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Saving Lives: Perform a Focused Assessment

Use these three assessment tools to examine every patient thoroughly after you've stopped any immediate threats to life. Trauma victims are more common in the backcountry; start your inspection with a head-to-toe exam. For ill patients, begin by asking about medical history and taking vitals.
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PATIENT HISTORY | VITAL SIGNS | HEAD-TO-TOE EXAM

S Symptoms How does the patient feel? What’s the chief complaint?
A Allergies Any relevant allergies? What happens with exposure?
M Medications Taking any OTC or Rx drugs? Skipped any meds?
P Pertinent history Any major-system issues or health problems?
L Last intake/output Food and drink in; waste out. Abnormalities?
E Events Preceding incident What caused the illness/accident?

Prevent Problems
First-aid training isn’t a passport to risky behavior. Use these tips to decrease your odds of injury.
1) Expose only one person at a time to localized hazards. Spread out, but stay within sight.
2) Don’t shortcut—especially when descending a peak, returning to a trailhead, or when you’re lost. Retrace your inbound path.
3) Stay together. Individual party members are easily disoriented.
4) Beware of “expert” friends. Assess group ability and plan activities to accommodate all.
5) Practice using new gear and skills in a controlled setting before beginning a committed trip. Emulate expected conditions close to home first.

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