Accidents and mishaps while exploring the great outdoors of the USA are usually minor and easy to treat. But every once in a while, you end up needing to know how to administer CPR in distinctly tricky conditions. Since slips and falls account for 50% of the reasons for hiking deaths, which average 100-150 people annually in the USA, knowing crucial CPR wilderness tips for Colorado Springs adventurers is a must when venturing out in the wild.
Wilderness CPR vs. Urban CPR
Wilderness CPR is a far cry from performing CPR in an urban environment. Even those trained in CPR in city conditions will find it challenging to figure things out in a wilderness setting. Several critical factors greatly influence CPR outdoors and present a challenge even for professional first responders specifically trained for those conditions.
The primary thing you must consider is that no help will reach you and a potential victim in the time it takes to arrive in an urban environment. Even with helicopters, the average response time for wilderness rescues in the US depends on the terrain and how far you are from civilization. Still, the response time in these situations is hours rather than minutes in urban settings.
Terrain is the number one limiting factor in both the physical administration of CPR, and the response time of emergency services. Apart from the uncomfortable and potentially unsafe environment, finding a flat, firm surface may be challenging, which is crucial to performing successful CPR. On top of this, consider extreme weather conditions in the wild outdoors and other physical hazards like falling rocks or unstable ground.
Unless you are a survivalist prepared for everything, including bringing an AED, you will only have your body to administer CPR, that is, if you are not injured as well. Resources to prevent bleeding, stabilize fractures, etc, which significantly improve a victim’s survival chances, are also scarce.
Malfunction of communication gear, like phones and radios, falls under this category. And if you don’t have the resources to call emergency services, you usually cannot count on bystanders to help, as most people around you will likely be in the same situation. Moreover, CPR training is not a mandatory part of the curriculum in Colorado schools, albeit a requirement for many jobs and workplaces. So, chances are high that the few people present will have little to no knowledge of how to render assistance.
Wilderness CPR Techniques: Tips and Tricks
While the gist of CPR remains the same regardless of terrain or environment, the methods of administering CPR, approaching a victim, and handling the aftermath of successful resuscitation are different when you’re in the wild.
The goal of CPR is to restart the heart by way of compressions on the chest, using your arms to press and your upper body to make sure the compressions are powerful enough. After every set of 30 compressions, you should provide 2 mouth-to-mouth breaths to ensure the lungs have air. The aim is to keep repeating this cycle until the unresponsive person has a heart rhythm again.
In terms of wilderness CPR tips that may save a life, here is what Colorado Springs adventurers should be prepared to do when venturing out:
CPR in the wild begins with assessing the situation. You can’t just jump in and start compressions; you must assess the victim first and consider the terrain.
If the person is not breathing and has no heartbeat, you should start CPR immediately. To assess this, you must first see if the person responds to your verbal communication before checking their pulse and breathing. In the case of severe bleeding, a heart attack, or a severe asthma attack, for example, you should presume the chances are high that the person will need CPR imminently.
Clearing the Terrain
Wherever possible, move the victim to stable ground, looking for a surface that is firm and as close to flat as possible. You can use backpacks or other gear to level out rugged terrains and improvise a flat, firm surface.
Before commencing chest compressions, remove backpacks and similar gear that might get in the way of the victim. They need to be lying with their back on the ground, head straight, and you need to ensure their airways are clear before starting compressions.
If you feel unsafe giving direct mouth-to-mouth breathing, use a bandana, scarf, or piece of clothing over the victim’s mouth before blowing into their chest.
Utilizing Human Resources
If you are not alone, assign one of the people around to call for emergency services immediately. If modern electronic means of communication don’t work, alternative methods like fire, mirrors, shouting, etc. will have to be employed.
Ideally, you would have a replacement in another CPR-trained person, given that you cannot stop administering help until emergency services arrive, which could take hours.
Stay Safe First
Stay wary of the weather conditions—extreme heat or cold affects the victim and the person exerting effort to perform CPR. Ensure you’re taking care of yourself; otherwise, you and the victim might be in danger.
Altitude is also a factor, as the air is thinner the higher you go, meaning you get tired more easily and utilize oxygen less efficiently. All this can impact your performance and the quality of your CPR technique. Whenever moving someone is safe, and CPR is not immediately required, try to move to lower altitudes.
Potential Colorado Springs Wilderness CPR Emergencies
The Colorado Springs backcountry is rich in outdoor activities that attract a lot of adventurers throughout the year. During warm weather, hiking, mountain biking, cave exploration, waterfall excursions, and whitewater rafting are popular among those venturing out for wilderness activities. In the winter months, skiing takes the primate, with a multitude of different slopes available.
These activities are physically demanding and take place in locations away from civilization. This means that if someone falls ill suddenly, it can quickly turn into a potentially life-threatening situation.
Some CPR emergencies are more common than others, given the natural settings in which Colorado Springs is situated and the outdoor activities it has to offer to adventurers:
Cardiac arrest is the most prevalent reason for the administration of CPR – the heart stops pumping. Chest compressions given in a timely manner are crucial if the person in distress has any chance of survival.
Cardiac arrest can be the result of plenty of accidents in the Colorado Springs outdoors, from heart attacks and severe bleeding to electrocution and hypothermia.
There are different types of shock, but two that may affect the heart and lungs in a life-threatening manner are hypovolemic shock and anaphylactic shock.
Hypovolemic shock is another way of describing massive blood loss, which leads to dangerously low blood pressure and, eventually, cardiac arrest. You need to contain any bleeding before administering CPR, or you may make things worse for the victim.
Anaphylactic shock occurs due to severe allergies and causes intense swelling of the upper respiratory tract, which can prevent air from entering the lungs. Epi-pens are crucial in opening up the airways and allowing your CPR effort to bear fruit.
Strokes are almost always surprising and can result in a person going into cardiac arrest when larger blood vessels are in question. It is best to learn how to recognize the signs of stroke to be prepared to administer immediate help and even CPR if required.
Trauma in wilderness settings can result from many things, from falls and avalanches to animal attacks and side effects of extreme weather conditions like high winds or wildfires.
Trauma usually results in cardiac arrest, either by direct trauma to the thorax, which affects the heart and/or lungs, a head injury, or severe bleeding. This usually leads to cardiac arrest or respiratory distress, which are CPR emergencies.
It is a somewhat rare occurrence, but given the number of lightning strikes in the Colorado Springs vicinity in summer, it is definitely something to consider. Cardiac arrest from electrocution by lightning needs to be addressed immediately via CPR.
When the body’s temperature falls dangerously low, it tries to protect the brain, lungs, and heart by shutting down everything non-essential, including consciousness. Once a hypothermic person becomes unconscious, though, cardiac arrest is not too far away.
The usual culprits for hypothermia are getting lost in winter conditions, skiing accidents, avalanches or falling in cold water, and not removing soaked clothes.
Drowning results in cardiac arrest through oxygen deprivation, given that the lungs fill with water instead of air. Compressions help stimulate the heart and expel some of the liquid from the lungs. Drowning is the only CPR emergency where 5 mouth-to-mouth breaths are administered first, followed by a set of 30 chest compressions.
Traversing the Colorado Springs wilderness is all fun and games until someone slips and falls, you come across an aggressive animal or sudden severe weather strikes. In the wake of such catastrophes, someone might need immediate CPR, so getting certified to administer it in wilderness settings is essential before venturing out.
CPR in the wild is different than in urban settings, and you need to be aware of key wilderness CPR tips, tricks, and procedures that can make the difference between life and death.