Understanding First Aid

When no professional medical help is available, survivors have to undertake medical tasks which should normally be left to those with special training.

Traditional first-aid procedures are designed to cope with minor problems and to sustain a seriously injured person until they can receive expert treatment. However, if there is no possibility of outside help in time to save a life, the survivor may sometimes have to take drastic measures. Some of the advice given in this section is intended ONLY for such circumstances.

In the treatment of diseases and disorders the experience of centuries of herbal treatments and natural remedies can be put to good use, when no prepared drugs are available – or to reserve supplies for more serious need. Herbal medicines given here use only simple methods of extraction and preparation.


Maintaining health is of primary importance to the survivor. Do not take any unnecessary risks which could lead to injury. Aim at a varied and balanced diet and make sure that you get adequate rest.

In the initial stages of the survival situation none of these may be possible but, once you have a camp established, food sources and water found, a disciplined approach will enable you to conserve energy and resources. Away from people, you are not exposed to contagious infections, unless you brought them with you. Although some diseases are insect- or waterborne, sensible precautions – especially boiling water and properly cooking food – will protect you from many infections.

Extreme climatic conditions bring their own dangers and an awareness of symptoms will help you to treat yourself and others. Inexperience or ill-luck may lead to injury, however careful you are, and an understanding of practical first aid – improvising where medical equipment is not available – is a basic survival skill. In accident situations such improvisation may be the first key to survival for those involved, when rapid action is essential. Any expedition should have at least one person with suitable specialized medical knowledge – but EVERYONE should know how to deal with basic injuries, disorders and diseases.


In an accident involving many injured people you must know which patients to treat first. When a patient has multiple injuries, breathing, heartbeat and bleeding should be given priority. Assess the injuries and handle in the following sequence:

  • Restore and maintain breathing/heartbeat
  • Stop bleeding
  • Protect wounds and burns
  • Immobilize fractures
  • Treat shock

NOTE: Before approaching any accident victim, check for danger to yourself and protect yourself from it. Look out for electric cables, gas pipes, falling debris, dangerous structures or wreckage. Give initial check-up without moving the patient, if possible, but – if there is continuing danger – move the patient and yourself to a safer location.