So you’ve put together your own custom med-kit and it’s ready to go, but how exactly, in a worse case scenario, should you be prepared to use it? Through this Save Your Own Life series I’ll go through the entire kit piece by piece and give tips on how to use each item either by itself or in combination with other materials you’ve prepared in your kit.
Every piece in the med-kit has multiple uses, which makes the kit very versatile without bulking it up with multiple things for specific injuries. If something can only be used in a single unlikely scenario, chances are, it’s only going to add unwanted weight and take up needed space. It is to maintain this space and light weight aspect that we have trimmed the med-kit to the basics of: an elastic wrap, gauze wrap, heavy-duty tape, anti-inflammatory meds, and anti-septic packet, all tightly packed in a vacuum sealed package.
The first key ingredient that will be covered in this series is the Elastic Wrap. The elastic wrap is a very versatile and essential piece of kit. Here are a few uses and examples of why it deserves a place in your med-kit:
Support and Stabilization:
Probably the most common injury we as backcountry athletes encounter is rolled ankles (which is why high-top hiking boots are important) and tweaked knees. The best trails are rugged and uneven with protruding rocks, roots, and other underestimated hazards, which are commonly tripped over or slipped on. Add the extra weight of a pack or climbing gear and what otherwise would be a simple stumble could become a hefty injury-inducing trip.
Using the elastic wrap in your med-kit tightly wrap (but not so tight that it cuts off blood flow) your newly sprained ankle or tweaked knee for strong support so that you can keep you going or get you back and off the trail to seek further treatment.
In the case of a severe sprain, or worse, use the elastic wrap and two stout and straight sticks, hefty tent poles, or your trekking poles (though you may want your trekking poles to assist with walking) to splint the injured extremity. Place your two chosen splint items on either side of the injured arm or leg to immobilize it and wrap the elastic band around to secure the splint and ensure the injury is safe from movement or any other gestures while transporting to more in-depth care.
If your arm or shoulder becomes injured from a fall or another cause use the elastic band as a sling to restrain your arm against your body. If possible hold your arm against your body in a “Pledge of Allegiance” posture by placing the hand from the injured arm on your chest toward your opposite shoulder. Your elbow should be naturally pointing down and against your body. Once this position is carefully achieved wrap the elastic band around your upper-body and across your forearm and bicep area of the affected arm keeping your unaffected arm free.
For wounds such as abrasions and lacerations that cause major bleeding the elastic wrap, along with the gauze roll, should be used to create a pressure dressing. Unravel the gauze roll and use the free end to stuff into a deep wound or on top of a superficial bleed and then either wrap the remaining gauze around the extremity or place the rest of the roll on top of the wound. After the gauze is in place tightly wrap the elastic band around the extremity whether an arm, leg or even head to secure the gauze tightly in place and protect it from dirt and other debris. Of course the idea is to secure the bandage and add pressure not tourniquet the bleeder so pulses should be checked opposite the bandage to ensure blood flow is still reaching beyond the dressing.
An example of checking the pulse would be if the dressing were treating a wound in the calf the pulse should be checked at the ankle. The same should be done at the wrist if the dressing is applied to the forearm, and so on. If the extremity is severed and stopping an arterial bleed is necessary, this is the only time a tourniquet should be considered.
In any case of bleeding the bandage should be checked regularly to ensure it is working and added to if not.
In any of these scenarios when the elastic wrap is employed pluses and blood flow should always be checked on the opposite end of the dressing from the heart to ensure it is being used correctly and no further harm is being done. It is good to know these techniques in case you need to apply them to yourself, walk a friend through how to apply them, or assist an injured friend.
Be Prepared, Be Safe, and Enjoy Your Adventure!
Find more medical tips in the Save Your Own Life series.