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Wilderness first aid: how to be prepared in the bush

You are likely to deliver at least some bush or wilderness first aid during your camping trip. While the basics might be the same, a remote environment can change how you handle things. If you are in a remote situation:

  • You are almost guaranteed to have no phone network coverage.
  • The closest people could be several kilometres away.

This can be daunting. If you know some wilderness first aid basics, you’ll be more comfortable in these situations. I’ve suggested some things below to help you to prepare for first aid in remote areas.

This information is intended as a general guide only, and I am not a doctor. For specific advice, see your health care professional before you leave on your trip.

Before you leave:

Do a first aid course.

  • Ask your trainer lots of questions about what to do in remote situations.
  • You should receive a first aid manual as part of your course. Take the manual with you on your trip.
  • If you have a smart phone, download a First Aid phone app.

Practise swimming.

If you have kids, get them practising swimming too (or pack quality life jackets).

Play nurses and doctors.

  • Practise bandaging, compression, making up slings.
  • Pretend to undertake CPR and resuscitation on each other. Remind yourself of your compression / breath rates.
  • Get the kids to test you on your first aid knowledge.

This way the techniques will come to hand quickly when you need them most. You'll probably have a fun time practising too!

Happy little camper now!James fell off a bench backwards in Echidna Chasm. He split his head open on a rock and we had to patch him up. Thankfully it wasn't serious and we didn't have to leave early.

During your trip:

  • Always have plenty of food and water. Fill up before you leave each place, even if you don’t think your next destination will be remote.
  • Have a well-stocked camping first aid kit.
  • Practice wrapping bandages on your partner or kids. It is incredible how much “practice makes perfect”.
  • Every now and then, remind yourself of the resuscitation steps and CPR techniques.

When you are in a remote area

  • Know where the closest hospital or medical centre is located, and/or
  • Find out where the closest Royal Flying Doctors Medical Chest is located, and/or
  • Remember the closest place you can get phone or radio service.

Brush up on the first aid you are most likely to need

When in the bush:

Remind yourself of:

  • How to treat snake bites, various spider bites, and insect bites.
  • How to treat cuts, grazes and open wounds.
  • How to splint and bandage limbs.

When on the coast:

Remind yourself of how to treat stings from jellyfish, bluebottles, and other marine stingers.

Wherever you are:

Refresh yourself regularly on:

  • How to recognise and treat overexposure to heat.
  • How to recognise and treat shock.

There's “safety in numbers”.

If you feel really uncomfortable, travel to remote areas with another family or group. This gives you more options in an emergency because you have another vehicle, more people, and shared supplies.

The remote areas of Australia are definitely worth exploring, but sometimes travelling remotely can be a bit intimidating. If you get comfortable with some bush/wilderness first aid basics, it can make you feel much safer and less concerned. Then you can really enjoy the remarkable places off the beaten track!

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› Wilderness first aid