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 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.


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.

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