First aid advice

First aid advice 

First aid saves lives, and knowing what to do in an emergency can make all the difference. An emergency can occur anywhere, and it’s important to be prepared and confident about how to react.  We recommend that you carry a first aid kit, and have a nominated ‘first aider’ on every walk.

In this section you can find tips from St John Ambulance, to help you deal with situations you may encounter on a group walk.  More videos and tips can be found on the St John Ambulance website.

Primary survey

The primary survey is a quick way to find out how to treat any life threating conditions a casualty may have, in order of priority. We can use DRABC to do this: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing and Circulation.

Bone, muscle & joint injuries

Injuries to the soft structure around the bones and joints are called strains and sprains. They are often associated with sports activities. You should look out for pain and tenderness, swelling, bruising and difficulty moving the injured area.

A break or crack in a bone is called a fracture. In an open fracture a broken bone may pierce the skin surface. In a closed fracture the skin around the fracture is intact – but broken bones can be unstable, causing internal bleeding and the casualty may develop shock. 

Look out for:
  • Deformity, swelling and bruising around the fracture
  • Pain and/or difficulty moving the area 
  • A limb may look shorter, twisted or bent  
  • A grating noise or feeling from the ends of the broken bones 
  • Difficult or unable to move the limb normally 
  • A wound that may have a bone end protruding, known as an open fracture 
  • May develop signs of shock, particularly with the fracture of a thigh bone or pelvis

Chest pains

Angina is pain in the chest. It occurs when arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrowed and restrict blood flow. This can happen with increased exertion or excitement.

Look out for:

  • A crushing pain in the centre of their chest, that may spread to the jaw and down one or both arms.  The pain may ease with rest.
  • The casualty may have shortness of breath; experience sudden and extreme tiredness; and feel anxious.

A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to part of the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. You can make a full recovery following a heart attack, but this may depend on how much of the heart is affected.  

The casualty may:

  • have crushing pain in the centre of their chest, that may spread to their jaw and down one or both arms 
  • be breathless or gasping for breath 
  • be sweating profusely  
  • experience pain similar to indigestion  
  • collapse without warning 
  • complain of dizziness  
  • have pale skin and their lips may have a blue tinge  
  • have a rapid, weak or irregular pulse 
  • have a feeling of impending doom 


A stroke can occur when blood supply to the brain is disrupted and starves the brain of oxygen. A stroke is a medical emergency and you need to act FAST.

F – Facial weakness 
Look at their mouth or eyes – they may be droopy, and unable to smile evenly. 
A – Arm weakness 
Ask them to raise both of their arms. They may only be able to raise one arm. 
S – Speech problems 
They are unable to speak clearly or might not be able to understand what you are saying to them. Ask them a question, such as ‘What is your name?’ Can they respond appropriately?  
T – Time
Call 999/112 for emergency help, and tell them you suspect a stroke.


Minor wounds such as cuts and grazes are common injuries that can usually be treated without seeking medical advice. A cut is when the skin is fully broken, and a graze is when only the top layers of skin are scraped off.

Usually, all you need to do is clean the cut or graze to reduce infection and apply pressure and raise the injury to stop the bleeding. The wound should heal by itself in a few days.

If you are faced with something more severe, your priority is to stop the bleeding. Protect yourself by wearing gloves.  If the wound is covered by the casualty's clothing, remove or cut the clothes to uncover the wound.

If there’s an object in there, don’t pull it out, because it may be acting as a plug to reduce the bleeding. Instead, leave it in and apply pressure either side of it with a pad (such as a clean cloth) or fingers, until a sterile dressing is available.


Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when someone’s body temperature drops below 35°C (95°F). Normal body temperature is around 37°C (98. 6°F). Hypothermia can become life-threatening quickly, so it’s important to treat someone with hypothermia straight away.

The casualty may:  

  • be shivering, cold and pale with dry skin 
  • be unusually tired, confused and have irrational behaviour 
  • have reduced level of response 
  • have slow and shallow breathing  
  • have a slow and weakening pulse

If you suspect hypothermia, call 999 / 112 for emergency help.  

Try to take the casualty to a sheltered place as quickly as possible, shielding them from the wind.  Remove and replace any wet clothing and make sure their head is covered.  Do not give them your clothes - it is important for you to stay warm yourself.

Try to protect the casualty from the ground, by laying them on a thick layer of dry, insulating material; and if possible, put them in a dry sleeping bag and/or cover them with blankets. If available, wrap them in a foil survival blanket. You can use your body to shelter them and keep them warm. 

If the casualty is fully alert, offer them warm drinks and high energy food such as chocolate. Monitor their breathing, level of response and temperature while waiting for help to arrive. 

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by a loss of salt and water, usually through excessive sweating. It develops slowly and usually happens to people who aren’t used to hot, humid weather.

Look out for: 

  • A headache, dizziness and confusion
  • A loss of appetite and feeling sick 
  • Sweat with pale, clammy skin  
  • Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach  
  • A fast, weakening pulse and breathing 

How can we protect ourselves from ticks?

Ticks are tiny blood-sucking insects which can be found in areas of dense vegetation, such as long grass or bracken. Ticks are known to carry a variety of diseases – the most serious of which is Lyme disease, which can be transmitted through the bite of an infected sheep tick.  You can find out more on the Advice pages.

Ramblers Scotland have produced this video with vlogger Dan Bell, with top tips on how to protect yourself from ticks.

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