Basic Wound Care in the Outdoors

Here are some basic wound care procedures and supplies for minor mishaps that occur in the field.

Short of getting a cut or a scratch and putting a Bandaid on it, what are the simple things that you should know and supply yourself with in a worst case scenario?

Just so we're clear: we are not medical professionals, but we're knowledgeable in some of the basics. Here's hoping we can get you up to speed, too.

Certainly a good first aid kit is the front-and-center item for any outdoorsman's day pack, but sometimes a simple refresher course in basic wound care is an uncomplicated way to stay sharp before any problem in the field ever occurs.

For wounds that can be seen by a physician within six hours, or for even less extensive wounds, knowing what to do is just as important as having the right equipment with you when you need it the most. We're not talking about broken bones or deep lacerations, just the things that cause interruptions when we're in the stand or on the lake and the action is good.

With basic care knowledge, you don't have to leave the field or water to seek more help, and you can trust your wound care is sufficient enough to prevent a more serious problem.

Wound Management

We'll get into a bit of medical terminology, but don't let it intimidate you. To start, here are the top five basic principles of wound management:

  • Stop the Bleeding (hemostasis)
  • Clean the Wound
  • Pain Management (analgesia)
  • Skin Closure
  • Dressing the Wound

Hemostasis is a big word for the process that causes a bleeding wound to stop. For most minor cuts and abrasions that we get in the outdoors, these wounds will stop bleeding by themselves. For more significant injuries, other steps may be necessary to relieve and reduce bleeding such as applying pressure to the area or elevating it.

Extreme cases may require a tourniquet and eventual suturing.

Cleaning the wound promotes healing and reduces the chance of infection. Disinfect the immediate area with an antiseptic such as hydrogen peroxide, decontaminate it by removing foreign matter, irrigate the wound (with a saline solution if possible), and apply antibiotics.

Analgesia is most commonly provided by your doctor or ER staff and is meant to relieve the pain while readying the wound for the next step of care. For outdoorsmen, having some aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen on hand is quite common.

Skin closure is the one thing that we should all be ready for in an outdoor situation. Obvious remedies like adhesive strips and even tissue adhesive glue can be added to a first aid kit to care for new wounds and help to stop bleeding.

Dressing wounds can come in several forms from Bandaids to gauze pads. Wrap and cover the wound area tightly, and seek professional medical attention afterwards to ensure no infections or further damage will occur.

Basic Types of Wounds

Here are the most common types of wounds you'd encounter:

  • Laceration
  • Abrasion
  • Clean Cut or Incised Wound
  • Puncture
  • Avulsion
  • Amputation

While amputation definitely rests among wounds that aren't so basic, we've all seen by now the results of what holding today's modern crossbows incorrectly can do to the user's thumb. Certainly, a laceration or an incised wound are the most common, and here is the difference: a laceration is a common cut, but mainly caused by some type of crushing or tearing force, where an incised wound is a cut caused by a clean, sharp edge such as your hunting knife.

An abrasion is an obvious wound caused by a scraping force or some other type of friction. These wounds tends not to be very deep but can sometimes contain foreign bodies such as dirt. Puncture wounds are caused by penetrating objects that can be sharp or blunt, but can reach deeply into the body and are particularly dangerous when received to the head, chest, or abdomen area. An avulsion is an unusual and awful wound where the skin is torn away from its natural position while bleeding profusely. The most common type of an avulsion is known as a "ring avulsion" where (for our purposes here) a hunter or a fisherman's ring is caught while climbing or hanging and is torn straight off of their finger.

Basic First Aid Gear

As most outdoorsmen and women know, a good first aid kit is customized to work for you and those you experience the wilderness with. While this is a very basic list, it is still a good reminder of the basic necessities of first aid in the field. From here, you'll need to decide what specifics you need or don't need.

  • Multiple sized bandaids
  • Small, medium, and large sterile gauze pads
  • Sterile eye dressings
  • Eyewash
  • Tweezers, scissors, knife
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Gauze tape
  • Hydrocortisone, antiseptic, antibiotic, and antihistamine cream
  • Painkillers

One of the things that we haven't mentioned until now is the obvious issues that hunters and fishermen can have when they get a scratch or something in their eye. Sometimes the best remedy in this situation is what not to do such as do not rub it, do not touch it with anything, don't try to use contact lenses, and many first aid pros recommend that you do not use any kind of eye drops until your doctor can look at the injury.

As with any list, this can easily be added to in the effort to create a first aid kit that will go from basic to top of the line with an easy online search. It is up to the individual to decide what kind of kit they are making or purchasing to safeguard them from accidents and injuries in the field or on the water.

In Conclusion...

The wound healing process isn't all that difficult, but it is important. Wound dressings are probably the simplest and easiest thing to have on hand when in the outdoors short of needing a suture.

An open wound is not something that should ever be taken lightly in the field, since it can lead to the risk of infection according to healthcare professionals. Simple items like antibiotic ointment, dry dressing change, and other wound closure items can make all of the difference when we're outside having fun, it's just that sometimes we forget how important it is to stay ahead of these issues.

As outdoorsmen and women it behooves us to keep apprised of the situation at all times, especially when children are involved. The last thing we want is to have to leave when the fish are biting or when the deer are moving, but let's remember the most important thing when we're outdoors: no deer or big bass is more crucial than our continued good health.

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