First aid tips for walkers: How to deal with situations you might encounter on a walk

Tricky terrain is all part of the fun while out walking. But no matter how carefully you tread, trips or falls can happen. If it’s a particularly bad stumble, someone could end up with a strain or sprain, a broken bone or a deep cut that is bleeding heavily. 

You can learn how to respond to these first aid emergencies by downloading the Red Cross First Aid app.

Produced by the British Red Cross for the Ramblers

 

Heart attack

Someone having a heart attack may experience a persistent vice-like chest pain which may spread to their arms, neck, jaw or stomach. The pain does not ease with rest.


  1. Call 999.
  2. Help the person to rest in a comfortable position, such as sitting on the floor leaning against a tree or the back of another walker.
  3. If you have aspirin tablets, give them one (300mg) to chew slowly.
  4. Reassure them while you wait for help to arrive.

 

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion usually develops gradually and is caused by the loss of water and salt from the body through excessive sweating.

  1. Help the person to lie down in a cool, shady place.
  2. Give them plenty of water to drink. Oral rehydration salts or isotonic drinks will help replace lost salts as well.
  3. Keep an eye on the person. Call 999 if their condition worsens.

 

Hypothermia    

Hypothermia can be caused by prolonged exposure to cold. The person may be shivering, pale and cold to touch. They may also be disorientated.


  1. Call 999.
  2. Warm the person by wrapping them in a blanket or warm clothes and giving them warm drinks and high-energy foods, such as chocolate.

 

Unresponsive and breathing

Someone has collapsed, they do not respond or move when you call their name or gently shake their shoulders. 

Check if they are breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.



If they are breathing:

  1. Move them onto their side and tilt their head back. 

 

 

Unresponsive and not breathing

Someone has collapsed, they do not respond or move when you call their name or gently shake their shoulders.

Check if they are breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.

If they are not breathing:

  1. Call 999.
  2. Give chest compressions. Push firmly in the middle of their chest, and then release. This keeps blood pumping around their body and helps keep the vital organs, including the brain, alive.
  3. Push at a regular rate until help arrives.

 

Diabetic emergency

In a diabetic emergency, a person’s blood sugar levels can become too low. It can happen when a person has missed a meal or exercised too much – for example on a long walk. The person may know they have diabetes and be able to tell you what to do. They may sweat a lot or say they feel faint or weak. They may be drowsy, confused or appear drunk.  

  1. Give them something sweet and sugary to eat or drink
  2. Reassure the person. Most people will gradually improve, but if in doubt call 999.

 

Helping someone who has a strain or sprain

Someone with a strain or sprain will have pain, swelling or bruising around a joint or muscle.

  1. Apply an ice pack to the injury.
  2. Get the person to rest.
  3. If there is no improvement, seek medical advice.

 

Helping someone with a broken bone

Someone who has broken a bone may have pain, bruising and swelling following a fall or a blow from an object.

  1. Support the injury using items of clothing to prevent unnecessary movement.
  2. Get the person to hospital. Call 999 if necessary.

Broken bone

 

Helping someone who is bleeding heavily

Blood loss can be serious and should be treated as quickly as possible.

  1. Put pressure on the wound with whatever is available to stop or slow the flow of blood.
  2. Call 999 as soon as possible.
  3. Keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.

Bleeding wound

 

Contact the British Red Cross

If you have any queries about this guidance, please direct them to the British Red Cross.