First Aid in the bush

If you look in most of the kits available in the marketplace you will find a whole lot of things you will never ever use. They are there because the manufacturer is trying to cater for every possibility under every situation, most of which are not that li

Well, of course you should carry a First Aid kit – but what should be in it? If you look in most of the kits available in the marketplace you will find a whole lot of things you will never ever use. They are there because the manufacturer is trying to cater for every possibility under every situation, most of which are not that likely in the bush, and some of which are ridiculous. Of what use is it to put a triangular sling on someone to handle a broken collar bone in the middle of the bush? The person can’t carry a pack that way and wouldn’t be able to walk very far anyhow: you would be better off sending someone to get help. If the person really has to walk, use a safety pin to attach their sleeve to the opposite shoulder of the shirt.

What is really important to understand is that Remote Area Medicine is different from domestic First Aid. For a start, the 'First' bit is wrong: if the injury is small it may be 'All' the aid the patient is going to get. If the injury is large, the patient isn’t going anywhere. Forget about the whole concept of 'First Aid' in the bush.

We used to carry a large First Aid Kit suitable for field surgery, but most of the contents never got used and went out of date. These days we carry a few Panadol, some wide micropore surgical tape (veryall-purpose), a small amount of burn cream, a handful of Band-Aids (both ordinary and wide), a sterile scalpel blade in its sealed wrapper (weighs nothing), a special needle for spikes and splinters and some iodine pills for sterilising water. Add a couple of clean handkerchiefs from the spare clothes bag for bandages, a bit of string and a sharp pocket knife from the goodies bag, and that’s it. It makes a very small kit – and the bandaids are about all that ever get used anyhow. It all goes in a well waterproofed bag of course.

What is more important is to learn some basic First Aid principals and little bit of what we might call ""practical home nursing"". Learn things like what to do for a burn or a serious cut or abrasion, and when to give up and send someone for help. You aren’t going to do major surgery on a bushwalk. Splints? What for, you aren't going anywhere without help.

Dead Simple Tick Removal

The big hazard with removing Ticks is the damage they can do to you when you try to remove them. The problem is that the bit they have stuck into you to feed has barbs on it, and these barbs resist the casual poking which you might do when noticing a slight itch. Some serious effort has to be used - or you have to persuade the tick to get out. If you squeeze them accidentally while trying to pull them out they may regurgitate their stomach into your skin, thereby putting a lot of rather bad foreign proteins into you. These can cause a very serious reaction, a huge swelling, and even some necrosis of the immediate skin. Not good.

Some people have suggested dousing them with metho. It may get them out, but it also gets them 'drunk' and they may spill the contents of their stomach into you during the process.

Some people use heat: the head of a burnt match or a patent device of some sort, but you can be sure the latter won't be around when you need it (and is extra weight), while many of use no longer carry matches. As I haven't tried using heat myself I can't say how well it works.

Kevin and Debbie in WA report that they saw a nurse in a hospital use this brilliantly simple trick. Take some fine thread (no weight), tie a simple overhand knot in the thread, place it over the tick as close as possible to the skin, tighten the knot around the tick and pull. The loop of thread will grab the tick around its 'feeding spike' rather than put pressure on its body. It might help to stretch the skin a bit while doing this.