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Medical Tips For Mountaineers

By Dr. David Hillebrandt.
FIMC (Edin). DMM (UIAA).

Here are some great first aid top tips.

First Aid Kits:

Anybody who is active in the hills should carry a small first aid kit. The majority of kits that can be purchased are expensive, bulky and contain unnecessary items. Making up your own is not only cheaper but by putting thought into the contents you have already mentally prepared yourself for an incident and geared the kit to your activity and skills.

Wound Dressings:

Virtually any wound sustained in the hills is dirty and contaminated. Therefore clean, but not sterile, dressings are adequate.
The cheapest and most versatile are 10cm x 10cm non adherent Melolin pads against the wound backed by sanitary towels. Sanitary towels are clean, light, very absorbent and often conveniently packaged in waterproof sachets.

Accident and casualty information:

Well communicated and accurate information is the cornerstone of casualty care in a remote area. If you are involved in a mountain accident, which may involve close friends, you will be scared and upset. Carry a pencil and preprepared accident and casualty report forms in your first aid kit to act as a prompt.
The accident form should be completed before phoning or sending for help. It should include position of accident, number of casualties, possible medical problems, help required.
The Casualty form should be kept with the casualty and include name, age, history of the incident, results of your assessment, details of any medication taken regularly, allergies and past medical problems. It should have a section to monitor the patient over time whilst waiting for help.

International communication:

The simplest type of report form on a patient.s condition is a pictorial outline of a person.  This can then be annotated to indicate areas of pain or possible injury. It is understood regardless of potential language problems.

Heart Attack:

If you come across a person having a suspected heart attack in a remote area you will virtually never do any harm by giving 300mg of soluble aspirin orally. If you are correct in your diagnosis you will dramatically increase their chances of survival.

Broken bones and circulation:

A deformed broken bone can often put pressure on blood vessels and compromise the circulation to the part of the limb away from (distal to) the injury.
If the part of the limb distal to the deformity is cold, has no pulse that can be felt, is blue and mottled and the colour takes much longer than in your own limb to return to normal after you have squeezed it and made it blanche (delayed capillary return) there is a potential problem. If more than an hour from definitive medical help it is worth trying to reduce the pressure on the blood supply by straightening and splinting the limb.
This will hurt the casualty but ultimately they will thank you if you action corrects the problem.

Danger on Mountain Trips:

The most dangerous part of any mountain trip is the drive to the Hills. Rule one at any accident is to protect yourself.  Keep your hill first aid kit handy in the car and supplement it with a cheap yellow reflective tabbard, which you can buy from a bike shop, and your headtorch. You will then be an asset rather than a liability when you come across a road accident.


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