Basic First Aid Skills You Need To Have

Leg being bandaged

When you are going on holiday or preparing for long-term travelling, getting into trouble is the last thing on your mind.

Of course, we always wish you never encounter any problems, but it is good to prepare for some basic injuries. This way, you can treat easy scrapes, and also know when to call the professionals.

In this post, we will go through some first aid basics and essentials, such as cleaning and dressing a small wound, burn, or sprain. We will also discuss some of the symptoms that mean it’s time to find medical help. For a full overview of first aid guides and courses visit the Red Cross website.

Woman with first aid kit applying a plaster on a hill side

Scrapes and small cuts

It’s easy to get a scrape or small cut when you’re out and about. For simple scrapes and small cuts, it might not be necessary to dress them, but it is important to clean them. You can do so with antiseptic wipes from your first aid kit or clean (soapy) water.

If you are in the middle of an activity or will be exposing the wound to bacteria it is best to cover it. Small wounds can be covered with an appropriately sized band-aid. For a larger surface use a sterile dressing pad that covers the area and a few centimetres around it (about half an inch). Make sure you don’t touch the dressing pad where it will cover the wound once you have taken it out of the package.

Deeper cuts and heavy bleeding wounds need medical attention. Use a clean cloth or shirt to put pressure on the wound to try and stop the bleeding, and call emergency services.

Treating minor burns

When you or someone near you has burned themselves, always cool the burn under running cool water for at least 10 minutes. If running water is not available, use compresses to cool the burn.

After extensive cooling, you can dress the wound with cling film or clean plastic. The plastic will not stick to the burn (unlike cloth) and keep the oxygen away, which will help limit pain. Do not apply any ointments or other home remedies. Simple painkillers can be given to help with the pain.

Severe burns need to be treated properly. Go to a hospital if there is still severe pain after extensive cooling, or if all layers of skin have been burned, the skin is charred, and/or has white or brown patches and is leathery looking. Always go to the hospital the victim is a child, elderly, or if the burns are on the face, genitals hands or feet.

Sprains and strains

The best way to treat a sprain is to reduce the swelling by icing it for a maximum of 10 minutes and rest. The acronym RICE is a good way to remember the best treatment:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Comfortable support
  • Elevate

However, if you are in the middle of a walk or trek, this might not always be possible. Alternative ways of cooling the joints or muscles are to soak an unneeded shirt or towel with water and wrap that around the sprain. If there is a cool (and safe) stream, submerge your ankle for a few minutes.

If there is no help nearby and you need to continue walking to get help, you can support the sprain by wrapping another shirt or a bandage around it. Be careful to leave space for swelling, as otherwise, your support could end up blocking circulation.

If you have medical tape, or if nothing else, gaffa tape, you can add a few strips lengthwise to provide support. Only do this if there is no open skin. Again, don’t circle all the way around to avoid blocking circulation.

First aid while on holiday

Prevention is always better than a cure. Make sure you go on your way well prepared for the activity you are about to undertake. The more active your holiday is, the more you should prepare yourself with basic first aid help as above and on the Red Cross website. Pack appropriately as well, including your first aid kit. Preparation and prevention before you leave will help you enjoy your travels to the max!

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