Getting outdoors is a great way to bond with your kids. Whether you’re hiking, biking, rock climbing or swimming, there are plenty of ways to include your children in your adventures.
However, getting outside with your kids can also be dangerous – even deadly. According to an interview with National Park spokesperson Jeremy Barnum reported by The Washington Post, up to six people die in national parks every week.
The good news? Preparation goes a long way when it comes to enjoying the outdoors safely with your children. Below, we break down four first aid processes that every outdoor enthusiast parent should know before taking to the trail.
Blisters are one of the most common outdoor injuries your child will sustain. Preventing a blister is critical, so encourage your children to break in any hiking boots or outdoor shoes over a few weeks. Most importantly, choose comfortable shoes and wear thick socks.
However, if the blister is unavoidable, there are ways to treat this common injury. Children’s National Hospital offers the following tips for treating pediatric blisters:
- Wash the area with soap and water
- Keep the blister cool and dry
- Apply an ice pack or a cool pack if your child is uncomfortable
- Place a bandage on the blister if it bursts
- Watch for warmth, swelling, redness, drainage, pus, or pain – these are all signs of an infection
- Seek medical attention if an infection has occurred
Allergic reactions can occur from all sorts of things you’d encounter on a trail. So, if you (or one of your children) have severe allergies, adding an Epipen in your first aid kit is essential. But, first, it’s essential to know how to use this medication. Administer the Epipen by:
- Holding your child’s leg steady
- Injecting the medication into the middle of the upper leg, through clothing if necessary (do not inject anywhere else)
After the injection, be sure to speak to your primary healthcare provider for appropriate follow-up care.
Hypo- and Hyperthermia Processes
Hypothermia and hyperthermia are two of the most common injuries adults and children receive when they spend time outdoors. But what are the protocols for treating hypo- and hyperthermia? We’ll start with hypothermia or when the body gets too cold. According to the hiking experts at Hillwalk Tours, signs of hypothermia include:
- The ‘Umbles’: watch for anyone who is stumbling, mumbling, fumbling and grumbling. All of these ‘umbles’ are signs of hypothermia.
- Sudden temperature changes: if your child suddenly stops shivering and isn’t cold anymore (and hasn’t been running around warming themselves up), call mountain rescue immediately.
- Extreme tiredness: anyone at risk of hypothermia should not sleep. Once consciousness is lost, chances of survival are only at 50 percent.
Preventing hypothermia is all about preparedness. Plan according to light and temperature but be conservative. Children often can’t go as far as adults, and they won’t have any stamina when under duress. Know your route so that stops are infrequent and make sure you have adequate clothing. Keep yourself as dry as possible and ensure that most (if not all) clothing is waterproof.
Hyperthermia is the opposite of hypothermia – the process that the body undergoes as it overheats. Therefore, identifying the signs of hyperthermia is essential. The body undergoes three distinct changes: first, your child will have muscle cramping. At this stage, encourage your child to drink water and maybe take a rest. It’s tempting to dismiss this early sign, but if left unattended, your child will then develop heat exhaustion, which can include the following symptoms:
- Profuse sweating
- Headaches, severe cramps and nausea
- Profuse sweating that suddenly stops (seek medical advice immediately)
- The ‘umbles’ will begin at this stage
Contact mountain rescue if any of these signs occur.
Sprains and Other Serious Injuries
While most outdoor injuries for children are minor, there are times when you’ll need to be more prepared. We always recommend heading out on an adventure with a comprehensive first aid kit (TacMed Solutions has some great options). We’ve broken down the treatment of some more trail-related severe injuries below:
- Severe cuts and scrapes: the experts at Outdoors recommend applying direct pressure on the wound with gauze or a clean piece of cloth. Elevate the injury, and remove any foreign matter once bleeding subsides. Clean the wound with water and dry with sterile gauze. Dry the wound, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover the injury with a sterile dressing. Change the dressing every twelve hours and keep an eye out for any signs of infection.
- Sprains: ankle sprains are a prevalent injury for children. If you think your child has sprained their ankle, encourage them to rest on the trail and apply ice if possible. Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may need to use a splint. A splint immobilizes the joins and bones above and below the sprain site to prevent the injured bone from damaging other parts of the body near the injury. Only apply a splint to a fresh wound. If your child requires a splint, contact medical personnel for treatment immediately.
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to safety. Happy hiking!
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