First Aid on the Fly, For Immediate Care
As an athlete and now as a coach, I have seen my share of injuries—dislocated patella, concussion, severe nosebleed, avulsion fracture, allergic reaction, lacerations, sprained ankle, broken wrist—the list can go on.
Luckily, most of the time during practices and at meets, a trainer is on duty to care for injuries both big and small. And even when the distance athletes are out on a training run, they are never far from school and are always in a pack or at least pairs. If there is an injury, there is plenty of help.
But what happens if you are injured training for a marathon or are on a trail run far from home base? Those are the times it pays to have at least some basic first aid skills as well as some savvy stand-ins for a well-stocked first aid kit.
Of course, nobody wants to run with a full first aid kit just in case but accidents do happen. If and when they do, it pays to be armed with the knowledge to be able to administer basic first aid to yourself or a running buddy on the fly.
Image by CC0 Public Domain
Strength in numbers
Obviously, running with a group or at least a partner ensures that you will have some level of help if the need arises. Of course, this is not always possible.
Carrying a cell phone with you is the best way to enlist assistance if you need it. In the event of a serious injury, you can easily call someone or 911 for help.
There are some very comfortable ways to wear your phone these days since carrying it in your hand can be unwieldy. Armbands and waist belts are two such options and are available in a variety of sizes, styles and price points.
If you are running where there is spotty or no cell service or you don’t like to carry a phone, leaving a map of your route and the estimated time of your return will at least provide an idea of where you might be located if you don’t arrive home in a reasonable length of time.
Abrasions and lacerations (aka scrapes and cuts)
Who hasn’t fallen one time or another as they were running? Ranging from small and barely bleeding to deep and gushing, depending on the severity, abrasions, and lacerations can be one of the easier injuries to treat while you are on the go. The most important thing is to stop the bleeding. If you can clean the wound site off a bit, that’s a plus but you can give it a more thorough cleaning when you get home.
Any article of clothing—socks, shirts, shorts—or strips of fabric ripped from clothing can be used to stop the bleeding of a minor to moderate scrape or cut. If necessary, a sock can be tied around the body part where the injury is located to maintain pressure on the site and control the bleeding.
In the case of a deep, severe laceration that has hit an artery (characterized by spurting blood), that sock or a shoelace can be used as a tourniquet to control the bleeding.
Sprains or fractures…if it ain’t broke
Sometimes sprains and fractures can be difficult to differentiate without an x-ray. If the injury is to a leg or foot, check to see if you can bear weight on it. If you can bear weight, you will probably be okay to hobble home.
If you can’t bear weight on it, the most important thing is to immobilize the potential fracture with a make-shift splint. Something sturdy like two sticks can be placed on either side of the limb with a sock or shirt tied around it.
Getting back home shouldn’t be too much of a problem if the injury is to the arm or hand. A leg or foot injury is a bit more problematic. You may be able to limp back, even using a large stick for extra support but if the pain is too great and you can’t put any weight on it, here is where running with a buddy comes in handy as he/she can support you on the way back.
If the injury is too traumatic, call 911 from the phone you are wearing in an armband or hip belt.
Photo from Pixabay
The buzz about stings and bites
Most stings and bites are not debilitating enough to impact your run. However, an allergic reaction to a sting or bite can range from mild to severe and in some cases, can be fatal.
Obviously, if you know you are highly allergic and you carry an injectable epinephrine pen, you will want to have that in your waist belt.
Keep in mind that you can develop an allergic reaction even if you have never reacted negatively to a bite or sting before. Monitor your breathing to ensure that it is normal and watch for hives and the bite/sting site for excessive swelling.
Blisters…rubbing you the wrong way
No matter how much you try to break in those new training shoes, blisters on the run can still be an issue. Developing blisters sometimes has more to do with your socks than your shoes and if your socks are wet, that can up the chances that a blister will develop.
Although you might be tempted, don’t pop the blister. This is when it is handy to have a few band-aids stashed in that waist belt, armband or even one of those little pockets on your shorts.
Band-aids will help lessen the friction and so alleviate a bit of the pain at least until you can get home and take your shoes and socks off.
When you get home, apply a little petroleum jelly to the blister and a fresh band-aid.
Out in the open
If you are planning a trail run, stick to the marked trails. This is especially critical if you are going it alone. In the case of a debilitating injury that prohibits you from running or walking, you will be easier to find by friends, family or a rescue crew.
If you can spare an inch
If you do wear a waist belt and there is room for some first-aid supplies, individually packaged antiseptic wipes and a couple of different sizes of bandages are a good idea. Small individual packages of antibiotic ointment may also come in handy.
Hydrocortisone cream for bites and stings also is available in single-use packets and will fit easily in a waist belt or pocket.
Maybe carrying along some first-aid items will be similar to carrying an umbrella in case it rains…when you are lugging it around, the rain never comes. When you don’t have it, it pours.