Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Packing the first aid supplies to handle the most common problems on the trail

Supplies for a family day hike

There are several great first aid kits on the market designed specifically for hiking. Most of these first aid kits are great starters to be ready for minor medical issues on the trail. However, there are several additional items that should be added to your pack to ensure you are prepared for most situations when hiking with children.

Pain relief: Many kits contain either Tylenol or Advil, but usually only for one or two adults. Consider the number of hikers in your group and the age of the hikers. It is good to include additional pain relief medication that is age-appropriate (e.g. children's Tylenol) in case children complain of headaches or pains while on the trail (Note: before you give you child medication, the headache may be a sign of dehydration or hunger so always best to investigate the source of the headache). If you would rather not give your children medication, there are some wonderful homeopathic pain relief items you can bring instead.

Splint/Stabilizer: All though you may never need it, on long hikes or backpacking trips you may consider how to create a saint. There are several items you probably already carry that can be used as a brace. Hiking poles and tent poles can be used as a splint. You will need to use a soft layer against the skin like a puffy coat or a long sleeve shirt and something like rope or gauze bandages to hold the saint in place. Here is a great article that describes how to set a splint in the backcountry.

Sun protection/sunburn relief: Bringing sunscreen on even a cloudy day is essential. Although you may seem protected in the tree cover, the sun can penetrate the canopy. Once you are above the tree line, you are fully exposed to the sun. As we all know the sun has become much more intense over the years and can burn skin a lot quicker. Besides the pain of a sunburn, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heatstroke you need to consider. Apply sunscreen before you begin your hike especially to children. Avoid putting it on their forehead and hands so it does not run into their eyes or they don't rub it into their eyes or mouth. A hat to protect their forehead and eyes is best. A special hiking hat they have picked out usually gets them to wear it. Reapply sunscreen according to the instructions or if it has been washed away by rain or a dip in the water. You may also wish to reapply above the tree line for good measure.

Bug spray: Ah bugs spray. This should be brought on all hiking trips. Black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies are the most common biting insects you may encounter. The most effective bug sprays contain Deet with different % levels. Usually the higher the Deet the more effective in repelling insects, however, use caution when using Deet.

There are repellents that do not contain Deet that can be effective. 

Another consideration is not mixing insect repellent brands. Although their purpose is the same their chemical make up is different and may have a chemical reaction on the skin which can cause a burn. Avoid getting insect repellent in eyes or on open wounds as it will sting.

Insect sting relief: Carrying items to relieve insect bites and stings may ensure you are able to continue your hike. After bite is one common insect relief product that comes in kids' safe and adult versions. Simply apply to the affected area to relieve the itching. Another treatment is hydrocortisone you can also purchase at a pharmacy that helps relieve the itching. Benadryl can also help, however, I would suggest that it is administered after you have completed hiking for the day as it may cause drowsiness or a hyper state which both are not conducive to hiking.

Poison ivy/poison oak treatment: Poison ivy, oak or sumac are all possibilities while hiking. Leaves of three, let it be is a good guideline, however sometimes it is hidden. It is the oil of the plant that causes the reaction that is why even if it gets on clothes it can be transferred to the skin. Avoid scratching the area and the oil can be transferred to your fingers and spread to other areas of the body. 

Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions: Allergy medications is extremely important to carry especially if someone in your group has known allergies. An unexpected allergic reaction can happen at any time and over the counter medication is usually very effective. Ensure you bring nondrowsy and age-appropriate. If someone experiences an unknown allergy and is causing distress call 911 and follow the dispatcher's instructions before giving any medication.

Prescription medications (e.g., antibiotics): Carry all medications with you on a hike: a venting, antibiotics, diabetic supplies, and any other medication that would cause serious issues if missed. Getting lost is not expected but if someone in your group has a medical condition that is dependant on medication, carry it with you on your hike. Better safe than sorry.

Injectable epinephrine (for severe allergic reactions): For those with severe allergies that an epic-pen is required to carry it at all times. Even if the allergen may not be a possibility, you never know if another hiker had the allergic on the trail and you come in contact with it. Other allergic reactions may become more severe and an epi-pen may need to be administered before you reach medical help. Do not administer an epic-pen if the reaction is not severe or if you are unsure if it is an allergic reaction. Seek medical help if a hiker becomes in distress.

Blister repair: Many first aid kits contain minimal blister relief, however, it is usually for one or two blisters at most. Adding Moleskin and or second skin to your kit will ensure you have enough to go around. We recommend the sheets of moleskin and scissors to cut to the appropriate size required. We have found that the pre-cut moleskin does not always cover a larger hotspot and is less adhesive and thinner than the sheets. (Note: it is also important to investigate the source of the hotspot, such as the quality of the boots, wet socks that are creating friction, etc.).

