DISCLAIMER: The following information is not intended, nor should it be assumed to be, a substitute for formal training in First Aid treatment and procedures. This information is presented to raise awareness of some medical conditions which can arise on canoeing, camping or hiking trips so that participants may better prepare themselves for all eventualities. The information presented is not intended to replace advice or instructions given by trained professional medical personnel. Information herein is gleened from various professional medical resources including the US Navy On-line Hospital web site, the American Red Cross web site and other reliable resources. It must be realized that improper or inadequate treatment of injuries can result in damages that sometimes are greater than doing nothing at all. Whenever possible and practical the assistance of trained, professional medical personnel should be summoned to administer treatment for serious injuries. The nature of outdoor recreation is such that injuries sometimes occur in remote areas far from available professional assistance. The information in this section is intended to be a helpful guide for treatment of injuries in such cases when getting professional help is not immediate and the nature of the injuries requires prompt attention. Marc McCord is not a trained medical practitioner, and makes no claim of expertise in treatment of injuries. Marc McCord and Southwest Paddler are not responsible for improper treatment of injuries and resulting damages that may occur.
Sometimes, paddlers encounter biting animals such as dogs, cats, raccoons, skunks, rats, bats, or a number of other animals that may exist in areas on or near rivers. Animal bites can be very serious, and can sometimes lead to crippling diseases or death. Rabies is one of the worst diseases that can be acquired from animal bites, especially in the wilderness, and its treatment is costly and painful. Wild animals should generally be observed, but not approached whenever possible. Pets taken along on river trips should be restained to prevent them from confrontations with diseased animals.
In the event an animal bite is suffered the following steps should be taken to reduce injury:
1. Control bleeding using direct pressure and by elevating the wound (do NOT use a tourniquet except as a measure of last resort);
2. Wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water, rinse, then apply a sterile bandage;
3. Transport victim to the nearest medical facility as promptly as possible.
If you must kill an attacking animal after a bite is suffered, then DO NOT damage its head - instead, remove the head carefully, place it in a sealed plastic bag, and bring it to the medical facility along with the victim. In the case of rabies the brain must be examined to determine the presence of the disease so that appropriate treatment may begin as soon as possible. Rabid animals act irrationally, display a general fear of water (hydrophobia) and may exhibit foaming around the mouth, depending upon the stage of development of the disease within them.