencies. Keep a packet in your kit – Starbucks keeps me well stocked, just saying.
Duct tape as closure strips: Pre-clean the area around the wound with rubbing alcohol (not in the wound itself, which should be thoroughly irrigated with saline or as clean water as possible). Cut into small strips, to resemble the commercial ones, and apply as you would normally. Make sure the duct tape is free of foreign matter, and keep in mind it is not sterile. Once strips are in place, you can apply a thin layer of topical antibiotic ointment between the strips. You can also use the repair kit that comes with most tents and insulation pads as improvised ‘butterflies’.
Tea for mouth bleeding: Tannic acid found in tea (not herbal), can act as a vasoconstrictor, helping to slow and possibly stop bleeding in the mouth, such as from lost teeth. It also helps diminish pain.
Wilderness First Aid often draws upon alternative methodologies and techniques that are often necessitated due to emergencies where help and resources are not readily available. Whilst a well-stocked first aid kit is a trip essential, it does not replace knowledge or common sense. Take a course, and plan ahead.
RockyPoint Outdoor Education – www.rockypoint.ca
Medicine For Mountaineering & Other Wilderness Activities – 6th Edition
Wilderness & Travel Medicine – A Comprehensive Guide – 3rd Edition