Also known as lacerations and abrasions, cuts and scraps are pretty routine fare around camp. In fact, these are probably the most common outdoor injuries of all, so it's good to have some knowledge and experience related to handling cuts and scrapes.
Unless the injury is serious enough to result in major bleeding, the biggest threat is contamination that leads to infection and possible blood poisoning. If the injury is relatively minor, a bit of blood flow from the wound helps flush away bacteria, so don’t be afraid to wash the injury and let it bleed a bit.
But, don’t let a gusher flow. Blood loss is a major threat to life, and if there is a lot of bleeding it must be stopped immediately. Use direct pressure on the wound to plug the dyke. Other methods include indirect pressure (held against pressure points — see illustration) and elevation of the injury to reduce circulation to the wound. When the bleeding is under control, dress the wound with a sterile compress held in place by bandaging material.
Taking stitches is a pretty daunting task, best left to the pros. Stitches have only three purposes:
- to bring the flesh together to help prevent infection
- to speed healing
- and to reduce scarring
The fastest, easiest and safest field treatment is to use butterfly bandages, instead of needle and thread, to accomplish all of these purposes.
- Flush the wound thoroughly with clean water
- Use an alcohol wipe to clean the skin adjacent to the injury (being careful not to get it into the wound)
- Then draw the sides of the cut close together and apply the bandages. Place the bandages close enough together to seal the laceration tightly.
Those who spend time in the outdoors, away from the instant response time of the local ambulance crew, should take a first aid course. Check with your local fire and ambulance department for information about courses in your area.