Keeping kids safe outdoors encompasses a range of responsibilities for parents, from packing the appropriate food and clothing and carrying a first aid kit, to teaching your children how to swim and to always wear a life jacket when boating.
"You must have a good first aid kit," said Susan Elderkin, communications director at the Washington Trails Association, a Seattle-based advocacy organization for hikers.
Prepacked kits that are available through camping-supply retailers are OK for most people, Elderkin said. That way, you can avoid having to buy a bunch of 4x4 gauze bandages when you only need four in your kit.
In addition, a basic first aid class or a wilderness first aid course is helpful, she said. Elderkin recently blogged about the topic of first aid kits at wta.org.
Elderkin said parents should ask for assistance on the trail if they can't handle a situation.
"Hikers are a helpful bunch," she said.
Still, parents can feel overwhelmed if their children are stung by a bee or suffer a deep cut or an apparent broken bone on a remote trail.
Most firefighters and EMTs say that in general, it is a good sign if a child is walking around and crying. It's a child that is listless or cannot stand that is of most concern.
According to emsonline.net, a website used to train firefighters in pre-hospital medical care, someone who needs immediate care is unable to stand or sit; is having difficulty breathing; seems confused; or whose skin is pale, cold and clammy or flushed, hot and dry; has a pulse that is irregular, weak, rapid or slow.
If someone in your hiking party suffers a serious injury, or if you need help handling a situation, call 911 as soon as you have phone service. It helps to be able to give rescue personnel a general description of your location.
Here is some basic first aid advice for common trailside injuries:
Bleeding: A cut or scape should be rinsed free of dirt and cleaned with antiseptic, then bandaged. Direct pressure and heavy bandaging is required for deep cuts that bleed heavily. A wound that won't stop bleeding requires immediate medical intervention.
Broken bones/sprains: Indications of a possible broken bone are obvious deformity, tenderness and an inability to move or put weight on the injury. Apply ice and give an over-the-counter pain reliever. Remove restrictive clothing and immobilize the affected joint with a splint or bandaging.
Insect bites, stings: First, move to a safe area to avoid being bitten or stung again. For bee stings, gently scrape the stinger loose with a credit card. Apply ice, a topical ointment and an over-the-counter pain reliever.
A bee sting is only a serious issue if it's followed by an allergic reaction that causes facial swelling and difficulty breathing or swallowing. Carry an Epi-Pen if someone in your hiking party is allergic. Consult a physician for an Epi-Pen prescription to carry as insurance if you child has never been stung before.
Sunburn: Apply ice and give an over-the-counter pain reliever. Aloe vera or moisturizing lotion help relieve pain, as will a clean towel dampened with cold water.
For parents who want their children to learn to swim, lessons are available in Bellingham at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center and the Whatcom Family YMCA. Contact the Y at whatcomymca.org or 360-733-8630 or the aquatic center at cob.org/services/recreation/aquatic or 360-778-7665.
THE 10 ESSENTIALS
The 10 Essentials for the outdoors were first described in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a hiking and mountain climbing club. Hikers should practice with their equipment and learn to use it before an emergency arises.
1. Navigation (map and compass)
2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
5. First-aid supplies
6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition (extra food)
9. Hydration (extra water)
10. Emergency shelter
Hikers are urged to supplement the 10 Essentials with:
Portable water purification system and water bottles;
Repair kit, including duct tape and basic sewing materials;
Signaling devices such as a whistle, cell phone, two-way radio, satellite phone, unbreakable signal mirror or flare;
Plastic tarp or space blankets and rope for expedient field shelter.
SOURCE: REI, WASHINGTON TRAILS ASSOCIATION