Camping Injury Concerns

For decades, camping holidays have become more popular as people put civilization behind them to enjoy the best that nature has to offer. Camping is an enriching experience, giving one a long awaited break from the mundane city life , letting you bond with friends and family. Today, travelers benefit not only from the serenity of it all, they participate in other recreational activities as well. Sports such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and swimming make camping trips challenging and fun. However in all this excitement we tend to forget that nature offers its set of challenges, esp. ones that we have never faced in cities. Being miles from anywhere takes on quite a different meaning when faced with an emergency! So when you’re camping or bush walking, far from medical help, being up-to-date with first aid techniques and having a well-stocked first aid kit can be vital.

So what kind of accidents should one anticipate while camping? Well, there are always the occasional cuts, scrapes, and scratches. We’re playing outdoors now, and common camping chores can be hazardous. Hiking through brush, thorn bushes, or cactus; cooking outdoors or around campfires; and exposing ourselves to the elements and insects are just some examples of the outdoor activities that require our attention. Be prepared!

The least we can do is have a well-stocked first aid kit. Bandages, antiseptic ointments, scissors, sterile wipes, pain killers and anti-diarrhoea medicines are just to name a few. Be sure to check your first aid kit annually and replenish any exhausted or outdated medicines and supplies. And don’t forget to always take a well-stocked first aid kit whenever you go camping.

It is very essential that during trying times you remain calm and think your actions through. Before starting treatment it is worthwhile to take a little time to make a diagnosis, giving everyone confidence that the situation is being handled efficiently and effectively. You need to know access the symptoms of the patient and figure out the most appropriate action. If medical assistance is needed, ask a by bystander to call if possible.

Listed below are a few conditions that will need immediate attention.

  1. Dehydration

Cause :

Dehydration happens when body fluid loss, through perspiration, is greater than fluid intake. It’s generally due to lengthy exposure to heat and/or humidity. Prolonged dehydration can lead to shock and even death.

Symptoms :

  • Pale, cool clammy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Thirst
  • Profuse and prolonged sweating
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Sunken eyes in children

Treatment :

  • Ensure complete rest, in shade
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Drink cool water

2. Heat Exhaustion


Heat exhaustion occurs after prolonged physical exertion in hot and/or humid weather.


  • Pale, cool clammy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Profuse and prolonged sweating
  • Thirst, nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constant headache
  • Exhaustion and lethargy


  • Ensure complete rest, in shade
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Sponge person with water
  • Give cool water when nausea has passed

3. Heat Stroke


Heat stroke is when the body’s temperature regulation centre in the brain ceases to function causing the body’s temperature to continually rise. Eventually brain damage and even death can result.


  • Flushed, hot, dry skin
  • Cessation of sweating
  • Rapid, weakening pulse
  • Irrational or aggressive behaviour
  • Staggering, unable to walk normally
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse and seizure
  • Coma leading to death


  • Call an ambulance
  • Ensure complete rest, in shade
  • Remove clothing
  • Cool the person using ice packs to neck, groin and armpits
  • Cover them with a wet sheet and fan to increase cooling
  • Give fluids if they’re conscious

4. Hypothermia


Hypothermia is a serious medical condition where a person’s body temperature drops below average, a cold-weather danger. This happens when the core body temperature drops to below 95º Fahrenheit or 35º Celsius.

Symptoms :

  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Goosebumps – a very early sign
  • Irrational behavior, Incoherence
  • Muscle Tension
  • Pale or pink skin and cool to touch
  • Slow pulse
  • Slurred Speech
  • Violent shivering
  • Weak pulse

Treatment :

  • Move the person to a warm and dry shelter to begin the warming process. Wind aggravates the situation, so block it if you can’t reach a manmade shelter.
  • Remove wet clothing and wrap the victim in any dry cloth you have available, coats, shirts, blankets, sleeping bag, etc.
  • Try to give the victim warm broth or drink. No alcohol!
  • Your own body heat can help keep the person warm. Lay down close and snuggle up gently.
  • Focus on warming the person’s head and torso/trunk. The legs and arms can wait.
  • If a person stops breathing, begin CPR.

