Treating Common Wilderness Injuries

9 July 2013

It seems that each year expeditions and adventurous activities in challenging wilderness are becoming more and more popular. The simple fact is, many adventurous people like to explore new kinds of terrain, and wilderness environments offer as many thrills and positive experiences as they do challenges and dangers. Still, the prevalence of danger in such environments is the reason that rescue organizations and medical professionals near or within popular wilderness destinations must be well-trained.

No matter how well-trained a nearby professional may be, however, there are many common hazards that can arise in wilderness exploration for which you yourself may be responsible. Certain injuries and inconveniences are quite common, and can become serious issues if you are not properly prepared to handle them. So with that in mind, here are a few common hazards and injuries, and a few words on how you can handle them safely and appropriately.

Skin Lacerations

Certainly one of the most common minor injuries among people trekking through various wilderness environments, skin lacerations can become serious if handled improperly. Skin lacerations should be rinsed with clean water, and any foreign objects or loose dead tissue should be removed from the cut before a bandage is applied. Ideally, you should also carry an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin to apply to the wound before dressing.

Preemptive measure are also significant. In this case, that might mean ensuring that you have an up-to-date tetanus shot before taking off on an expedition.

Eye Irritation

Eye irritation can occur as a result of numerous different factors that are common in wilderness expeditions. Dry climates result in dry eyes, dusty areas can result in small particles irritating your eyes directly, and heavy rain or swimming can sting or pressure your eyes into discomfort. The simple solution after the fact is to have moisturizing eyedrops on hand for the sake of comfort.

Additionally, however, you may want to consider your eyewear as a preemptive measure. Glasses can often be inconvenient on wilderness treks, but some Acuvue contact lenses are designed specifically to keep your eyes moist and comfortable. Additionally, contacts free you up to wear sunglasses, which is recommended for comfort and UV protection when spending extensive time outdoors.

Twisted Ankles

Another very popular injury when trekking through wilderness is a twisted ankle, and unfortunately this is one that’s difficult to overcome on-the-go. Generally, a badly twisted ankle means its time to abandon your adventure at the soonest opportunity so that you can properly address and rest the injury.

When out in the wild, your treatment options will be limited. Most significantly, you likely won’t have access to ice. However, do your best to wrap the ankle for stability and compression, try to rest it as much as possible, and when not moving, position yourself so that the ankle is elevated. Proper treatment involves the “RICE” method – rest, ice, compress, elevate – so try to do all you can until you reach shelter.


One of the most common issues with any extensive outdoor exercise, dehydration is not an “injury” so much as a gradually developing condition. Dry or sticky mouth, coupled with fatigue, headaches, or of course intense thirst, can be a sign that your body is not properly hydrated. In the event that you feel these symptoms, find a cool area to rest and hydrate, and remove extra clothing to help your body to cool off.

Once again, the best treatment is preventative. When spending extensive time outdoors, try to hydrate periodically whether or not you feel particularly thirsty. Keeping a schedule of hydration will help to prevent eventual discomfort.

The 4-Day Expedition That Will Redefine You as a Medical Professional

Sign up to WEM

Sign up to our newsletter