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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Environmental Threats

As much as we try to protect ourselves from extreme elements, sometimes the elements hedge even our greatest efforts. Here's what to do when Mother Nature wins.

by: Buck Tilton, Illustrations by Jackie McCaffrey


LEARN MORE
The Ultimate First-Aid Manual
Wilderness Medicine Institute cofounder Buck Tilton boils down a lifetime's worth of experience into 62 tips

Photo Tutorials: First Aid Center
From splinting a broken leg to duct taping a bloody wound, the BACKPACKER First Aid Center is an invaluable resource for backcountry first aid.

Snowblindness
Recognize Redness, tearing, and a sandpapery pain when opening or moving the eye are signs of sunburned corneas.

Treat First, don't let the patient rub his eyes; it could further damage the corneas. Give ibuprofen for the pain, apply a cold compress, and cover eyes with gauze. Wear sunglasses and stay in a dark environment until vision returns to normal (usually in about 18 hours).

Hypothermia
Recognize The person complains of feeling cold and shivers. More advanced hypothermia patients exhibit "the umbles:" stumbling, fumbling, mumbling, and grumbling.

Treat Get the patient into warm, dry clothes and place him in a sheltered area–such as in a sleeping bag, inside of a tent. (Don't have a tent? Protect him from the elements by wrapping the sleeping bag in a tarp, plastic sheet, or garbage bags.) Give water and simple sugars, such as hot chocolate or candy, to generate quick body heat. For more advanced cases, build a fire nearby and put the patient in a "hypothermia wrap:" Start with a sleeping pad, put a zipped sleeping bag on top, then lay the patient (in a second sleeping bag) on that. Give him a hot-water bottle wrapped in clothing to hold in his hands. Put another sleeping bag on top, then wrap it all, burrito-style, in a tarp or plastic sheet.

VIDEO: Preventing & Treating Hypothermia
Prevent the deep chill by learning how to spot and treat hypothermia in the backcountry.



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