First Aid

Anything can happen in the outdoors. Make sure you know before you go. Learning basic outdoors first aid is key to any outdoor adventure so you and your friends make it home. 

With the majority of injuries occurring on people’s legs there are some simple steps you can do each day to help you prevent this happening to you: 

  • Warm up – just like playing sport, whatever your chosen activity out here in the hills, you’d be wise to warm up before you set off. Some simple stretches for your legs, hips, back and shoulders will help to prepare your body for the physical challenges ahead.
  • Pack it right help your body out by re-packing your gear into your pack each day, ensuring the contents are best placed to maximise comfort and distribute the weight down through your legs.
  • Pace yourself – before you set off plan your day so you have a good idea of where you need to be and when, this will allow you to set a suitable pace. 

Did you know?

There are over 5,900 injuries in the outdoors every year.
– There and Back, 2016

 


 

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What can go wrong?

Anything can happen in the outdoors, and it is your responsibility in the backcountry areas of New Zealand to know what to do - there might not be help at hand when you need it. The terrain, weather conditions or a person's personal health can all come into play and require immediate medical attention.

What you need to know

Before you start your trip, prepare a safety plan listing things that could go wrong (e.g., loss of track, river levels up) and detail steps that could be taken to minimise or deal with each situation. Make sure the safety plan addresses accidents and medical emergencies, and includes details such as escape routes, communication and how to get help. 

Emergency situations

You need to know when and how to get help if something is seriously wrong. Make sure you read the emergencies section of our website before you go.

Helpful hint

If you are travelling alone, it is essential you carry an effective form of communication to get help as soon as you can.

Read more 

Prevent Injuries

With the majority of injuries occurring on people’s legs there are some simple steps you can do each day to help you prevent this happening to you: 

  • Warm up – just like playing sport, whatever your chosen activity out here in the hills, you’d be wise to warm up before you set off. Some simple stretches for your legs, hips, back and shoulders will help to prepare your body for the physical challenges ahead.
  • Pack it right – help your body out by re-packing your gear into your pack each day, ensuring the contents are best placed to maximise comfort and distribute the weight down through your legs.
  • Pace yourself – before you set off plan your day so you have a good idea of where you need to be and when, this will allow you to set a suitable pace. 

Treating injuries

Stop at the indication of a blister. If a blister has formed, cover with gauze or gel dressing and tape. If the blister is enlarged with fluid, drain the fluid by piercing, and then cover it to prevent infection.

Sprains and strains

Remember RICE:

  • Rest - stop moving.
  • Ice - apply cold (not freezing) water for 20 minutes.
  • Compression - bandage firmly with elastic bandage.
  • Elevation - raise the affected limb (above heart level) to reduce swelling.

Did you know?

Over 62% of injuries are sustained below the waist. 

Fractures
      • Keep open fractures as clean as possible. Cover with clean plastic or other non-stick dressing.
      • Immobilise the broken limb, ensuring that you immobilise the joints above and below the break
      • Improvise splints if from suitable well-padded items, e.g. a sleeping mat, walking poles.
      • Use broad ties to hold the splint in place, ensuring that you don't impede circulation. Don't use rope and boot laces.

Did you know?

78% of injuries are soft tissue injuries.

Dehydration

Headaches are often indicators of dehydration. Drink regularly, understand your limits and take regular breaks. 

Bee and wasp stings

The effects of a sting will be at their worst 15-20 minutes after the incident.

  • Cool the affected area to reduce the effect of venom.
  • An antihistamine tablet can help reduce reaction.
  • Monitor for the signs of a severe allergic reaction. If someone in your party knows they are allergic, ensure they have their adrenaline handy incase of an anaphylactic reaction.
Unconsciousness

Place the patient in the recovery position.

Monitor their level of consciousness: AVPU - alert, responsive to voice, responsive to pain, unresponsive.

This information is taken from the MSC Bushcraft Manual. These safety tips are for guidance only. It is recommended that you undertake an MSC Outdoor First Aid course or an accredited equivalent.  

Remember your DRS ABCs - When you find someone unconscious:
  • Danger: Check the scene for danger to yourself, the group and the patient.
  • Responsiveness: Check for responsiveness: Shout "are you alright?" and tap the patient on the shoulder.
  • Send for help - see Emergencies page.

  • Airway: Open the airway using a head tilt and chinlift, or a jaw thrust (if you suspect a spinal injury)
  • Breathing: Check for breathing for no longer than 10 seconds. Look listen and feel for breath.
  • Circulation: If there is no sign of life: Give 30 chest compressions to 2 breaths.

  • Adults: Give 30 compressions to 2 breaths. 
  • Children and Infants: Give 30 compressions  to 2 breaths.
  • Severe Bleeding: Do a visual check and control obvious bleeding.

 

If you are unable to do mouth to mouth, do chest compressions.

In an urban environment, send for an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), attach and follow voice prompts. 

Hypothermia 

Hypothermia is when the core body temperature drops to a level where normal brain and muscle function is impaired - usually at or below 35°C. When the body cannot cope, it goes into survival mode, shutting down non-essential functions. Hypothermia occurs when the body cannot make up for the amount of heat lost.

Hypothermia can be avoided by wearing appropriate and sufficient clothing and ensuring you have sufficient food and shelter.

 

  • Wear the right fabrics - Clothing only retains what heat your body produces. Certain fabrics, such as wool and synthetics, draw moisture away from the body and retain warmth. Avoid cotton clothing – when cotton gets wet it ceases to insulate you.
  • Always take wind and rain protection- A good outer layer that will protect you from rain and wind is essential. This will significantly reduce the chance of hypothermia. Be smart about when you put this on as well – don’t leave it until you’re already wet or cold.
  • Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated -  Food gives us the energy required to keep the body warm. On cooler days, you’ll need more food. Drink regularly, this includes a hot beverage to start and end the day.

 

Always take a survival kit 

Each person should carry the recommended items in a waterproof container. If you are going on a long trip, or to a very isolated place, you may decide to carry a more comprehensive first aid kit, although you do need to keep your pack weight down. Discuss your requirements with a chemist.

See what goes in a Survival kit in our Take Sufficient Supplies Section

 

Helpful hint

If you are travelling in a group, check with everyone if they have any existing medical conditions and that the selected route is capable to do.

Read more

 

How we can help

Check out our online store

This helpful store of resources is a fantastic source of information for you to learn and understand what to do in all sorts of medical emergencies in the back country. This is available in our online store. 

  • First Aid Manual
  • Bushcraft Manual
  • Hypothermia Pamphlet
  • And more
Read more about your desired activity

Whether you walk, run, hunt or climb – we have specific information you need for your favourite activity find them here 

Get some outdoor First Aid Training

Help yourself and your group members by learning before you go, check out the organisations on our Courses page to see who can help you get qualified. 

 

 

What is #MakeItHomeNZ?

MSC encourage exploration and adventure in the incredible wilderness regions of New Zealand. We encourage you to participate, get out there and see what all the fuss is about. New Zealand is on the bucket list of so many people around the world for good reason.
We also encourage safe practices that ensure you make it home to your family and friends. We want you to make it home with adventurous stories, memories and photos. But, most of all we want you to make it home to do it all again next time. That's why on every advertisement, press release, video and resource we reaffirm our intent to help the 1.2 Million+ participants in outdoor recreation to make it home. You can help us spread this philosophy by sharing our resources and following the outdoor safety code so you make it home.
– Mike Daisley, CEO

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