First Aid for walkers

First Aid for walkers

Anybody who spends time doing outdoor activities is advised to learn basic first aid so that they can treat themselves or their companions if there is an emergency scenario. Administering first aid can help to minimise the impact of the problem and may allow that person to continue on until they are able to receive proper treatment. Alternatively, first aid can be used to help to stabilise a situation until help arrives.

Assessing a situation

Before administering any treatment, you should stop what you are doing and take the time to assess the situation. Check whether the danger is still present and take any steps that are required to mitigate risk. If there is more than one casualty in a situation, work out who needs your help most urgently.

It is worth noting that the person who is shouting the loudest may not be the one who is in the most need; a quiet casualty could be slipping in and out of consciousness.

Contacting the emergency services

If the situation is serious, you may need to contact the emergency services. Even if you do not have a phone signal with your preferred network, you should be able to use your phone to call 999 using any available network. If there is no phone signal at all in the area, then you should send another uninjured party (two if possible) to get help, but do not leave the casualty alone. You should also try to attract attention using six short whistle blasts.

Heart attack

It is possible that someone who you are walking with may experience a heart attack whilst you are midway through a route. It is possible that you may not be close to civilisation when this occurs.

Symptoms of a heart attack can include a vice-like pain in the chest, and pain which spreads through the arms, stomach, neck and jaw. This pain will not stop or ease when the person stops to take a rest. Call 999 immediately if you are able to. Get the walker to sit down in a comfortable position propped up against a tree or another walker. Give them an aspirin from your First Aid kit and get them to slowly chew it. Continue talking to them until help arrives. If they lose consciousness, you should not attempt any further First Aid unless you have had formal training or if you are being advised to do so by a qualified medical professional.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when the core temperature of the body drops below a certain level. It tends to occur because of prolonged exposure to the cold, but it is exacerbated if the person has been confined to wet clothing.

Early signs of hypothermia include their skin becoming pale and cold to the touch, and uncontrollable shivering. They may start to become confused or disorientated. You should call 999 and then begin to take steps to warm the person up. Cover them in a warm blanket or give them additional warm, dry clothes if there are any available. If possible, brew them a warm drink and help them to consume it if necessary. High energy foods like chocolate will also help to give the body more energy to try to raise the internal temperature. Do not rub the person to try to warm them up, because this can be harmful.

Strain or sprain

Sprains and sprains are some of the most common walking injuries. They are more likely when you are walking over uneven or unstable ground.

Strains and sprains are characterised by pain in the affected area, followed by swelling or bruising. Apply a mobile first aid instant ice pack to the injured area and get the person to rest for a while. If the affected area is on the ankles or lower limbs, see if the person is able to walk to an area which can be reached by road. A support bandage may be applied to help. Seek medical attention if the person is unable to keep walking.

Bleeding

If a person is bleeding lightly, you should take steps to stop the blood flow and reduce the risk of infection. Clean the area with an anti-bacterial wipe and remove any foreign objects from the wound. Apply an appropriately sized dressing to the wound.

For people who are bleeding more heavily, you will need to take additional steps to stop or slow the blood flow. Apply pressure on to the wound with a clean object if possible. Alternatively, apply pressure with whatever is available. Call 999 to get help for the person and stay put unless you are advised to continue moving. Asking the person to move will increase their heart rate which could end up causing the blood flow from the wound to increase.

Preparing for adverse weather whilst walking

Preparing for adverse weather whilst walking

Walking in Britain can be immensely rewarding, but it is not without danger. The changing weather in this country can be a serious hazard for people who are not prepared. Whenever you set out on a walk over open ground, you should consider how to minimise the potential risks to you and your companions.

Torch

You should always take a torch with you when you go out on a walk in an uninhabited area. Bad weather can actually reduce visibility to the extent that you will be put at risk if you continue walking without additional light. A torch can help you to continue walking back to safety, rather than being forced to stay put in low light conditions.

If you are buying a new torch for walking, you should consider buying a head torch. These torches are held around the head by elastic cords meaning that the hands can be kept free for other important tasks.

Waterproof gear

Waterproof gear is essential if you plan on going walking in Britain. The weather can change in a few moments, especially on higher ground. It can be very uncomfortable to get caught out in a rain storm. In addition to this discomfort, wearing wet clothes for long periods of time can reduce your body temperature which leaves you more vulnerable. People who are stuck in wet clothes are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia.

Waterproof clothing helps to reduce the amount of water that is able to penetrate the outer layers of clothing. Good waterproofs will help to keep you dry in even the heaviest rainstorms. Some waterproof clothing also helps to reduce the effects of wind.

Warm clothing

Warm clothing should be taken on most high ground walks, even if the weather forecast is showing high temperatures throughout the day. The temperature on higher ground is usually much

Adverse weather
Adverse weather

lower than the temperature at sea level, so you may need to put on extra layers as you move higher. If the wind picks up, it will also make it feel much colder. Keeping body heat up during any walk is essential because the body works most efficiently whilst it is at the optimum temperature.

Layering is the best way to keep the body at the optimum temperature because air gets trapped between layers and stays warm. It also makes it easier to control temperature than it would be if you were to only wear one thick item of clothing. Carrying warm clothing will help to prevent you from being caught out if the temperature suddenly drops.

Hat and gloves

Hats and gloves are important for keeping your extremities warm if the weather starts to turn cold. Once the temperature starts to drop, it is important to do everything that you can to maintain body heat, because your energy levels will start to decline as you begin to get colder.

Camping and outdoor stores often sell lightweight hats and gloves which are easy to carry but act as effective barriers against the cold. It is important that you choose gloves which allow you to maintain dexterity, so that you can continue to use your hands properly.

Emergency rations

Bad weather can force you to make camp in an area that you are not expecting to have to stay in. Alternatively, it could force you to take a route which may take longer than planned. It is important that you have a few emergency rations to help you to keep fed and hydrated if your walk takes longer than expected. High energy foods are a great choice for emergency rations, because they can help to give you a big energy boost whilst adding very little extra weight to your rucksack. Adequate water is essential if you plan on walking in high temperatures, because dehydration can be fatal.

Mobile phone

You should always take a mobile phone with you when you go out walking, even if you do not expect to have full phone signal for parts of your walk. If you are in signal range, a mobile phone can be used to get up-to-date information about the changing weather conditions, so that you can base your choices on the most relevant information. Alternatively, a mobile phone can be used to summon assistance if you do find that you need help.

All mobile phones in Britain can be used to phone the emergency services using any available network. This means that your phone may be able to be used to call 999 even if you cannot connect to your standard mobile phone network. If you cannot find phone signal in the area where you are, moving towards higher ground can help. You may also be able to find your location using the GPS on the phone.