As spring turns to summer, we’re all eager to get outside and have some fun in the great outdoors. This calls for a short refresher on common campsite injuries and how to prevent them, as well as some general tips for keeping you and your family safe this summer.
Common Weather-Related Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Some of the most common, yet unexpected, camping injuries are related to the weather. The good news is heat stroke, dehydration, frostbite, sun poisoning and sunburns are all preventable! Prevention all boils down to being prepared. We know that Washington weather can change from minute to minute and the summer weather is no exception! We’ve all been surprised by a sudden downpour after a hot, sunny morning and these changes can only be more severe in the mountains. While you don’t have to go overboard and dig out your snow shoes, you should plan on bringing warm, waterproof clothing even if you don’t think that you’ll need it. Likewise, make sure to wear clothing that is comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking, and protective against the sun’s harsh rays. Dressing in layers will never fail you out in the wild!
Additionally, it is smart to wear sunscreen and reapply it throughout the day. You can get a sunburn even on a cloudy day, and needless to say, sunburns of every degree are uncomfortable and painful. Be sure to stay hydrated and watch for signs of overheating, as well.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll be at risk for frostbite in the warmer months, it will give you peace of mind to be prepared for any situation. If you or someone around you is showing signs of frostbite, rely on body heat to remedy the situation before taking them to the hospital.
Be Wary of Flora and Fauna
Poison ivy, poison oak, bug bites…they can happen to anyone! Learn to identify poison ivy and poison oak beforehand. Remembering the old scout saying: “Leaves of three, let it be,” is also helpful. Simple, but effective! If you are unlucky enough to experience a rash from poisonous plants or bug bites, a corticosteroid cream (like Cortizone) can help soothe itching and discomfort. Of course, if the rash is severe or too painful to bear, it is best to seek expert medical help right away.
Keeping your tent and sleeping bag zipped at all times is a very effective way to keep unwanted critters out. It’s likely that you’ll run into a snake or spider at some point, but you don’t want that to be when you’re tucking in for the night. If you suspect you were bitten by a large insect or snake, look for puncture holes rather than a rash or swollen bite. Be wary of clamminess, confusion, nausea, head pain, and drowsiness, especially if you think you’ve been bitten. Seek medical help right away if you or someone in your party experiences these symptoms!
Campsite Wounds and Injuries
It is very easy to be injured out in the wilderness especially if you aren’t used to those surroundings. Unsteady ground, sharp rocks, open fires, campsite debris, and increased use of sharp tools are all accidents waiting to happen! If there is an open wound, be sure to clean the wound (ideally with individually-wrapped alcohol prep pads or other sterile materials) and apply pressure with a clean cloth or gauze. It is essential to have a well-stocked first aid kit in case of these kinds of emergencies.
In the unfortunate case that there is a broken bone or fracture, it is extremely important to stabilize the fracture with a splint or small stick if you do not already have one in your kit. Being able to tell the difference between simple and compound fractures is helpful, too. Simple fractures often present as swollen, discolored, and immobile, while compound fractures involve pierced and broken skin. Do not apply pressure to fractures, even if there is bleeding. Make the fracture as clean as possible and seek medical attention immediately.
While the outdoors might seem like a scary, dangerous place, do not be afraid! Be prepared instead. By planning ahead and packing with emergencies in mind, you will be able to remain safe while having fun. Keep an eye out for more safety tips here on our blog!