You and your buddy are out in the forest foraging for wild greens and stumble across a interesting weed that you know sucks venom from insect bites. The weed is located near a hill side where you inform your buddy that you see some edible wild plants. Problem is that is just rained and the slope is slippery. Your buddy gets a little too close to the hill side and takes a tumble. Your concerned because where he fell there were many rocks. Immediately, you safely make it to the bottom of the hill and conduct a quick head-to-toe assessment of your fallen buddy.
How to Do a Head-to-Toe Assessment
Check to see if the person is conscious. Do not attempt to move the person until after your have conduct your head-to-toe assessment. Ask the person if they are in pain, bleeding, if there are any injuries or any other symptoms the person may be experiencing. These types of assessments need to be done systematically to allow it to be done quickly and accurately. Remember to: listen, look and feel for anything that might be unusual, pay attention to everything, and suspect that there might be spinal injury (especially if the person is unconscious). Always check their body from the top to the bottom (head to toe) for any soft tissue injuries, to be sure there is Pulse, Movement, and Sensation (PMS) in all of their extremities and continuity of their bones. Your assessment will be as follows:
Your buddy lucked out because you found no broken bones and he appears to be in one piece. However, you did find a bleeding gash on his arm. There are three steps to approaching a wound.
- Control bleeding
- Clean wounds
- Apply dressing and bandage to the wound
Types of Bleeding
Out of control bleeding causes weakness that can lead to unconsciousness. If the bleeding is not controlled the person could die. Adults have roughly 5 liters of blood in their body. The loss of just 1 liter of blood can lead to death.
There are three types of bleeding. How fast the blood is flowing usually identifies what type of bleeder you are dealing with. The three types of bleeding are: Arterial, Venous, and Capillary.
- Arterial comes from the arteries and causes the blood to SPURT because they transfer blood under high pressure.
- Venous comes from the veins and causes the blood to FLOW because they transfer blood under low pressure.
- Capillary comes from the capillaries and causes the blood to OOZE because they transfer blood under low pressure.
The first step in taking care of a wound is to control any bleeding. There are three methods for controlling bleeding and they are: Direct Pressure, Elevation and Pressure Points. Most of the time, direct pressure and elevation is all that you need to control a bleeder. Each of these types can be controlled with the proper equipment from your medkit.
- Direct Pressure
- Put a clean dressing on top of the bleeding wound and press firmly.
- Maintain direct pressure by wrapping the wound area with a pressure bandage tying it in a bow.
- Elevate the area that contains the wound above heart level.
- Pressure Points
- Find a area near the wound and place pressure there to assist in slowing the blood flow.
Clean The Wound
Second step in taking care of a wound is to clean it. Wounds should be cleaned with clean water when ever possible. Although many people use hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds this is not a good idea because some research has shown that it could be toxic to cell tissues. However, in a pinch, use what ever sterile liquid or saline you might have. Do not scrub the wound!
Apply Dressing and Bandage
Third and final step in taking care of a wound is to dress and bandage it. To minimize infection you want to keep the wound clean and control any bleeding. What is the difference between a dressing and a bandage? Dressing should be sterile and are placed on top of the wound. Bandages are the tape that holds the dressing on top of the wound. Rules of dressings are as follows:
- If there is blood on the dressing that you had already placed there leave the bloody dressing and put fresh sterile dressing over it. You do not want to pull the dressing off while it is still bleeding. Be sure to keep pressure on it and maintain elevation above the level of the heart.
- If there is no blood then any dressing you had put on it can be removed. Irrigate the wound again and check for signs of infection before applying fresh sterile dressing on it.
Signs of Infection
Whether out in the field or safe at home the wound needs to be monitored every 4 to 6 hours for signs of infection. Potential signs of infection include the following:
- Wound area is swelling.
- There is discoloration.
- The wound is leaking or discharging.
- Red striations are found near the area of the wound.
Medical survival skills are a must for everyone. Regardless of when the SHTF, we need to be able to take care of ourselves and our fellowmen and women. Simple skills including but not limited to: treating a burn, cooking, hygiene, and fighting a fire are vital to acquire. If you have a group you can piece out who is going to be responsible for what. However, skills such as cleaning and dressing a wound everybody should know because you never know when you are going to have to use it on your buddy in the woods or even yourself.