If you are a medical provider on an active Search & Rescue team, you probably have updated protocols and personal protection equipment for approaching, assessing, and treating patients in the wilderness due to COVID-19. But what if you are not a medical professional? How should you prepare for and respond to backcountry incidents? Can the threat of infection be mitigated? How do you assess the risk? Should you respond at all?
Before venturing into the backcountry by yourself or with family and household members, take some time to assess the personal consequences should you or a member of your group contract COVID-19 while assisting someone from another party. Do you have a chronic respiratory problem or disease? Is your immune system compromised? Risk of death from COVID-19 increases significantly with age if you are older than 60. Where do you fit in this spectrum? The outcome of your analysis will affect what you choose to carry with you and how you conduct yourself during a backcountry incident. Should you decide you want to assist others, you will likely need to add personal protection equipment to your first aid kit (see below for details).
Assessment & Treatment Guidelines
Below are guidelines on what to take with you and how to mitigate your exposure should you decide to respond to a backcountry injury or illness involving a stranger:
Focused Spine Assessment
If you choose to respond and treat a person who is not a member of your household, keep in mind that even with professional-level personal protection equipment and training, you cannot eliminate all exposure risk. If there is a high degree of community spread in your area or you have reason to believe that this was a high-risk patient:
First Aid Kit
In addition to what you normally carry, consider the following:
Looking for a reliable field reference? Consider purchasing one of our print or digital handbooks; our digital handbook apps are available in English, Spanish, and Japanese. Updates are free for life. A digital SOAP note app is also available.
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