Basic First Aid Skills for Preppers

It is important for you to have a basic understanding of first aid skills. First aid skills are useful to have regardless of what emergency situation you are faced with. You could easily save someone’s life if you know a few techniques for treating basic forms of trauma. Here are some basic first aid skills for preppers. The following techniques are easy to understand, easy to perform, and highly effective!

Do you know how to treat a stab wound, gunshot wound, broken bones, or head trauma without Google? It is not as difficult as you may think, but it is important to familiarize yourself with these techniques so that you know them with or without Google.

Basic First Aid Skills for Preppers

Basic first aid skills for preppers

Stab Wounds

Even if a stab wound hits a vital organ or a major artery, you can still save a person if you respond quickly. In first aid emergencies with a critical organ injury, the key is to limit bleeding until professional help can take over.

  1. Ensure sanitary conditions during treatment and wear PPE. Thoroughly wash your hands and wear nitrile gloves before touching a wound.
  2. Prioritize your order of care. If there are multiple stab wounds, treat the most severe wound first then work your way to the least severe.
  3. Assess the injury. Assess the extent of the injury. If it is a minor cut, apply pressure for about 10 minutes, then clean and dress the wound.
  4. Calm and reassure the patient. If your patient is conscious, talk to them and keep them calm while you address their injury.
  5. Apply direct pressure. If blood is spurting from the wound, apply a compression bandage directly over the wound.
  6. Stabilize any objects in the wound and keep them from moving. Do not attempt to remove any objects in a wound (for example, a knife.) Instead, tightly bandage the wound around the object taking special care not to move the object. IMPORTANT: bandage the object securely in place and seek medical attention as soon as possible. If the object is able to move, it could cause additional damage.
  7. Pack wounds accordingly. Gaping wounds should not be closed once the bleeding stops. Pack them with sterile gauze and tape in place.
  8. Provide after care. As the wound is healing, it is important to clean, apply antibiotic ointment, and change dressings frequently.

I was recently stabbed with sharp glass and had to follow these steps after getting stitches.

Gun Shot Wounds

Gun shot wounds are penetration or puncture wounds and can be treated in the same manner as stab wounds.

  1. Stop the bleeding. If the wound is in a limb, apply direct pressure to the wound and elevate it above the heart. You can also apply an emergency tourniquet to the wound if you know how to. If the bleeding continues and is in a region such as the torso area where a tourniquet cannot be used, try packing the wound to stop the bleeding.
  2. Calm and reassure the patient. Minimize shock and do your best to keep the victim calm and reassured. If the victim is more relaxed, their heartbeat will be slower and this will result in less blood loss.
  3. Assess your patient for additional wounds. Inspect the other body parts for additional wounds. You should always deal with the places that have obvious, severe bleeding, first. The entry hole may be minimal, but the exit wound (if there is one) will be much more significant. Remember to thoroughly check for that.
  4. Monitor the wound. After the bleeding has been dealt with and the wounds are dressed, make sure that you monitor the wound for infection as it heals. Severe injuries that affect the head or vital organs need to be treated by medical professionals as soon as possible.

Pack the wound to control bleeding

If the prior techniques do not control the bleeding, then you can tightly pack the bullet hole with sterile gauze. In some situations, this may be the only way to stop the bleeding and save the person’s life.

Perform the following steps:

  1. Gently insert sterile gauze in the wound cavity. With one finger, carefully insert sterile gauze directly into the wound cavity. Push the dressing as deeply into the hole as possible.
  2. Pack the wound cavity tightly. Pack the bullet hole with gauze until the hole is densely full. Remember to leave one end of the bandage hanging out so that medical personnel can easily remove it when the time comes.
  3. Tightly wrap the wound (and gauze) in place. Wrap a bandage over the wound. This will hold the gauze in the hole that was created by the bullet wound.

Note: This whole process will be very painful for the victim, but it could be the only way to stop the bleeding and prevent death.

How To Treat a GUNSHOT WOUND – Stay Alive Until Help Arrives

Broken Bones

First, you want to determine if there’s a fracture. Ask the patient to move the limb or area that you suspect is broken. If there is a fracture, movement will cause significant pain and they may be unable to move it at all.

An X-ray is the definitive way to determine if a bone is broken, but you probably won’t have access to an X-ray machine. Treat the injured bone as if it is broken or fractured.

