Your blurring vision settles on your arm, the double image slowly combining to one as the raw skin beads with drops of blood. You move your head, pain slowing the turn, your shoulders held back by the weight on your back and with no understanding how you got on your ass, your ankle throbbing, you look up to the crack of the daylight shining from above.
In the latest in the bug out bag series we’re discussing what we can carry in the bag to prepare for medical situations while outside the home and maybe, just maybe when the ambulance won’t be on the other end of the line to take your call.
I’m Not a Medical Professional
Disclaimer. I’m not a medic, trained or otherwise. This post is compiled from research and experience of being out there in the wilderness. Should you suffer any ailment or symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention, but if this is not possible this post is intended as a guide as to what you could pack in your bug out bag to help provide first aid to a range of situations in order that you can get to any professional help you may require. Please ensure you only use any product listed here as per the manufacturers guidance and use your common sense. Disclaimer done.
Common Wilderness Ailments
Strains & Sprains
A good walking / hiking shoe will help prevent these painful injuries. I used to wear a walking shoe which finished below the ankle, but after I lost my footing walking along the side of a hill, the drop to my left hidden by a sea of tall fern, I always wear a boot. The boot wouldn’t have prevented the fall or the raptures of laughter from my companions, but it would have provided much more support in the aftermath. In the middle of nowhere I had not real choice but to walk it off, taking plenty of pain killers to keep me going.
As luck would have it we were not too far from where we could lay up for the night and I took off my boot, something I shouldn’t have done if I’d wanted to put it back on that day. In the morning I had to keep it elevated for a good hour until I could get the boot back on, popping pain killers throughout the day to enable me to walk twenty miles out from the middle of nowhere. I was left with pain for three weeks whilst resting from long walks and running, but it has been fine ever since.
The advice here in an ideal situation is to take painkillers, ideally with an anti-inflammatory and rest, keeping the ankle elevated. If it’s clear it’s broken or something just isn’t right, there’s no chance you’re walking on it, keep the pressure off. You’re going to have to get some help, if it’s not going to come, you’re going to have to improvise crutches. You can immobilise sprains and strains to keep yourself from doing any more damage using bandages from your first aid kit to strap foraged wood above and below the injury. Gaffer tape over the bandages can add much needed strength to the bindings, but be careful not to cut off the blood supply.
Always practice good fire safety and give it the respect it deserves. As we all know, burns can be one of the most painful injuries.
Cool the burn with cool or lukewarm water. It’s unlikely you will have ice but if you do, don’t use it or you risk burning further with the cold. If you’re low on water then anything cold will do, just make sure it’s not going to stick to the wound. Once the burn has cooled, apply cling film to the area. This keeps moisture in and infection out, plus allows you to keep an eye on the progress of the wound.
No lectures here, we should all know the long term dangers of sun burn and the short term pain it can cause, but if you’re not able to prevent it by wearing a good wide brimmed hat and regularly applying sun lotion, then treat it as per a burn, cooling and protecting. Apply after-sun lotion and moisturiser containing aloe vera to help lessen the pain.
Stings and Insect Bites
You should pack based on where you’re travelling or bugging out to. If you’re in the US or Australia, be prepared for snake and spider bites. In the UK the worst we can expect would be a hornet, bee or wasp stings, or stinging nettles and the annoyance of mosquitoes. Insect repellant is a great idea, or if you’re camping then citronella candles can be a great help to keep the bugs at bay.
Use the built in insect netting if you’re camping in a tent, or a mosquito net if you’re planning to sleep under the stars, particularly if you’re near any amount of water. If you do get stung, scrape the stinger and any remaining insect from the wound with a straight edge or fingernail to avoid squeezing more venom into the wound. Applying antihistamine cream can help tame the itching.
A special note about ticks. Ticks are related to spiders, mites and scorpions and carry many diseases. There are different sorts of ticks, each of which are hosted on different animals and vary around the world. Habitats also vary across the world but often include woodland, heathland, moorland, rough pasture, forests and urban parks
In the UK 15% of ticks carry Lime’s disease and they’re a real problem in the US too.
If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations and can cause arthritis. Along with Lime’s, they can transmit meningitis, among other diseases.
