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Outdoor First Aid

The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Gastrointestinal Illness

Ugh. It's happened to us all. Here's how to handle a bad belly when you're away from far from home.

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Diarrhea

In all cases, give lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and pop an Imodium AD tablet. For more severe diarrhea, add electrolyte tablets, such as NUUN, to the water. Give him easily digested foods (such as rice or oatmeal); avoid fats, dairy products, and caffeine. If it’s not under control within 24 hours, find a doctor–sooner if bloody bowel movements, fever, and pain exist.

Vomiting

Give as much fluid as the patient can tolerate and have him rest–but evacuate if the problem persists for more than 24 hours.

Wash Your Hands

A 2004 Journal of Travel Medicine report found that 61 percent of Appalachian Trail hikers who “rarely or never” washed their hands after a bathroom break got diarrhea, compared to just seven percent of those who did scrub. Here’s how to wash up right:

  • Wet hands (hot water is best) and add a drop of biodegradable soap.
  • Work up a lather and scrub for 30 seconds–especially fingertips and under nails.
  • Rinse, repeat, then dry hands with a bandanna reserved for this purpose.