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Sharp Health News

Wilderness first-aid basics

July 7, 2016

Wilderness first-aid basics

Melody Eues, a registered nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, is an avid hiker and teaches a wilderness first aid basics course. (Photo credit: Duane Eues)

Melody Eues has been a registered nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital for the past two decades. A self-described avid adventurer, world traveler and wilderness explorer, she loves sharing her wilderness knowledge and experience with others.

Since 2008, Eues has been a chapter outings leader for the Sierra Club in San Diego, where she leads hikes as well as camping, bus and backpacking trips. Along with being a wilderness first-aid instructor for the American Red Cross, she is also on staff for the Wilderness Basics Course in San Diego, helping students practice new skills and providing first-aid lectures and training.

Hiking is one of San Diego’s most popular activities, and as the weather warms up, it becomes even more important to take extra precautions to stay safe outdoors. We asked her to share wilderness first-aid basics to prepare you for your next outdoor excursion.

Common mistakes
The most common mistake people make, Eues says, is not bringing enough water. “As a general rule, drink half a liter of water before starting outdoor activities. Understand that in the heat and with physical exertion, your body could need up to a liter of water per hour to stay properly hydrated.”

After hydrating, eat salty snacks and consume electrolyte replacements (available in multiple forms) to protect against hyponatremia, a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. The sodium from the snacks is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water in and around your cells. Don’t forget to pack extra salty snacks and electrolyte replacements.

Wilderness essentials
Before you go out, gain the proper education, training and conditioning for your activities of choice. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Write down your plans for that person and leave emergency numbers to call in case you do not return.

Next, make sure you have these 10 essential items before you depart:

  • Navigation: map and compass or GPS 
  • Sun protection: sunglasses, sunscreen, hat and lip balm 
  • Insulation: extra clothing 
  • Illumination: headlamp or flashlight and spare batteries 
  • First-aid kit 
  • Fire-starting materials: waterproof matches or lighter 
  • Repair kit and tools including a knife 
  • Extra water and food 
  • Emergency shelter: rain gear or poncho and space blanket
  • Communication devices: cell phone, whistle and mirror

One essential item — the first-aid kit — should have waterproof compartments to protect contents from outdoor elements. Eues recommends packing these items in your first-aid kit:

  • Personal medications (bring extra in case your excursion is longer than expected) 
  • Latex-free gloves 
  • Antiseptic wipes 
  • Sterile dressings and adhesive bandages 
  • Sunscreen with SPF 30 or more 
  • Moleskin or blister pads 
  • Emergency blanket  
  • Pocket knife with scissors and tweezer 
  • Electrolyte supplements 
  • Anti-inflammatory medication 
  • Antihistamines 
  • Anti-diarrheal medication 
  • Antibiotic ointment 
  • Hemostatic gauze (blood clotting) 
  • Medical tape

However you choose to spend your time outdoors, remember the wilderness is yours to enjoy and experience — so get out there and have fun. Always be conscious to preserve and respect our wild places, leaving only footprints and taking only pictures.

For the media: To talk with Melody Eues about wilderness first-aid basics, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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