5. Frostbite


Frostbite is a medical condition that occurs when your skin and tissue are damaged due to extreme cold temperatures. The areas most affected are those most likely to be exposed, the nose, cheeks, hands, feet, and ears. You can recover from frostbite if only the skin and tissues are damaged. The situation becomes very serious if the blood vessels are also damaged. Gangrene can set in and amputation may be required. Someone with frostbite may also be experiencing hypothermia, which must be treated first.

Syptoms :

  • Goosebumps.
  • Tingling in the affected areas.
  • Partial or complete numbness, little or no feeling.
  • Discoloration. Pale or yellowish, cold skin.
  • When thawing, skin becomes very painful and red.
  • In severe cases, the affected skin turns black.

Treatment :

Call for medical attention and move the victim to shelter. It’s dangerous to thaw out the skin if there’s any chance that it may re-freeze because this will further damage the frostbitten spots. If you’re sure this won’t happen before you can get help, you can gently wrap up the areas in cloth (sterile if possible) to begin a slow re-warming. Soak the areas in tepid or warm water (avoid hot water) until the skin returns to normal and sensation returns. Dry clothing is essential as dampness aggravates the situation.

6. Fractures

Fracture is two kinds, simple and compound. There is a different approach to treat both of them.

Simple Fracture :

A simple fracture doesn’t pierce the skin although if not looked after, it can become a compound fracture.

  • Tell tale signs
  • Swelling around the affected area
  • Possible discoloration of the skin
  • Tenderness and pain in the area
  • Loss of mobility in the limb
  • The patient feeling or hearing a bone snap

Treatment :

Basic care and treatment relies on immobilisation and splinting of the injury.

Finger – strap broken finger to adjacent finger

Lower arm – splint entire forearm and immobilise in a sling

Upper arm – place arm in a sling and bandage upper arm to chest

Leg -splint leg or strap legs together if patient can be carried

Use your imagination if you need a splint. A straight piece of wood, a rolled up newspaper or magazine, even a rolled up blanket will do! The main aim is to keep the limb as immobile and comfortable as possible. Make sure the splint extends beyond both sides of the fracture and carefully elevate the limb to slow bloodflow to the wound.

Compound fracture

A compound fracture pierces the skin which can result in serious bleeding. Do not apply pressure to a compound fracture to stop the bleeding.


  • Cover the injured part with a sterile pad
  • Apply a splint to keep the bone from causing further injury to the surrounding tissues
  • Get medical help
  • Avoid moving the person but keep them warm, comfortable and reassured.

7. Sprains


A sprain is a tear of the ligaments attached to a joint. It can also include blood vessel, nerve and tendon damage. As ankles are the most common sprains, avoid removing boots until the sprain can be treated.


  • Sudden pain
  • Loss of weight-bearing ability
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness in the area


  • Rest the injury
  • Apply ice or a cold compress for 10 minutes
  • Support with a firm elastic bandage
  • Elevate the limb

8. Bleeding

What do I do first?

  1. Wipe away blood to inspect the wound.
  2. Apply direct pressure with a bandage or wad of clothing. If the blood soaks through, apply another bandage ON TOP of the first one.
  3. Lie the patient down
  4. Elevate the area above the heart, to reduce blood flow.

Pressure points

If the wound is still bleeding excessively use pressure points – press the artery closest to the wound between your fingers and the bone behind the artery. This may require the heel of your hand. Tourniquet – yes or no? Only use a tourniquet when everything else has failed and the patient’s life is at stake as it can result in the patient loosing the limb altogether.

9. Burns


The faster a burn is treated the less severe it may be.

  • Apply cold water immediately, preferably fully emerging the burned area for at least 15 minutes.
  • Remove any burnt clothing unless it is stuck to the skin
  • Leave blisters intact
  • Cover with a clean non-adherent burn dressing

Seek medical help when :

  • it’s a child or elderly person,
  • it covers more than one body part
  • it’s on a sensitive area such as hand, face or foot
  • it’s third degree (the burn is through the third layer of skin, giving a whitish or charred appearance)
  • it’s caused by chemicals
  • the person is in shock

What should I put on a burn?

