You are on a long backpacking trail, a mountain climbing excursion, or camping trip that has led you miles away from civilization and miles away from the nearest professional medical center. A slip, trip, or fall has left you with a nasty looking wound that is bleeding pretty profusely. What do you do? How can you keep the wound safe until you get back to a town where you can get medical attention? If not properly handled when they first occur, wounds in the wilderness can have detrimental consequences. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you sustain a wound in the middle of the wilderness.
Do what you can to stop the bleeding.
Your very first plan of action with a wound is to do what you can to stop the bleeding. Do not use a tourniquet to cut off blood flow to the wound unless you simply have no other choice and you are losing a lot of blood. Tourniquets can stop the bleeding, but cutting blood flow can also put you at risk of losing blood flow to the area completely, which can cause tissue to die quickly. Apply pressure to the wound with your hand, gauze if you have it, or an article of clothing that you are wearing on your body.
Clean the wound as much as you can.
Infection can start to set into an open wound quickly, especially if the wound is deep or large. Therefore, once you have controlled the flow of blood, try and clean the wound with water. Use drinking water that you have with you if you can. If you don't have enough or are afraid to use your drinking water, harvest water from a nearby creek or spring, boil it to sanitize, cool the water, and wash your wound. In a pinch, you can use local water sources untreated if that is all you have around. Using it could introduce foreign bacteria into your system, but leaving the wound dirty can be just as big of a risk.
Cover or dress the wound if you can.
If you can get the wound covered so that it is not exposed to the elements, you will be better off. Use what you have available to cover the wound once it has been cleaned. Gauze and medical tape are preferable, but if you do not have either, use a clean shirt, sock, or piece of material to cover the wound. Some wounds should be left open to drain, such as those that come from an animal bite. Therefore, make sure you do not tape the wound closed or pull the skin together with a tightly tied material.
For more information, contact your local wound care professionals.