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Common campground injuries – how to care for injuries when far away from home

May 31, 2016

Interested in roughin’ it? Camping is a fun and kid-friendly way to spend time with the family while experiencing the outdoors. While it is appealing because of the low price tag, it is also an opportunity to bring funny stories back to civilization on Monday morning. But when you have little ones in tow, the issue of safety is always on the forefront. What if something happens and we are out in the middle of nowhere without a cell signal?

As a rule of thumb, it might be a smart idea to wait until the kids are at least out of diapers to venture deeply into the woods without a cell signal. But, assuming you are not bringing a crowd of infants on an extended camping trip, here are some tips for crisis control, should something happen during the trip.* (*if you are venturing into the woods without a cell signal, it is always a good idea to bring an emergency radio or set of long-range Walkie Talkies. Both can be rented or purchased from local camping supplies stores.)

Camping trips bring new surroundings and new experiences, but being “out of your element” can add unknown factors to your temporary base camp. When you are out in the wilderness, things like weather can play a huge factor, and it is obviously impossible to control. Being prepared for anything is the safest way to go. Bring rain gear, extra layers, and extra blankets – make sure to bring clothing that can handle extreme changes in weather. Even if you are camping in the summer, sleeping outside in high elevations during the night can bring much lower temperatures than you expect. The temperature can feel even lower if your clothing is damp from an unexpected rain shower. Staying dry is important. If you have a limited amount of space or weight that you can bring, stick to the essentials. Enough food and water is the first priority. Drinking enough water while making sure your blood sugar does not get too low can help avoid heat stroke and dehydration, as well as preventing exhaustion and changes in moods due to hunger.

Another thing to keep in mind is exposure. Make sure your skin is protected from extended exposure to sun, allergens, and rashes brought on by common wooded area plants and insect bites. Bring sunscreen and bug spray, and remember to reapply a few times throughout the day – more if you are sweating or swimming. It might be a good idea to bring some aloe in case of a burn, as sunburn and campfire burns can further attribute to dehydration, fatigue, and discomfort. Bring pictures of poison ivy, sumac, and oak to know what to look for. Prevention is the best way to avoid any rash. If you do contract poison ivy, sumac, or oak, treat the rash by cleansing the rash with clean water and keeping your hands off of it. Isolate or clean any clothing that has come into contact with the plants. If you have a history of sensitivity to these plants, it might be a good idea to bring some calamine lotion along as well. If there is an abundance of the plant in the area, the allergen can be airborne without detection.

The unknown terrain could result in common ankle and wrist sprains, as well as a bone fracture. Make sure to pack portable dry ice packets as well as medical tape. Immobilize the injury with a makeshift splint from a stick or rolled up newspaper or magazine. Elevate it to decrease blood flow to the region, or create a sling with a piece of clothing or gauze. Depending on the severity of the injury, you might have to cut the trip short and head back, but as long as you can keep comfortable and immobile, they would not do much more at a hospital or urgent care center. Open wounds and cuts can be cause for alarm. It is important to bring bandages, medical tape, hydrogen peroxide, bacitracin or Neosporin, and cotton swabs in case these injuries occur.

The most important thing to remember during a camping trip is to pick an experienced guide and to be prepared. Camping can be a blast and a great way to create family memories while enjoying the screen-free outdoors! Many checklists have been compiled by experienced campers and are available online to make sure that you have everything that you may need.