  • Clean non-adherent burn dressing
  • Antiseptic fluid, for minor burns only

DO NOT put butter or greasy ointments on a burn. They seal heat into the wound and can cause infection.

10. Snake and spider bites


  • Puncture marks
  • Pale, cool skin, sweating
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Rapid shallow breathing or breathing difficulties
  • Difficulty swallowing and speaking
  • Nausea, vomiting, headache
  • Drowsiness progressing to coma


  • Act quickly
  • Apply a pressure bandage over the bite and wind it up the limb towards the body
  • Immobilise the limb.
  • DO NOT wash the bite – the venom identifies the snake/spider and therefore the appropriate treatment.
  • DO NOT apply a tourniquet
  • DO NOT remove the bandage and splint
  • DO NOT try to capture the snake or spider

11. Insect bites

What should I do if there is an allergic reaction?

The greatest risk from insect bites is an allergic reaction. Use antihistamine lotion (or tablets) to treat mild reactions. If you know you require medication for allergic reactions, make sure you carry it with you at all times.

What helps with the itching?

Tea-tree oil and antihistamines help control itching.

How should I remove a bee sting?

A bee sting will usually cause pain, swelling and itching. However, a severe allergic reaction in some people can result in respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. In these cases apply pressure immobilisation and get medical help immediately.


  1. Remove the sting by scraping it with a knife edge or fingernail.
  2. Apply a cold compress
  3. Use antihistamine lotion or tablets, if available

DO NOT squeeze the area around the sting as this only injects more venom into the person

12. Ticks

Where do they hide?

Unfortunately ticks are very difficult to see so each night conduct a thorough self-examination, especially around your groin and armpits. Children are most at risk, and should be double-checked in susceptible areas as well as behind the ears and the back of the neck.

What are the symptoms of tick bite?

These generally develop over several days but allergic reactions can occur rapidly.

General symptoms include

  • Local irritation
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unsteady movement
  • Double vision
  • Breathing or swallowing difficulties

Allergic reactions may include rapid local swelling, wheezing and breathing difficulties and collapse.

How are they removed?

  1. Spray with tick repellent or swab with kerosene, if available
  2. Remove with tweezers by grabbing the tick as close as possible to where it is joined to the skin and pull gently upwards, ensuring you do not leave the head
  3. Wash the area thoroughly and apply antiseptic cream
  4. Check the whole body for further ticks

13. Leeches

Where are they found?

Leeches are generally found in dank wet areas such as rainforests, creeks or among fallen trees. They can be attached to the underside of rocks, vegetation and logs or around ponds and puddles. They are attracted by body warmth and movement, finding their way into socks and jeans, where they latch onto skin and begin sucking.

How can I get rid of them?

  1. Sprinkle the leech with salt. They curl up and drop off
  2. Wash the area to remove the anticoagulant
  3. Apply a dressing until the bleeding stops

Don’t ever pull a leech off your skin as the anticoagulant remains where they were attached and you continue to bleed!

How can I try to avoid them?

In leech infested areas always wear

  • thick socks
  • long trousers
  • strong shoes
  • rub tea-tree oil/insect repellent onto your skin

Gearing up for an emergency does not mean that injuries can never happen. We just need to be cautious and prepared to enjoy to the fullest what nature has to offer to us!

Why not schedule a First Aid Training today?  Contact us at In-Pulse CPR 763-262-4776.

Disclaimer:  Use of any advise on this site is purely at your own risk.  The information supplied is designed to accompany first aid training not to replace.  In-Pulse CPR disclaims any liability for losses you incur as a result of inaccuracy of the information provided on this website.  Information on this site is for education, supplemental to examination by and advice of medical professionals.   Any information regarding first aid treatments is not meant to replace the advice of medical professionals including physicians, paramedics, emergency room attendants, nurses or other licensed medical personnel.


Nupur Agarwal
David Hicks / July 12, 2010

The socks are great, they feel like you are floating in the air. Pricey though, but i think they were worth it. Thank you ;).

Carol Theis / December 20, 2011

With all the situations in this blog, I am so glad I took a First Aid class. I love to camp and hike, but certainly want to be prepared.

Leave A Comment