First aid in today's society means simply wrapping up a wound or stabilizing a victim until they can receive serious medical care. In a post-collapse world, it will mean the entire healing process. You likely won't have access to a doctor, so it's in your best interest to get it right the first time. Start your journey with the essential information below.
Some Basics to Survival First Aid
I like to say, “Treat every wound AS IF it were a life threatening one.” ASIF is a mnemonic to help you remember some basic laceration treatment:
A = Amount of Bleeding or Blood Loss. If it is arterial, we must stop the bleed either using a compression bandage or a tourniquet. A compression bandage is easiest to create using an elastic wrap (like an ACE wrap) and a sterile gauze (one or more 4 x 4's or Kerlix or some other type of sterile gauze). Place the gauze directly onto the laceration and apply pressure — or have the victim or a helper apply direct pressure. If possible, elevate the wound while you are doing this. Now wrap your elastic bandage around the gauze, wrapping from distal (closer to the fingers or toes) toward proximal (nearer to the heart) for the first set of wraps. This helps prevent pooling of venous blood in the extremity especially if the wrap is tight. To apply more pressure directly on the wound, turn the elastic wrap one half turn so that the wrap folds over itself right on top of the wound, and keep wrapping. You can repeat this every time you come around to the wound with the wrap.
S = Shock. Where there is an injury of any severity, there will be some type of shock, even if psychogenic shock. Keep the victim reassured, calm, warm and as comfortable as possible. The more reassured the victim is that there is real help, the more his/her body can do what it needs to do most which is focus on healing without major adrenaline, psychological stress and other factors that will negatively affect their physiology of balance.
I = Irrigate. If this is not a life-threatening arterial bleed and it is possible to get into the wound and wash it out, you must do so. In a post-disaster environment, anything that you get cut, stabbed or otherwise injured with is probably filthy. You must clean this wound as thoroughly and as quickly as possible.
F = Functional or Further Damage. If you are able to irrigate this wound, this is the perfect time to inspect the wound for any type of functional damage. Were there tendons, nerves or major vessels cut? What does the damage look like? Can the victim move their fingers and/or toes or whatever is either distal or proximal to the wound?
What about stitches?
Steri-strips are fine. Tight bandaging is fine (within reason). Herbal poultices are great and will help reduce inflammation, pain and can increase tissue proliferation (healing). Suturing a wound in the field, on the other hand, is something to stay away from.
All wounds will show some signs of inflammation, and also will have some degree of infection present. You have to monitor the wound, however, and determine between infection and inflammation.
Redness — Inflammation will create some redness, but infection will usually create more of it (more inflamed tissue area) and will often appear a brighter hue of red.
Swelling — Inflammation will produce swelling as will infection. Swelling from infection is usually due to pus, however, produces a sharp pain if touched, and will drain.
Pain — Inflammation will produce pain that is more “achey” while infection will produce a sharper pain, especially if it hurts while that part of the body is resting, or is an extremely sharp pain when moving it after remaining motionless for some time.
Pus (exudate) — Pus is a sign of infection, not inflammation.
Fever — Fever is a serious sign of infection that is further along than you would ever want it to be in the field.
Streaking — Red streaks that follow along veins, is a sign of serious infection.
Dealing with Infection
The best and most efficient way to clean out infected tissue in an open wound is with activated charcoal. You can buy activated charcoal in capsule or tablet form, or just carry the powder in your first aid kit (we stock our herbal first aid kits with this as well) — which is how I do it.
Make a paste with the charcoal and clean (preferably distilled) water. The charcoal forms a weak bond with water and will pick up anything else in the wound once it is in contact with it. Place a sterile or clean gauze over the top and keep it in place with an elastic wrap or some other manner that works for you. Plan on changing out the charcoal poultice at least every few hours until the wound tissue no longer appears infected.
I do not put the herb directly into the wound generally, but make a poultice out of water and the powdered herb and fold it inside of sterile gauze (like a tea bag, except larger). It is important to use a lot of herb when doing this. Cover the wound area completely and then some. You want the mix of water and herb to drip into and around the wound to assist in wound healing and keep pathogenic bacteria from growing.
One of the most important things you can take away from the survival tips above is that the charcoal used to reduce infection is not standard charcoal out of the fire (although that will help to some extent) but is food-grade activated charcoal. You can buy this in gallon-sized containers, and it will last indefinitely. It's a fantastic investment, and you can even pour it into smaller containers for your first aid kit.
It is also beneficial to learn some medicinal herbs that grow in your area. Don't put off learning this stuff now; you may not have a chance in the future.
If you want to learn more, or would like to read the entirety of the original article, go to Secrets of Survival.