Look for the symptoms which can happen between 3-30 days after a bite and include fever, chills, aches and pains and a rash. The circular rash with Lime’s disease is distinctive and a typical presentation is shown opposite.
Although it’s rare to feel a tick biting you, when it’s finished its feed it will fall off, if you find a tick, you need to make sure you remove it properly without squashing it. https://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/about-ticks/tick-removal
Add a tick removal tool to your bug out bag and your camping first aid kit!
Preventing can be easy, wear long trousers, not shorts, especially when walking through raised vegetation such as long grasses
Cuts, Scrapes and Scratches
Clean the wound with antiseptic wipes, very important when you’re out of the home. Use saline solution to wash out larger wounds. If you have nothing else then use cooled boiled water, boiled for at least one minute and prepared as if you were going to drink it. When clean and dried, dress the wound. Either with a liquid plaster for minor cuts and scrapes, which forms a flexible water resistant layer, or a suitable dressing. Try and keep the wound dry and out of streams and rivers if you can, otherwise use a waterproof dressing. For larger, gaping cuts, use butterfly bandages, but if these don’t keep the wound closed, use superglue.
Tweezers for thorns and splinter removal are a must. You should be carrying scissors and a knife for preparing the dressings. Change the dressing as often as you can, especially after periods of prolonged activity or sleep.
Basic First Aid Kit List
A well-stocked basic first aid kit suitable for the bug out back should contain:
- Adhesive bandages of various sizes
- Blister plasters
- Butterfly bandages – For closing wounds
- Gauze pads of various sizes or gauze roll
- Antiseptic creams and ointments
- Sterile wipes and rinse solutions
- Pain and anti-inflammatory medicine
- Hydrocortisone cream – Anti itching cream
- Tweezers, scissors, safety pins, and knife
- Anti-diarrhoea medicine – normally I wouldn’t recommend these as they stop a natural process and just bung you up, but if the symptoms are debilitating and you’re on a long journey, they could be key.
- Antihistamine for allergic reactions
- Eye drops / wash
- Triple antibiotic ointment – Not available in the UK without a prescription, but you can get on eBay for a price
- Tick removal tool
- Cling film
Additional items – These are not necessarily for first aid but are either used in the promotion of good health or have secondary uses for first aid.
- Duct tape – Binding a split, sealing a wound in an emergency, the list really is endless, we could have a post all about this wonderful stuff.
- Hand sanitiser
- Super glue
- Aloe vera
- Epi pen or other essential prescription medications you may need. For me it’s a salbutamol inhaler
- Emergency blanket
This is one for your everyday life too. We have special places in your phones for your important medical information, but when you’re out and about your phone might be out of charge. Why not carry a laminated piece of paper with your important medical information on, including your blood type and details of any allergies and your next of kin and their contact details? These could help you so much if you have to be rescued unconscious and you’re unable to tell them this important information.
Do you know your blood type?
In an emergency you’d be lucky to be escaping with me as I’m O Negative. This means anyone can accept my blood, but the price I pay is that I can only receive O Negative blood if I’m the one with a the good stuff pouring from an injury. Why not donate blood and you too can find out your blood type?
As often happens, in writing this post I’ve learnt a lot and I can see I need to update my very basic first aid kit. Plus I checked the dates and I have some refreshing to do as well! I’ll be adding eye wash, the spray on plaster, updating my supply of antiseptic wipes, grabbing a tick removal tool and butterfly bandages.
I’ve be added another item to my shopping basket and I’m embarrassed to say why. After writing this post I checked my home first aid kit too only to find everything expired over eight years ago. Please take a minute to check your kit. You’ll be thankful if you ever come to need it!
Let me know your thoughts
If you have any great tips or experiences you’d like to share, or if you want to set me straight in something I’ve said or missed, then please drop me a message in the comments.
In the End
What if you woke to find the electricity off, the internet down and the streets deserted? What if you were forced to run for your life, no longer top of the food chain? What if the government had no interest in keeping you alive, but you’d found a reason to struggle on, a new meaning to this life, those around every corner intent on hunting you down?
Could you survive the end of civilisation?
Meet Logan. That’s me. The first to believe the world had changed forever. The first to urge our friends to run. The first to kill, but not the first victim. I was the first to see for myself as nature bent before my eyes. With death surrounding, getting ever closer, they looked to me for answers.