It’s not an uncommon event. You’ve got ski edges that recently enjoyed the caress of your file — in fact, they resemble the edge of a Samurai sword. You take a beater, and instead of carving snow said ski edge rips through your flesh like oversize weasel teeth enjoying a meal of raw chipmunk. It’s bad (the kind of hole you look into and say “ewwwww”), but you can probably still ski or walk and not need a rescue. What now? What if your first aid supply inventory starts and ends with duct tape?
This morning I posed those questions to Buck Tilton, co-founder of the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and author of numerous books about first aid and associated backcountry subjects.
Buck’s take was this:
First, Buck told me, you’ve got to get a close look at the wound and make it accessible for treatment. That might seem basic, but it is common for people to try and deal with cuts while fooling around with nearby clothing. If the cut’s not bleeding too bad, you then let it bleed a bit to help clean it out, and flush with water. If the patient is bleeding profusely, you’d of course need to control that first by using direct pressure, elevation, and perhaps a pressure point (see first aid books for details.)
Buck mentioned that using regular drinking water for cleaning is fine if that’s all you’ve got (though sterile water is of course the ideal). Interestingly, he also said cleaning with things like iodine solution can damage tissues and slow healing, and thus plain water might always be the best alternative.
Finally, get out that duct tape, cut it into thin strips, and close the cut as neatly as possible by placing the strips across the cut. Then cover with the cleanest thing you can come up with. Limp out of the mountains and see a doctor immediately, as you may need stitches or antibiotics.
If the bleeding is serous and won’t stop, you of course need extreme measures. That stuff is tricky and best learned in a wilderness first aid class. Do you have first aid education? If not, consider taking a course from WMI, contact them for details. Buck wrote THE book, Wilderness First Responder. Every backcountry traveler should study it.
10. Jump start a car without blinding yourself.