First Aid visual

Injury First Aid in the Wilderness

We all love a good day in the woods. Whether you are hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, or any of the outdoor sports, there are bound to be injuries that happen. 

Many are minor that you can treat on the spot if you have the know-how while others may need a trip to a doctor. Here are some of the most common injuries you’ll see outdoors and what you can do about them and when you need more than basic first aid. 

Scrapes, Blisters, and Wounds

A boy fell and scraped his knee while biking.
[Image via FastMed Urgent Care]
There are several steps to take with wounds of any kind in the field. Knowing these steps can help you to keep calm and how to act when you or a friend gets hurt. 

  • With any wound, whether you nick your finger or nearly cut it off, the FIRST thing you do is bleeding control. Apply direct pressure to the site until the bleeding slows or stops. 
    • If you have any type of cut on your scalp or another area that is full of blood vessels, or highly vascular, know that it’s going to bleed a lot. Scalp wounds can be misleading to be very bloody for minor cuts. Stopping the bleeding though will give you a good way to see how severe the injury is. 
    • If needed, you can take a sleeve of a shirt or jacket and tie it tightly at the area for a makeshift tourniquet if you can’t stop the bleeding. 
  • Once the bleeding slows or stops you can get a good look at it. It takes time and practice to know if you’re going to need stitches or a wound repair. But ALL wounds need to be cleaned.  
    • Either way, large or small, you should rinse the wound with clean water. Getting this dirt out earlier prevents it from getting stuck in dried blood- making it harder to remove and risk infection later on. 
    • If you see that it’s small,  you can throw on some over the counter antibiotic ointment, top it off with a band-aid or piece of gauze and tape from the local drug store, and you’re good to go. 
    • If you’re unsure if the wound will need a doctor, after rinsing, apply a clean bandage with a little pressure and head to your local physician. 

For blisters, you can place a regular bandage over the site. You can add a piece of gauze or tissue to add a cushion or even make a donut shape with the blister in the middle for support. Do not pop any blister, this opens up a spot for possible infection. If the blister pops, keep it covered and clean. 


Burn Degree Levels on human skin
[Image via HCA Midwest Health]
Burns can be life-threatening injuries that occur inside or outside the home. They can be very deceptive and difficult to treat.

    • Sunburns or 1st-degree burns are merely areas that have reddened skin. You can apply aloe or an antibiotic ointment to the area and use a dry bandage to keep it covered. This prevents any further damage to the skin and protects it from further injury since the skin is already damaged. 
    • Burns that blister need a little more careful care. In general, if the burn is smaller than your palm you can treat it at home. These need to be kept moist, so apply an antibiotic ointment or wet the gauze and apply. 
      • Be sure to stay hydrated. Burns cause significant fluid loss. This is one of the main reasons they are so dangerous.  
      • You want to keep the blister intact, or it could introduce infection. 


  • If the burn is to your hand, face, wraps around a wrist/arm/leg, or a “sensitive” area, GO TO AN ER! These burns can require more care, antibiotics, or even plastic surgery consults. 


    • If the burn is larger than your palm, you’ll want someone to look at it. It may not be an emergency, but should always be looked at as soon as possible. Burns are a source for infection, heat loss, and fluid loss (even causing dehydration). 

Falls, Strains, and Sprains

Ankle sprain image
[Image via OC Sports and Rehab]
With any type of fall, be it a trip on the grass or a fall from a treestand, you’ll want to think carefully about how to proceed. With any fall, the first thing to check is your head. 

  • If you hit your head harder than a bop or you blacked out, call 911 and get help immediately. These injuries can be life-threatening and need imaging to ensure you don’t have a concussion or bleeding in the brain. 
  • Isolated injuries such as arms or legs are much easier to deal with. You can use a walking stick or find one lying around as a crutch or use your jacket and the sleeves to tie it around your leg like a splint. Arms can also be splinted by a jacket. 
  • If you feel as though it is a sprain, as in nothing is broken and it gets better without you doing anything, then taking a Motrin and rest is appropriate. Apply ice to reduce swelling and rest the injury. 
  • Injuries that require immediate attention: dislocations (easily spotted through joint deformation), if you can see the bone or it looks oddly shaped, or injuries to the head need to be checked out. 

As always, when in doubt, go see a doctor. Imaging is the only way to see if a bone is broken or if you have a badly pulled muscle. If you are ever unsure, it is better to err on the side of caution. 

Animals- Teeth and Claws

Rabid Racoon
[Image via WABC-TV]
Animal injuries that include scratches and bites should be treated exactly as the wounds above with 2 exceptions: 

  • If the animal bites you, you’ll want to consider going to see a doctor for rabies shots. If you were hunting and killed the animal, you can take it with you. It can be tested for rabies to see if you need treatment. 
  • If the animal that bites you is a snake, you should see a doctor unless you are 100% positive that it is not a poisonous snake. Again, you can take the snake with you, but don’t waste time looking for it. 
    • Wash the area with water. 
    • Apply a bandage over the site. 
    • Apply a tourniquet above the site. You can use a jacket, shirt, rope, belt, or anything that can diminish blood flow. 
    • Remain calm. Unless you’re hiking in Australia or New Zealand where everything wants to kill you, you’ll be fine. Only 1 in 50 million people die from snake bites in the US because of the advances in modern medicine and quick response time. 

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