When out in the wild and a companion falls into the fire and gets injured very badly. How can I aid his wounds? Would be great to hear from some possible herbs (natural materials in general) but common camping equipment is also "allowed".

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    This is a tough question. The best answer is "get help" however possible. If the burns are really that bad and cover a percentage of the body, the burn victim has a great chance of going into shock. If the burns are 3rd degree you also run into the possibility of infection which is deadly, especially when the body is in a weakened state and possibly in shock from being burned. If the burns are 1st degree or even second degree, cool mud can help keeping it cool and help with the pain. Herbs aren't universal, but keeping the victim warm and everything clean and as sterile as possible are key. – Escoce Dec 3 '15 at 16:27
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    As someone who's too dense to reapply sunscreen and too comfortable with fire to be afraid, I've had my share of burns. As far as treatment goes, rehydrating the burned area is priority #1 (third degree burns are different). I have had much better luck submerging the burned area in cool water for a time dependant on the severity of the burn than I have with aloe or a variety of other treatments, with the notable exception of burn cream. That stuff is magical. There is little help for third degree burns, as there is usually irreversible damage. Get emergency help immediately. – Zach L Dec 3 '15 at 18:33
  • @Zach -Good points for minor burns, but "fall into a fire and injured very badly" is not something you put stuff on to fix. – user5330 Dec 3 '15 at 20:35
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I've been out in the woods with companions who have suffered severe burns. You first priority is to relieve the pain, you accomplish this by removing the heat from the burn. Cool clean water is your best friend for the first few hours at least, have the victim stick his hand in a cool clean lake or stream. I say cool water, not cold water. If the water is too cold then your companion will not benefit from it as much, because the cold will also cause pain, and they will not be able keep the burn under water. Depending on where the burn is, and what time of year it is, hypothermia may be a concern while trying to cool a burn if you have to remove clothing, in which case you may need to consider using a cool wet cloth and apply it to the wound,continuously re-soaking it as frequently as necessary. Keep the burn cool, but keep the victim warm.

Your primary concern with burns is infection, if you are only a few hours or a single days journey away from help, then this is less of a worry, but if you are deep in the back country, then you need to be careful to keep the burn area clean. Hopefully you have some sterile bandages in your first-aid kit, and shame on you for going on an expedition unprepared if you don't.

There are some natural remedies for treating burns, you want to find plants that have antibiotic properties such as:

  • Yarrow
  • Cedar
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Oak bark
  • Whatever is indigenous to your area (some research required on your part).

We have lots of yarrow where I'm from, so it's always the go-to plant.

You need to learn how to prepare them too, so that you can take advantage of their useful properties. Yarrow is easy, you just crush it up with a little bit of water and apply the paste, with stings and bug bites you can just chew it to make a paste, but with burns, saliva is one of the quickest ways to introduce bacteria into a wound.

Teas are good as well, they aren't as effective as placing an ointment directly to the wound, but drinking teas made from plants with antibiotic properties is kinda like taking penicillin, it puts those antibiotics into your bloodstream. Making tea is also a lot easier than preparing a salve or ointment, less risky too, an inexperienced medicine man could do more damage than good playing witch-doctor in the woods with rudimentary tools.

The best piece of advice I can offer you is to BE PREPARED before going out into the woods, and bring what you would need in your first-aid kit to treat a bad burn should anything happen to one of your company.


Edit from Comments:

Apparently there are some people under the impression that yarrow looks similar to poison hemlock. The reality is that their leaves look absolutely nothing alike. Yarrow is a very easy herb to identify. See the images below.

Yarrow:
enter image description here

Poison Hemlock:
enter image description here

  • 3
    The only problem with yarrow is that it has a poisonous lookalike: hemlock which is indistinguishable unless you've shown both side by side and have committed it to memory. A lot of other herbs look like yarrow as well but may not confer much benefit, such as carrots, Queen Anne's lace, parsley, coriander and others in the same family. – Escoce Dec 3 '15 at 20:21
  • I didn't think about raspberry leaves, they are acidic and that's very good. What about relatives like blackberry and wine berry? – Escoce Dec 3 '15 at 20:22
  • @Escoce Blackberry I know for sure, it just doesn't grow around where I'm from. – ShemSeger Dec 3 '15 at 21:05
  • @Escoce Hemlock is not native to Canada, and I can't say I've ever seen any growing in the Canadian Rockies before. But looking at pictures, I can't find any similarities. For one, hemlock has leaves, yarrow grows around here like tiny little ferns that look like feathers, or like a moths antenna. The two are very distinguishable. besides, I would never recommend anyone use an herb they are not familiar with, and cannot positively identify. If you don't know what yarrow is, learn how to identify it before you try using it. – ShemSeger Dec 3 '15 at 23:14
  • I think you need to take a look at mature plants. All the carrot family plants look almost identical if you don't already know what they are. When they are immature I challenge anyone to be able to distinguish between many of them. – Escoce Dec 3 '15 at 23:15

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