Monthly Archives: February 2014

The key signs and symptoms of head injuries

Amid the thrills and spills of the winter olympics there was a timely reminder of the importance of wearing a helmet when skiing and snowboarding.  Sarka Pancochova from the Czech Republic fell while taking her first jump, landing on her head with so much force that her helmet was cracked in two. Thanks to the helmet, she walked away, but from an outdoor first aid point of view we thought it might be timely to refresh everyone’s memory on what to look out for in case of a bang on the head...

Massive snowboard crash but helmet saves head injuries

Massive snowboard crash but helmet saves head injuries

Remember – head injuries can be more serious than they first seem:

If there is damage inside the skull, the external symptoms may be minimal at first, so stick to the golden rule – any change in conscious level, associated with a bang to the head – get checked out at the hospital…

What to look out for:

Key symptoms, include:

  • Headaches, dizziness and nausea
  • Unequal pupils
  • Balance or visual disturbance
  • Memory loss
  • Fluid coming from ears or nose
  • Changes in mood / behaviour


These symptoms can be subtle and may develop over time, so you may see none of them intially.  Monitoring is therefore the crucial thing – and if in doubt, get checked out.

Other important symptoms are shown is this table along with important do’s and don’ts courtesy on the Headway charity.

further symptoms of head injuries


If you experience any of the symptoms above in the days following a head injury you should seek medical attention.

Dos and Don’ts

  • DO make sure you stay within reach of a telephone and medical help in the next few days
  • DO have plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations
  • DO show this factsheet to a friend or family member who can keep an eye on your condition
  • DO take painkillers such as paracetamol for headaches
  • DON’T stay at home alone for 48 hours after leaving hospital
  • DON’T drink alcohol until you feel better
  • DON’T take aspirin or sleeping tablets without consulting a doctor
  • DON’T return to work until you feel ready
  • DON’T play any contact sport for at least three weeks without consulting your doctor
  • DON’T return to driving until you feel you have recovered. If in doubt consult your doctor.

The Headway charity provides hugely valuable resources and information on head injuries including more on the effects of brain injury, and a collection of further resources on recognising sport concussion injuries.

This article can only cover the basics – it is no substitute for attending a full training course to learn how to carry out effective first aid and is obviously no substitute for seeing a medical professional in the case of a head injury – remember, if in doubt, get checked out.

If you would like to update your risk management,  field safety or outdoor first aid skills then just get in touch.

Field Safety and First aid Quiz

Field safety and outdoor first aid quiz

Field safety and outdoor first aid quiz

Following some great feedback on our New Year Quiz we plan to make the quiz a regular feature. We hope it helps you keep your skills up to date and fresh in your mind. So grab a cup of coffee, put on your best thinking hat and have a crack at these… 


Quiz question 1:

On returning to the youth hostel after a long day on the hills you come across an adult casualty collapsed in the car park who is unconscious and unresponsive, and not breathing. There is no one else in view what would you do…


You need to get help first – enter the youth hostel and rouse help or make a phone call yourself.  We have to assume the casualty has had a cardiac arrest and requires early defibrillation to give them the maximum chance of survival.  As soon as you have made the call, return to the casualty and then begin CPR with 30 compressions and then 2 breaths

Quiz question 2:

You are leading a 5 day trek with a group of 10 sixth form students and one teacher in the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.  You are accompanied by two local guides. You are camped in a small clearing in the jungle at the end of the first day of the trek.  One of the students is taken ill with vomiting and diarrhoea.  She is sick three times over the evening and has to make numerous visits to the toilet.  By the following morning she is exhausted, feeling weak and still being sick.  What would you do…


Not an easy one but certainly not uncommon!  And as with most scenarios the answer depends on lots of factors.  I think it is clear that the girl is not currently in a fit state to be embarking on 4 more days of trekking in the tropics.  Therefore the options are:

1 – To take a rest day with the whole group where you are.

2 –  To send the teacher and the local guide back with the sick girl and continue with the rest of the team.

3 – Turn the whole group round.

There’s never a hard and fast right or wrong here – it will depend on the experience of the teacher – the quality of the guides, the terrain you have passed through on day one and if you have time to extend the trek by a day, perhaps taking a rest day and seeing how she is on the following day.  Of course it will depend on how sick the girl is – are we happy that given a day’s rest she could walk back slowly with the teacher?  Of course we also have to consider the rest of the group – whilst we don’t want to cut short everyone’s experience we don’t want to push the group on with inadequate staffing and have to deal with a secondary issue.

My personal preferred option would be sit it out for a day.  To work with the local guide to teach the remainder of the group some jungle skills, perhaps shelter building or firelighting, then to assess and monitor the student through that day.  If she is no better by the next day then I would probably look to turn the whole team around to ensure getting her back safely.

A key thing is to ensure you have fully explained to everyone in advance that situations like this may occur and discuss what will happen.  If the only option which has ever been discussed is a 5 day trek from A to B, then it is far harder to deal with this situation when it comes up.

For the answers to both questions just follow the link to our first aid and field safety blog.

If its time for you to update your risk managementfield safety or outdoor first aid skills then just get in touch.