First thing’s first

You shouldn’t venture into the unknown without some knowledge of first aid. Time Out gives a basic rundown on how to deal with incidents big and small

Asthma attack

Coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.

Sit the casualty down – do not lie them down. Get them to use their relief inhaler (ventolin or salbutamol), remove any tight clothing especially around the neck and, if inside, ventilate the space. If there’s no improvement, continue to use the inhaler every minute for five minutes or until symptoms improve and call 999 for an ambulance.


A blister is a small pocket of fluid trapped under the surface of the skin. It can be filled with clear fluid, blood and even pus. They usually form when the skin has been damaged, the fluid collects to protect the tissue underneath and cushion it.

Most blisters will heal naturally without intervention. Never burst a blister as this may introduce infection. Cover a small blister with a plaster and a large one with padding and secure in place. If the blister bursts naturally, squeeze out any fluid remaining and clean with cool, boiled water. Dry the area and then apply a sterile dressing.


Pain and tenderness over the site of injury, swelling, bruising, signs of shock in the patient if the injury is severe, difficulty in moving the limb.

Arm: If fracture is open (ie the skin is broken) keep the casualty still, put on gloves if available and apply pressure at side of wound (do not press on the bone). Cover the wound with a sterile dressing, place padding on either side of any protruding bone and secure dressing. If the fracture is closed (the skin is not broken), keep the casualty still. If the injury is to the upper limb the casualty may be able to support the limb in the most comfortable position. This may be all that you can do to help.

Leg: Help the casualty to lie down and provide a steady and comfortable support for their injured leg. Expose and treat the wound if appropriate and apply support above and below the fracture if the casualty will allow you.

Burns and scalds

The skin might be red or pale and waxy. Tenderness and blistering may occur.

Remove any jewellery. If the burn has blistered, then leave the clothing in place and apply cool water through a cloth. Continue treatment as above for blisters. If the burn has not blistered, then remove clothing carefully. Hold under cool, running water for 10 minutes. Cover with a sterile dressing. As a general rule, any person suffering from a burn or scald that is the same size or greater than the casualty’s palm should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Cuts and grazes

Most small cuts and bleeding are easily taken care of with basic first aid. Signs of an infected wound are redness, swelling, tenderness, drainage of pus.

Clean your hands thoroughly and rinse the wound under clean running water or use an alcohol-free wipe. Pat dry the area carefully using a sterile swab or tissue. Cover the wound completely with plaster or adhesive dressing. Evaluate the situation and seek medical attention if you are concerned about risk of infection. Examine the wound daily. If the dressing becomes dirty or wet, remove it and apply a fresh dressing.

Heat exhaustion/dehydration

Caused by severe water and salt loss due to excessive sweating.

Headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, sweating with pale or clammy skin, cramps in arms, legs and abdomen, a rapid and weakening pulse, or shallow breathing.

Move the affected to a cool, shaded place, preferably lying down with legs raised. Monitor the casualty’s vital signs; response, pulse, breathing rate and give them plenty of water (small sips frequently) and, if possible, a rehydration solution (one teaspoon of salt in a litre of water will do). Even if the casualty recovers they must see a doctor as soon as possible.

Insect bites (allergic reaction)

While not a major concern in the UAE, there is a presence of scorpions and certain species of snakes and spiders that are capable of causing a very painful reaction here. Bites and stings can be dangerous, but are rarely fatal, unless the victim suffers from an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are itching, swelling (other than at the site of the sting), shortness of breath, heart palpitation/chest pain, weakness/dizziness, hives.

If there is an anaphylaxis (allergic) reaction, it can be a life-threatening situation and an emergency response is required. Call 999 for an emergency ambulance immediately. If you see a stinger, remove it with caution. Do not use tweezers; take a blunt, flat edge like a credit card and scrape the sting out gently. Do not put pressure on the poison sac if visible. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the area, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.


Deeper cuts or any wound that does not stop bleeding requires urgent medical attention. It can be quite terrifying to see a large amount of blood, but try to stay calm and act quickly to stop the bleeding.

Remove any clothing to expose the wound and apply firm pressure over the wound with your fingers or the palm of your hand over a sterile or clean non-fluffy material. If there is an object protruding from the wound, apply pressure on either side of it. Help the injured person to lie down and raise the injured part to a position of comfort that is higher than their heart. Keep any dressing you have applied and then bandage firmly, but not too tight as to impede circulation. If the first dressing becomes saturated, apply a second pad on top of the first one. Seek medical attention as soon as possible and try to keep the casualty calm, checking for signs of shock.

Get trained

This is only a very basic guide for first aid in the field. Regular adventure seekers are strongly advised to undertake a first-aid training course. Family First tailor courses to individual requirements, and can specialise for those heading out on regular off-roading, hiking and climbing expeditions.
Call Rachel Jex on 050 953 5075 or see

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