Steri strips: Most kits do not contain steri strips. Steri strips are used to close a cut that may require stitches. If someone happens to slip on a rock and cuts their skin, it may be a while before you can seek medical attention. Steri strips can be used when a cut may require stitches so that you can close the cut and stop the bleeding until you are able to get medical help.

Larger pieces of gauze: Most kits contain a few small pieces. Carry a few larger pieces just in case. This can help to cover a large scrape so that dirt does not get into the cut. Large pieces of gauze can also be used to clean a wound, without further contaminating the spot until you are able to better clean the wound once off the trail.

Hand sanitizer: There are no handwashing stations on a hike so carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer to ensure your hands are clean before eating a snack is extremely recommended. It may also be used to sanitize other items as well. In a pinch, you could use it to clean a wound if you do not have antiseptic wipes.

Tweezers: For removing splinters, ticks, and removing debris from wounds.

Cornstarch/Monkey Butt: Cornstarch is not just for baking! It can also act as a drying agent to reduce friction on hotspots. These products can be used on all parts of the body including feet, armpits, thighs, and yes your children's butt. Heat and friction can create raw irritation so body parts (this is especially a concern for children who do not properly wipe their bums before going on a hike, causing them discomfort, itching, and pain. Applying a drying agent will reduce the discomfort and stop the itching.

Diarrhea medication: The all familiar pink Pepto tabs may come in handy while out on the trail. The last meal you ate, the water you drank, heatstroke, IBS for whatever the reason diarrhea creeps up on a hiker in your group. Carrying diarrhea medication may come in handy. Diarrhea can cause dehydration and extreme discomfort so getting it under control as quickly as possible is important. You can get several types of medication for diarrhea or constipation which can also cause extreme discomfort.

Feminine hygiene products: This is a must in your first aid pack even if you have no females in your hiking group. Obviously, if hiking with females having an emergency supply of feminine hygiene products as it can come on without notice at times can be a hike saver. However, feminine hygiene protects can also be used as a medical supply to control bleeding. It is very absorbent so if someone gets a cut and doesn't seem to stop bleeding a feminine hygiene product can be used to get control of the bleeding.

Chapstick: Dry chapped lips are uncomfortable and can crack and bleed. A neutral-flavored chapstick will help. Children can carry their own chapstick while on the trail so they can apply it whenever they feel their lips feel dry.

Water treatment tablets: Although you feel you have enough hydration for the trip, it is better to carrying water treatment tabs just in case. Your filter may clog, you forgot the filter, you don't have a life straw, you split your water, whatever the case you need water and filtering is not an option. Carrying these small tabs to add to the water to make it drinkable can be life-saving and take up very little room.

Firestarter supplies: If the weather turns on you or you get lost and you are unable to complete the trail, sometimes you will need to hang tight for a while (waiting for the rain to stop or until the morning light). Starting a fire to keep warm for the night might be necessary. Another reason for starting a fire maybe because you need to boil water if there isn’t a clean water source or if your filters are not doing their job. There are times when boiling water may be your only option to stay hydrated.

Warming blankets: These are usually in hikers medical kits but not enough for everyone in your hiking party. These are the blankets that look like tin foil. They help retain heat. An unexpected night in the bush should always be anticipated.

Small notepad with a waterproof pen: A waterproof pen and note pad can be used for several things. Taking notes about the trail or animals you say, but it can also come in handy in case of an emergency. Taking notes of landmarks you saw if you are lost, keeping track of a person who is injured condition, or using a few sheets to help start a fire are all reasons to carry this along with you.


Let's hope you never have to use it, however, you should always be prepared in case the supplies are needed.

The standard stock first aid kits are a great start but we recommend adding enough items for everyone in your party and to make sure you bring special supplies for your children.

Sunburn relief may be something you wish to carry as well. Some people burn extremely easily or you may have forgotten to apply sunscreen. Having burn relief can come in hand. You can get the aloe-based creams or wipes that you can keep in your first aid supplies. It is essential to check these items before heading out to ensure you have enough for everyone in your party and that it has not expired or degraded due to exposure to heat.

A sting is treated a little differently depending on the number of stings acquired. For a few things, some natural techniques will provide some relief. A copper pen placed on the sting site, aloe, and ice all provide some relief. If someone has sustained several stings it is best to seek medical attention. Allergy medication also can provide some relief.

Setting out on any trail requires preparation. A fully stocked first-aid kit is one of the most important items you must carry.


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