How to treat broken bones

  1. Immobilize the break. You must keep the injured limb still. Moving a broken bone could cause extreme pain and may further damage the tissue around the break. You might want to keep a combat splint in your first aid kit. The combat splint is lightweight, easy to pack, and is great at immobilizing a broken limb.
    • Wrists, arms, or legs. If a leg or arm is injured, you can splint it with anything that is rigid, like a stick, signpost, or cardboard. Wrap tape around the splint to hold it in place. A magazine folded lengthwise into a U makes a great rigid splint for an arm. You can further immobilize broken arms or wrists by making a triangle sling with a large piece of clothing.
    • Feet or ankles. Bandage and elevate a broken foot or ankle. Apply ice to the ankle to reduce swelling.
    • Knees. Immobilize the knee so that the leg is kept straight. If straightening the leg causes extreme pain, then immobilize it in it’s current position.
    • Ribs. Immobilize the ribs by wrapping an Ace bandage around the chest. Make it tight enough to hold the broken bone in place, but not so tight that they can’t breathe. The bandaged area needs to extend above and below the broken rib. If the victim has trouble breathing, their ribs may have punctured a lung. Seek professional medical care as soon as possible.
    • Neck or back. If the break is to the neck or back, immobilize their head in place.
  2. Search for protruding bone. If the bone has broken the skin, do not attempt to push it back in. Apply pressure to stop bleeding then rinse the wound. Do not scrub or remove any grit. Determine if there is any nerve or blood vessel damage by feeling for a pulse in an area of the body below the wound. Ask if they have any feeling or sensations around the area of the wound.
  3. Final wrap. Once the area has been cleaned and assessed, splint and wrap the injury.

How to bandage a broken foot or ankle

It can be a little tricky to bandage a broken foot or ankle. Here are the basics.

  1. Starting below the toes, wrap the bandage around the foot tautly, but not tight enough to cut off circulation.
  2. Right before you reach the heel, wrap the bandage over, under, and around the ankle in a figure-eight three or four times to secure it.
  3. Complete the bandaging by wrapping the remainder around the lower calf then securely fasten.

Head Trauma

Head injuries are tricky. The victim could look okay, but have internal bleeding. A minor head wound that isn’t bleeding can usually be treated with an ice pack and careful monitoring for any changes. If the head injury is severe, the victim may lose consciousness, have blurred vision, vomit, go into a seizure, or one or both pupils may be fixed and unresponsive to light.

How to care for head trauma

  1. Assess the patient. Check the person’s ABC’s Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. If the person is unconscious, keep their head and neck immobilized until they regain consciousness.
  2. Deal with bleeding. Apply direct pressure to the wound until the bleeding stops. Dress the wound and apply a cold pack over the dressing. Avoid this if the injury is deep or you suspect a skull fracture. If so, wrap it with a gauze pad and a clean dressing.
  3. Keep the patient still and calm. Check the pupils for a reaction to light. This will help you determine the severity of the head injury. A serious head injury may cause one pupil to be a different size than the other or the two pupils may react differently to light. Ask the patient basic questions (such as, What year is it? Where are you now?) If they are incoherent or cannot answer the questions then the head injury should be considered severe.
  4. Use a pain reliever as needed. You can treat mild pain with over the counter medicine.

Flu & other contagious illnesses

It can be dangerous to treat someone who is violently sick or contagious. The risk of transmission and sickness is always present. Take precautions to ensure that you are safe while you provide care for someone in this condition.

DIY Containment/Quarantine Room Kit for Disaster Preparedness

Take these precautions

  1. Sequester the patient. Quarantine the contagious person in a room away from others if possible.
  2. Keep the patient hydrated. Make sure that they stay hydrated even if it’s with little sips of water. A person can go without food for extended periods, but not without fluids.
  3. Feed the patient. Once they can go hours without vomiting, try feeding them foods that are easy to digest like unbuttered toast and crackers.
  4. Keep the patient (and yourself) clean. Practice good hygiene and frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses. Use protective gear like face masks and gloves when necessary.
  5. Properly dispose of soiled linens. Dispose of all used tissues and other paper items in a Ziplock bag.
  6. Sterilize clothes, linens, and the area of care. Once the contagious period has passed, thoroughly sterilize the area with disinfectant. Wash all of the bed linens and clothes in hot soapy water. Add a little bleach to prevent re-contamination.
Medication use:

Refrain from giving your patient anti-nausea or anti diarrhea medications unless they are severely in danger of dehydration or it continues for more than a day or two. If the problem is a virus, that is the body’s way of getting rid of it. Only give medication for a fever if it goes over 103 degrees and they can keep the medicine down. The pain reliever should be something like Tylenol that won’t upset their stomach.

