Common Campsite Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Being prepared and having the proper knowledge of your camping equipment, campsite and nature can help you to prevent and treat these typical camping maladies. And if you're planning on being very far from possible medical attention, don’t travel alone, and bring a cell phone or radio.

Some of the most common injuries that can occur while camping are weather related. Conditions such as heat stroke, frostbite, dehydration and sunburn are all avoidable fates, but ones that can drastically affect your camping experience. While you should check the forecast for the week, know that it is subject to change, especially in the mountains. The best way to prevent weather-related ailments is to pack clothing that will protect you in every plausible circumstance.

Common sense should be utilized when packing - you probably won't need a winter coat on a White Mountains day hike in June, but you will want rain gear and a fleece. To be prepared without stuffing your pack, layer your clothing before you hike, starting with light, moisture-wicking clothing - not cotton.

Drink plenty of water and don't overexert yourself throughout the day to avoid heat stroke and dehydration. If someone you know is experiencing hypothermia, be prepared to cuddle up, because your body heat is the best treatment.

Plant Induced

Don't let anyone tell you poison ivy isn't an injury. If a few leaves manage to find their way into your campfire, the smoke it produces can be detrimental to your lungs. More frequently, campers come in contact with the plant. About 50 percent of the population will experience an unpleasant, itchy rash while the other half will walk away unscathed. Unless the rash spreads to particularly sensitive areas, very little treatment is necessary. Clean the afflicted area with purified water and sanitize any clothing that has been exposed to the plant. We understand if you don't want to throw your rain gear in the fire, but you should isolate it from the rest of your supplies. If you have an especially bad reaction to poison ivy, you should consider carrying coticosteroid cream in your first aid kit to treat the rash.

While there are a lot of poisonous plants, most of them are only dangerous if ingested: Except for poison ivy and oak. Being able to identify the leaves and taking the time to do so when outdoors will help you to avoid the inconvenient rash. Remember, leaves of three, let it be. You can also determine poison ivy by its longer middle stem, and occasionally shiny or waxy appearance.


When camping, chances are you'll come in contact with something that has more (or less) legs that you'd prefer. If you're diligent about keeping your tent zipped and hole-free, it's unlikely that one of these new friends will find their way into your sleeping bags. However, you'll probably come face to face with one of these creatures at some point. If you think you have a serious snake or spider bite but did not catch the culprit red-handed, such injuries are recognizable by puncture marks.

Other symptoms include clammy skin and sweating, a rapid or weak pulse, respiratory issues, difficulty speaking or swallowing, nausea, head pain and drowsiness. Under these circumstances, put a bandage over the bite and apply pressure. Don't remove it, and don't wash the area. You should seek medical help when experiencing these symptoms, and the response team may want to use the venom to identify the correct treatment.

Less severe bites from mosquitoes, flies or non-poisonous spiders can be treated with a simple after-bite gel, preferably one that features baking soda.

Sprains and Fractures

First aid kits are a savior in the great outdoors, and should be carried even on the shortest of day hikes. They should come with bandages, so in the case of a simple fracture, you will be able to stabilize the bone using the wrap and a straight stick, or small splint. Swelling, discoloration, pain and loss of mobility are all indications of a simple fracture. Compound fractures are a lot easier to identify, as the skin is pierced. You should not apply pressure to the area, regardless of bleeding. Use a sterile pad to cover it, and seek medical help immediately. For both simple and compound fractures, the patient should remain as immobile as possible.

Lesions and Burns

Open wounds are easily had around a campsite. Chopping wood, loose nails, particularly sharp rocks and your basic run-of-the-mill tumble down a mountain can all cause some painful lesions. If this happens, clean the area and apply pressure with a clean cloth before elevating the limb above the heart, if possible. Burns are also common while camping, especially if you're using a fire or stove. Put water on the burnt skin immediately, and apply a burn dressing, which you should have in your first aid kit.