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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Stay or Go?

Use this chart to determine if you can finish your trip–or should hightail it to the ER.

by: Buck Tilton


Problem
Stick it out if . . .
Head for help if . . .
Hypothermia Person warms up and feels fine Pulse slows; shivering stops; person becomes incoherent or unconscious
Frostbite Tissue warms and looks normal Blisters or black tissue form
Heat illness Persons cools off and feels fine Person has altered mental status and red, hot skin
Muscle/bone injury Person can use the injured part Person cannot use the injured part
Diarrhea Problem resolves within 24 hours Problem persists for more than 24 hours
Wounds They are cleaned, properly dressed, and don't require
closure
They are large enough to require closure; they're deep wounds on the face or neck
Burns Pain is manageable and no large
blisters form
Pain is intense; blisters are large; face is burned

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.



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Reader Rating: Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

Sarah
Sep 17, 2010

Agreed with Dr. Joslin! And don't just "head for help", but continue to try and cool the person - keeping them out of the sun, wetting them down and fanning help. (See you at ACEP, Dr. Joslin?) :)

Jeremy Joslin, MD
Sep 17, 2010

Heat Stroke, a life threatening condition in the Heat Illness category, is what Buck is alluding to with the "altered mental status and red, hot skin". It should be noted, though, that neither red, hot, nor dry skin are REQUIRED to diagnose or be concerned for heat stroke. ANY PERSON with altered mental status REQUIRES evacuation in the setting of heat illness regardless of skin color or condition.

Jeremy Joslin, MD & Wilderness Medicine Physician

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