Welcome to part 2 of this 3 part “Prepper First Aid Basics” series, where we share with you the key first aid elements, we as preppers should know and practice.
Check out my recommendation for a ready-made first aid kit on Amazon.
Note: This guide is not a substitute for professional medical care. In the event of any of these injuries, call your local emergency line (911 in the United States) and follow the dispatcher’s instructions.
Getting burned is never fun, but it happens to most of us at some point in our lives.
First and second degree burns are typically considered minor and can be treated on your own. A third degree burn is much more severe and you won’t really be able to treat it on your own.
So the first thing to do is determine what type of burn you are dealing with. A first degree burn damages the outermost layer of skin.
It will be red and may swell, and there may be some pain for the victim. Second degree burns destroy the outermost layer of skin and affects the second layer.
It is marked by blisters, extremely reddened area, and severe pain and swelling. Third degree burns go through all of the tissue and may even extend to the bone. It is marked by either pearly white skin or charred black skin.
To treat for first and second degree burns, run some cool (NOT COLD) water over the affected area for about 15 minutes. If you aren’t able to run water over the wound, submerse the person in a tub of cool water.
After you cool the burn site, use sterile gauze to wrap the wound, avoid using anything fluffy or fibrous as that may get caught in the site and lead to infection.
Finally, give the victim an over the counter pain reliever like Aleve or Motrin.
Do not use ice on the wound, do not apply butter or ointments to the wound, and do not break any blisters. These can cause further damage to the tissue or invite infection in the wound.
There isn’t much you can do for a victim of third degree burns. The damage is simply too severe and they will not be able to regrow skin cells without a graft, because of the extensive damage.
Victims of third degree burns will require emergency medical care that is beyond the capabilities of first aid.
When a person isn’t getting enough blood or oxygen to their brain or vital organs, they are in shock. This is a very serious condition that left untreated, can lead to permanent damage to the organs or death.
Symptoms of shock are cold skin, a very slow or very fast heart rate, nausea, dilated pupils, and the person may be unconscious. Shock requires hospitalization so call for help immediately, if possible.
The first step for treating someone in shock is to get them to lie still on their back. Elevate their feet about a foot above their head to promote blood flow from the lower extremities back into vital organs.
Check to see if the victim is breathing, coughing, or moving. These are signs that circulation is still happening.
If this isn’t the case, immediately start CPR. Keep the person warm with blankets or extra clothing and loosen any tight clothes they may be wearing.
Check for any injuries and attempt to treat them. If the person says they are going to vomit, turn them on their side so they don’t choke.
Do not give the victim any food or water.
Frostbite occurs in extremely cold temperatures, most commonly in the hands, feet, and ears. Frostbite can become a medical emergency, so treating as soon as possible is critical.
Frostbitten areas look yellowish-white, waxy, and may feel hard. This is because the tissues of the area are becoming frozen.
If you are outside and suspect frostbite, find shelter if possible. Indoors is best, but anywhere to get away from cold and wind will suffice until you are warmed up.
In the meantime, protect your face with gloved hands. If your hands are frostbitten, warm them under your armpits.
There isn’t much you can do for feet unless you brought some extra socks or have some small bits of cloth that you can wrap around them and fit them back into your shoes/boots.
Once inside, remove all wet clothing and start running warm (NOT HOT) water over the frostbitten area. Gradually increase the heat of the water, don’t start off immediately with hot water.
Frostbitten areas will be numb and you may burn yourself without even feeling it. Wrap the area of frostbite and keep the site as warm as possible. If the feet are frostbitten, do not walk around, this can cause further damage to the tissue.
Heatstroke occurs most often when working outside in hot temperatures. It is especially problematic for children, the obese, and the elderly. Risk factors include dehydration, heart disease, and some medications that limit a person’s ability to sweat.
The main symptom of heatstroke is a higher bodily temperature (104 degrees or higher.) Other symptoms include rapid heart rate, nausea, headache, shallow breathing, and fainting.
First, you’ll need to move the victim indoors or at least into a shady area. Cool the person down with moist clothes and if they are able, get them to drink something cold.
(Do not give a heatstroke victim alcohol or anything with caffeine.) Continue cooling the person off with a fan. If a fan is not available, use something like a newspaper to wave something at them to get some cool air on their skin.
Have the person rest for the rest of the day and check to make sure that their temperature doesn’t rise again.
Treating Severe Allergic Reactions
Severe allergic reactions are called anaphylaxis, which is often life-threatening. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, sudden drop in blood pressure, and shock.
Other symptoms include hives, itching, narrowing of the airways, weak or rapid pulse, nausea and vomiting, and dizziness or unconsciousness. Severe reactions will likely require professional medical aid, so call for an ambulance if possible.
People who know they have severe allergies tend to have an Epipen, which contains epinephrine to relieve the reaction. If they have one, inject it into the outer thigh muscle.
Do not give the person water. Over the counter antihistamines will NOT help in a severe allergic reaction because it acts too slowly.
Have the person lie on their back unless they are going to vomit. If vomiting is a risk, lay them on their side so they don’t choke. Check their breathing, if the person is not breathing, immediately start CPR.
In this case, mouth to mouth isn’t necessary because if the throat has constricted, they will not receive any air. Perform 100 compressions per minute.
If you were able to call for help, the hospital will monitor the patient for several hours afterwards, even if the person feels fine. If you were not able to contact emergency personnel and cannot get them to a hospital, keep a close eye on the person.
Make sure they continue breathing, check their pulse and blood pressure if possible. (Pulse is easiest to check by counting how many times you feel their heart beat for 10 seconds, and then multiply that by 6.)
Having a first aid kit handy can save lives. Check out my recommendation for the best Every Day Carry (ECD) first aid kit.
Disclaimer: This article should not be a substitute for professional medical care.
Featured Image Credit: Double–M