How To Deal With Traumatic Injuries In The Field

The most lethal poison known to man is testosterone. It is not by chance that men make up 93 percent of the federal prison population. Most guys, as any woman will tell you, are infantile and self-destructive—sometimes for hours on end.

As a result, men often injure themselves.

It happens to everyone

Here’s an illustration. A 9-year-old scamp out shooting up the countryside with a buddy and an air rifle pushing BBs. Everyone has been there. This young man was hit in the upper arm by a round due to a brief lapse in concentration.

The 4.5mm BB impacted the medial aspect of his right arm above the elbow, traveled the length of his limb, and came to rest on the far side, tenting the skin.

Once you’ve determined that a wound of this type hasn’t damaged anything vital, such as an eye, liver, or brain, the first order of business is to control the bleeding.

In the field, this usually begins with direct pressure. A bandage and direct pressure usually work well for a penetrating trauma to an extremity.

You’ll need to address the specifics of where the projectile is and whether or not it needs to be removed, but that can usually wait for now. To begin, simply wrap the wound tightly and resist the urge to remove it and examine it.

Just keep the pressure on until you have the opportunity to deal with it properly, as long as the bandage is not soaking through.

Check that you can move your digits downstream from the injury. You must also ensure that the major vessels are not disrupted. This includes inspecting the fingers and toes for discoloration. When you release pressure on the nail beds, they should quickly pink up again.

Protecting the wound against infection

infected wound

Clostridium tetanus is a common soil organism. It is related to Clostridium botulinum, the organism that produces botulism toxin, and they are a nefarious gang.

However, acquiring a tetanus infection remains difficult. I have only seen one in my medical career (unfortunately, that man died). A tetanus shot lasts a decade and is available at almost any medical clinic. If you’re serious about prepping and survival, make sure you and your family have up-to-date tetanus shots.

The majority of standard bullets will be hot enough to be sterile. The small patch of clothing and/or skin beneath the bullet’s impact, on the other hand, will invariably be filthy. As a result, I always consider gunshot wounds to be contaminated and treat them with antibiotics accordingly. As soon as possible, clean the wound as thoroughly as possible with soap and water and seek medical attention.

Projectiles can sometimes be easily removed with the most basic of tools. Sometimes retrieval is impossible, and they should be left alone. Indeed, shotgun pellets are notorious for popping out of wounds decades later.

The location of the wound

Knife wounds can appear innocuous or horrifying. The benign appearance of the wound can sometimes conceal the danger lurking within. The depth and location of a knife wound usually determine its criticality.

A brief example: At a construction site, a man was cutting the steel straps of a cube of bricks. The sharp end of the strap recoiled and popped him in the bend of his right elbow, causing a simple laceration in the skin about an inch long.

The brick strap also split the antecubital vein lengthwise, which was a problem. This is the large piece of plumbing where phlebotomists usually draw your blood. Blood poured forth like a torrent as a result. This is one of those situations where a tourniquet comes in handy.

It also helps to have a basic understanding of anatomy. Arteries are high-pressure blood vessels that transport blood away from the heart. They are typically quite deep.

Veins are low-pressure blood vessels that return blood to the heart. They can be quite shallow at times. The man in question, in this case, was remarkably fit, with very little body fat and a lot of muscle.

In the field, an improvised tourniquet on his upper arm was ineffective because it was difficult to compress his upper arm sufficiently to stop the venous return of blood to the wound. I used a makeshift tourniquet above and below the wound to stop the bleeding long enough to repair it.

However, keep in mind that you only use a tourniquet for a short period of time or when losing the limb is preferable to bleeding out.

Making a tourniquet is a simple enough task. I prefer RATS (Rapid Application Tourniquet System). The RATS was created by a US Special Forces soldier and are both simple to use and incredibly effective. Practice with it in times of peace, so you know how it works if you ever need to use it in a real situation. After stumbling around during the preceding case, I ordered a RATS for my treatment room at work.

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Traumatic wounds can be difficult to deal with

Wounds are disgusting sometimes, and you must overcome this mental obstacle. Consume a hearty meal, relax with some after-dinner snacks, and turn on YouTube. Scope out some particularly repugnant wounds or surgeries until you can watch them without feeling sick.

The real world will be very different, especially when it comes to smells and the uniquely visceral sensations that come with dealing with traumatic wounds, but videos are a good place to start.

Here’s another example from real life. A man was exhausted after a long day. He was on a ladder, putting the finishing touches on a light fixture in a new home he was building. Because the fixture was in a garage, the ceiling had to be at least 12 feet high. He worked around the automatic garage door mechanism, using the open door as a shelf to hold his tools.

He lost his balance after shifting his weight slightly and reaching out reflexively to stop his fall. He grabbed the strapping that held up the garage door frame just above the V. As he fell, the angled steel strapping acted like a guillotine, severing the fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand.

Needless to say, the wounds were not neat or clean. Whatever your profession, this would be shocking if it happened to you. However, as with any other emergency, do not panic. Take a deep breath, assess the situation, and take action to move forward: Find or make a bandage, apply pressure, and seek medical attention.

Always bring a basic first-aid kit with you

always bring a basic first aid kit with you

You never know what might happen, and we all know that accidents often happen when we least expect them. This is why it’s important to always have a first kit with you, regardless of where you are going or what your profession is. Here are a few examples of what a basic first-aid kit should contain.

Bandages: Israeli Battle Dressings are my favorite. They can be found on

Something to irrigate wounds: Hydrogen peroxide is inexpensive and widely available. Always remember that pollution can be solved through dilution.

Rubber gloves: Wounds are often times messy, and gloves help you avoid cross-contamination.

Trauma shears: You’ll need to remove any soiled clothing, so these will come in handy. If you don’t have any, at least be sure to carry a decent knife.

Antibiotic ointment: Bacitracin and Neosporin are both available over-the-counter, and you should consider them for your improvised first aid kit.

Hydrocortisone cream: This is recommended for my outdoors enthusiasts because poison ivy is a pain.

Tourniquet: The RATS is a fantastic one, and you shouldn’t leave home without it.

Forceps and/or tweezers: In most real-life scenarios, splinters are more likely than bullets. Note: Before using your tools, clean them with alcohol or peroxide.

Duct tape: cut a few feet from the roll and roll it up tightly. To make a splint, combine it with a magazine.

Sandwich bags: For any severed digits, use these. Alternatively, they can also be used as improvised gloves.


You’re clearly doomed if you get drilled through the chest in the middle of nowhere. Many to most minor traumatic injuries, on the other hand, can be managed—or at the very least improved—with a little levelheaded attention.

Accumulate some well-thought-out first-aid equipment and gain enough experience with the gory aspects of trauma management to be useful in a crisis. When dealing with an injury, keep your cool, don’t panic, and get to work.

This article was submitted by John L. Parks.

Other Useful Resources:

Is your first aid kit outdated? – Here’s what you need to know!

These plants can save your life when medical care is not available

Wilderness First Aid Basics every prepper should know

Surviving dehydration – How to obtain water from air!

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