Basic first aid skills for preppers


Hypothermia doesn’t just occur from being trapped in a snowy or icy area. It can happen when you are out in the rain for too long or submerged in cold water. The goal is to prevent further loss of body heat while slowly warming up the body. You should always treat a person with any level of hypothermia gently. If they are moved around too much, their heart can fail.

How to treat hypothermia:

  1. Relocate the victim to a warm area. Do this slowly and carefully and avoid jerky movements.
  2. Remove wet clothing. Remove wet clothing and cover them with dry clothes, towels, thermal blankets, or body heat. If they are outdoors and nothing is available, shelter the area as much as possible.
  3. Provide warm liquids. Conscious patients can be given warm fluids to help the body warm up internally.
  4. Apply warmth to key areas of the body. If the patient is immobile, apply hot packs or a hot water bottle to the armpits and groin area.

Severe Hypothermia:

When hypothermia is so severe that the person is unconscious, check for breathing and a pulse. Proceed with the warming procedures until the become conscious. During the final stage of hypothermia before death, the patient may appear dead, but still have a faint pulse. Proceed with all previous actions and frequently monitor the heartbeat.


If a person has suffered any serious injury, assume that they are in shock and treat them accordingly. This will help to prevent any further damage and trauma in addition to preventing or treating shock.

  1. Position the patient. If the victim is conscious, raise their legs about 16 inches above the heart. When the person is unconscious, turn their head to the side to prevent choking on vomit or saliva. Do not elevate the legs if they are bleeding, have a broken leg, or a bleeding head wound.
  2. Maintain body temperature. Maintain a stable body temperature that is neither too hot or too cold.
  3. Help them stay still and calm. This is the most important part of treating shock.
  4. Provide first aid. Proceed with any necessary first aid care.

What should you have in your emergency first aid kit?

You are going to need some first aid supplies to respond to medical emergencies. The basic kit that you would pick up from Wal-Mart is not going to cut it for a gunshot wound. There are supplies you need to stock up on to make sure you’re prepared for anything.

Make a kit for your home and another kit for your vehicle. If you have bug-out locations, make sure that you have fully stocked kits in those places as well. It is also a good idea to have a smaller emergency kit that you carry with you in your purse or backpack. You’ll never know when you might need it and you’ll be better off when you do.

Necessary Medical Supplies:

  • ACE bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Bandages in multiple shapes and sizes
  • Compression and pressure bandages (for gunshot or stab wounds)
  • Medical / adhesive tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap
  • Finger splints
  • Scissors
  • Small, sharp knife with a pointed tip
  • Anti-itch ointment
  • Bulb syringe for flushing / suctioning out wounds
  • Instant ice packs
  • Thermal blankets
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Butterfly bandages to close wounds in a variety of sizes
  • Safety pins in multiple sizes
  • Rolls of gauze and gauze pads
  • Thermometer
  • Ziplock bags
  • Sterile eyewash
  • Sterile wound dressings
  • Tweezers
  • Flashlight or small LED lights
  • Wooden matches (if you dip them in melted wax, they’ll be usable even if they get wet)
  • Disposable gloves


  • Personal prescription medications
  • Pain relievers for both adults and children
  • Ipecac syrup to induce vomiting
  • Honey (natural antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic, and it never goes bad)
  • Activated charcoal
  • Anti-diarrhea
  • Laxatives
  • Antihistamines such as Benadryl
  • Aloe gel / burn treatment
  • Arnica

Expand your medical skills

Almost all communities offer free first aid certification courses through local health departments or schools. If you haven’t already taken a course, I strongly recommend it. Invite your friends and family members to take a course with you. You can gain useful information such as:

  • CPR
  • How to do abdominal thrusts (when someone is choking)
  • Basic bandaging techniques
  • How to recognize the signs of a heart attack or stroke

If you discover that you really enjoy learning first-aid and lifesaving skills, you can take trainings that will allow you to get paid for your skills such as: lifeguard courses (if you can swim), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Wilderness First Responder. I was a lifeguard and lifeguard instructor for over a decade and it opened up a world of opportunities for me. I was able to get jobs anywhere I went.

Emergency First Aid Skills for the Backcountry:


A real life emergency happens differently from how it is portrayed in the movies. You will need to stay calm under pressure and have some beyond basic knowledge and skills. Remember to keep working through the problem and don’t get overwhelmed. This is much easier said than done when your loved one is panicking or in pain, but it is essential for you to stay focused.

What medical issues and emergencies concern you the most? Have you ever had to provide first aid or medical care? Did you have to improvise? Comment below to share!

Thank you for joining me! See you soon!