Many of the operations hereinafter described can be performed with extemporized materials; but antiseptics and sterilized dressings, ready at all times for instant use, are so essential in the treatment of wounds and other injuries, that every wise traveler will carry on his person some sort of first-aid packet. Even if this be nothing more than one of the Red Cross dressings for small wounds and a few antiseptic tablets, sealed up in a waterproof and greaseproof envelope, which weighs practically nothing and takes up hardly any room, it may make all the difference between a quick cure and long suffering or death from blood-poisoning. The pocket emergency case that I mentioned on page 103, along with a soldier's first-aid packet for major injuries, are sufficient to give emergency treatment in any case, yet the two together weigh less than half a pound and can bp carried in a coat Docket.
Roller bandages are not recommended, save to men already trained to use them properly. Anybody, on the other hand, can apply the small ready-to-use Red Cross dressings, and adhesive plaster for strapping them on where they cannot be tied. For large wounds, the triangular bandage in a soldier's packet is easy for anyone to use, as there are cuts and directions printed on it showing how to apply it to any part of the person.
A roll of adhesive plaster (zinc oxide plaster) is almost indispensable; but never apply it directly to a wound—first cover the hurt with a sterilized pad.
Court plaster, although the commonest of first-aid dressings, is the poorest. It is likely to be surgically unclean, and has no antiseptic properties, but, on the contrary, it seals up the wound so as to confine whatever germs may have invaded it—the very worst thing it could do, for it defeats Nature in her effort to get rid of the poison by suppuration. Flexible collodion ("new skin") is likely to do the same thing, unless the cut or abrasion is first sterilized with a strong antiseptic.
Never turn a compress (or other dressing) over and use the other side; it is infected.
Such dressings, however, are not enough in themselves to cleanse wounds and keep them free from infection. A supply of some good antiseptic is indispensable in the kit. Those commonly used in domestic practice are either bulky liquids, impracticable on a "go-light" trip, or ineffective powders, like boric acid, that are only soothing, not really germicidal.
Mercury bichloride (corrosive sublimate) is a powerful agent, but it is so corrosive that it does not make fit solutions in metal vessels, which are all that a woodsman or explorer has. Besides, it J is a deadly poison. Carbolic acid in solution is too bulky, and the full-strength liquid is mean to carry on a rough trip.
Hitherto I have recommended iodine; but a bottle of it will make a sad mess of things if it leaks or breaks; an ampule in the pocket case serves for but one treatment, and, being in a wooden tube, is bulk}' in proportion. Iodine is poisonous, corrosive, painful in use, and impossible on delicate tissues. It has the further disadvantage that it clots blood serum, and so cannot penetrate a punctured wound unless the hole is slit open with a knife.
Thanks to the discoveries of Dr. Carrel, with calcium hypochlorite, in the military hospitals of France, and of Dr. Dakin, who has produced a chlorine-carrier that does not deteriorate, we now have what seems to be the ideal antiseptic. I am at present using Dakin's antiseptic, as made here under the trade name of chlorazene. It is put up in tablet form. Chlorazene is neither poisonous nor corrosive in any marked degree. It can be employed, in proper solution, anywhere, even in the eye, as well as for sterilizing instruments and the hands of the operator. Yet it is one of the most powerful of all known antiseptics.
In many accidents a stimulant is required. Don't carry whiskey—if you don't drink it up yourself the first time you feel bad, then some one will surely steal it. For the camp medical kit, get a bottle of pure grain alcohol. Put a fake label on it—"Antiseptic—Poison"—with a death's-head that even a savage will understand. For internal use, give a teaspoonful of it in three times the quantity of water. For dressing wounds, or giving an alcohol rub, use three parts alcohol to two of water; for a sprain, half-and-half.
Another good and quickly diffusible stimulant is aromatic spirits of ammonia, one teaspoonful in half a glass of water. It is useful for various other purposes that will be mentioned later.
No liquid can well be carried in a pocket emergency case; but there is room for a few strychnine sulphate tablets to be used as a heart tonic and nerve bracer in case of snake bite, shock, exhaustion, alcoholism, or as may otherwise be needed. The dose is 1-30 grain hypodermically or 1-20 grain by mouth.
To treat poisoning, and some other ailments, an emetic is required. A tablespoonful of salt, or of dry mustard, in half a pint of lukewarm water, will serve the purpose. Repeat if necessary.
Most of the "patent" liniments are humbugs, considering the claims made for them. Treatment with heat or cold, as the case may be, is far more curative, nine times out of ten, and an alcohol rub will take good care of the other tenth.
An excellent astringent lotion for sprains and bruises can be prepared by dissolving in water one or more tablets of lead acetate and opium, which are small enough for the emergency kit.
Wherever witch hazel grows, one can make his own decoction (strong "tea") of the bark; it is also good as a poultice. The inner bark of kinnikinick, otherwise known as red willow or silky cornel, makes a good astringent poultice for sprains and bruises.
These seldom are good applications for wounds. Grease attracts and holds dirt; dirt breeds infection. But there is proper use for some zinc ointment, resinol, unguentine, or carbolized vaseline, in cases of skin affections, sunburn, ivy poisoning, erysipelas, blistered feet, and so on.