Thursday, July 1, 2010

The folly of first aid pack for the trail runner

Many trail runners will tell you to run with a first aid kit. I'm hear to say that you are wasting your time. Wasting precious time "dressing" you gashed knee with the cotton webril you carried in, when you really should have taken off your t-shirt (a dirtier but much more resilient option) and then been on your cell phone calling for help. Now this no carry isn't a definitive mandate by any means, yet in most situations you are wasting your time carrying in a first aid pack you probably have never opened, never took stock of what's inside, and more or less have no idea what to do with the junk inside anyways.

This command does not apply to races where a first aid kit is a mandatory part of the running kit. These races are typically many day affairs that are minimally aided and happen to be pretty much directed toward the running bad mo's. See the Alaska Iditarod trail race, and not the one with the dogs.

So what's a person to do if they listened to my advice and something does go wrong?
1. Get yourself into a safe position. If you just fell down a cliff and caught yourself on a branch Cliffhanger style, it's not in your best interest to try to mod a tourniquet out of your sock. Get yourself into a safe spot first.
2. Take a deep breath and access the situation.
3. Triage yourself. Control the blood, check for broken bones, be extremely cautious with any neck or head trauma.
4. Call for help. I ALWAYS carry a cell phone with me on trail runs. It's also not a bad idea to carry a whistle. Not a bad idea. And for those western states super adventurous runners, perhaps you can carry a SPOT? Anyone have any thoughts on that?
5. Start to admin first aid with what you have. Let's be honest, neosporin isn't going to take care of the C. Perfringens infection you got from crushing you knee cap, so try just using the water you most likely carried for hydration. Do be careful though, this may be you only water source if your broken in the middle of nowhere. Make wise decisions.
6. Apply good pressure to the wound with any cloth you have convenient. I used my shorts once to stop a massive bleed from a really badly broken nose... You should have something you can use.
7. Don't take any meds unless told to by someone with doctor in front of their name. It's just safer that way.
8. Only make get moving if you are told to by emergency personnel or if you know you are more than screwed.
9. Oh yah, if something is broken, try to splint it with whatever you can get your hands on.

By no means is this a mandate to not carry first aid while trail running. In fact, it's probably smart... Legally at least.
I personally do carry a smattering of tape and a few other first aid supplies, but I'm trained proficiently in what do with them. And let's be honest, if you are reading this blog post to become better informed on first aid, you probably aren't an expert in first aid anyways. Play it smart. If it's a shorter run, not too remote, and you don't really know you're way around a koalin vs von Willebrand factor argument, then maybe you would better off with less weight on your back.

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