World First Aid Day

Today is World First Aid Day, so what’s it all about?

Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman, witnessed first-hand the aftermath of the 1859 battle of Solferino in Italy. Horrendously injured soldiers lay across the battlefield and Dunant, appalled by the fact that nobody seemed to be helping the injured men, began to do so himself. He organised the local population and arranged for makeshift hospitals to be set up to treat the wounded, regardless of which side they had fought for.

Dunant’s published experiences and continued campaigning eventually led to the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, dedicated to providing immediate care for wounded soldiers. The organisation has of course expanded since then to become the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and has a major role in providing aid, not just in war zones, but to those suffering from natural disasters and other major incidents as well.

First Aid remains a primary consideration for the IFRC. With just a little training, individuals can make a big difference when they are first on the scene of an accident or incident. Injured people can have their suffering eased and lives can be saved in those first minutes before the emergency services arrive.

At Borderlands, we’re proud to play our part in training first aiders to learn the simple skills that save lives.

There’s more information on the IFRC here and you can find out more about our training here.

Seizures: types and treatment

Seizures occur when electrical signals within the brain are disrupted. There are many different possible causes of seizure as well as many different seizure types; here’s a brief overview of seizures and what to do about them.

Causes and conditions

When seizures are mentioned epilepsy is often the first thing that springs to mind. Epilepsy itself is incredibly complicated and can be related to genetics, damage to the tissue of the brain through injury or illness and tumour growth among other factors.

Seizures are not always caused by epilepsy though. Traumatic head injuries can result in seizures, as can diabetes, overheating, imbalances in salt levels and use of, or withdrawal from, some drugs.

seizure first aid

Seizure types

Classification of seizure types is complex and complicated by the fact that there is so much variation in how they begin, which functions are affected and how the seizure progresses. The International League Against Epilepsy classifies seizures into a dozen different categories which are divided into numerous further types. A few of the main external signs of seizures are listed here:

Focal seizures

A focal seizure begins in and affects one part of the brain. Exactly how this presents depends on which part of the brain is affected as the seizure progresses. Simple focal seizures can come across as a strange taste in the mouth, unusual feelings in the head, hallucinations and twitching among other signs. For some people, a simple focal seizure is a warning sign that a different type of seizure is about to happen (sometimes known as an aura).

Complex focal seizures affect a larger part of the brain and can result in unusual behaviour such as wandering, fiddling with objects and muttering words that don’t make sense. The person experiencing the seizure may be able to hear, but not be fully alert or understand what is happening.

Generalised Seizures

Generalised seizures can follow focal seizures or start without apparent warning. They affect both sides of the brain and result in unconsciousness, even if only briefly. There are a number of different types of generalised seizures:


Once known as Petit Mal seizures, an absence seizure is a temporary loss of consciousness that appears as though somebody has ‘zoned out’ or is daydreaming. Somebody experiencing an absence will not respond when spoken to and there may be some subtle movements such as nodding of the head.

Tonic Seizures

During a tonic seizure the muscles stiffen, often leading to falls with the potential for injury. They are usually brief.

Atonic Seizures

Sometimes known as ‘drop attacks’, the muscles go floppy, again tending to result in falls.

Clonic Seizures

In a clonic seizure the muscles shake, with unusual movements of limbs. Breathing difficulties may be apparent during the seizure.

Tonic-Clonic Seizures

These begin as tonic seizures, with a collapse and then shortly afterwards become clonic, with generalised shaking. This is the seizure type people often imagine when they think of epilepsy.

After the seizure

Once the seizure has ended, confusion and disorientation are common. Most people recover within a relatively short period, but every individual responds differently. Often, following a major seizure, people will sleep for an extended period.

First Aid

With seizures, the principles of first aid are the same as for any other injury or illness. The priority is to ensure the safety of yourself and the person experiencing the seizure. With a complex focal seizure this might include attempting to guide the person away from danger if they are wandering whereas with a tonic-clonic seizure it would be sensible to move furniture and other solid objects out of the way in order to prevent injury.

Never put anything in the mouth of somebody having a seizure and don’t attempt to restrain them. Soft padding can be placed behind the head with care to prevent injury.

Once the seizure has ended, anybody who remains unconscious should be placed on their side in the ‘recovery position’ to ensure that their airway can drain of any fluids.

Medical Attention

Medical attention is needed in the following cases:

  • The first seizure experienced
  • A seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, or 2 minutes longer than is normal for that individual.
  • A second seizure begins without recovering from the first.
  • Breathing difficulties following the seizure
  • Injuries caused during the seizure (depending on the severity of the injury)

More information

There’s a wealth of information and resources available on the Epilepsy Society and Epilepsy Action websites. For more information on our first aid courses click here.


Head Injuries, Concussion and Compression

Head injuries account for around 5000 deaths per year in the UK along with 162,000 hospital admissions. A cautious approach is needed due to the potential for brain injury as a consequence of the original injury to the head.


Concussion is a shaking up of the brain. Common causes of concussion include impacts to the head during sports such as rugby and boxing, road traffic incidents and falls.

Anybody who has lost consciousness, however briefly, through a head injury should be considered to be concussed. Not all concussions result in loss of consciousness though. Other signs of concussion include confusion, headaches, dizziness, sickness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and memory problems.

Symptoms of concussion usually resolve within a few weeks of the incident but can be very unpleasant during that time. An extended period of rest is needed however as the effects may last longer than this. A second impact to the head before a full recovery has been made can increase the risk of long term effects on the brain including mood disorders and memory problems.

A series of small impacts to the head can have an equivalent effect to one large impact. This can be a particular concern in some sports.

Anybody who is believed to be concussed should attend A+E for assessment.

Cerebral Compression

Some head injuries can lead to bleeding into the skull. This injury may put pressure on the brain itself, known as compression and leading to a serious and worsening impact on the casualty. This is a life-threatening condition and needs urgent medical help. Signs may be similar to a concussion but a deteriorating level of consciousness may also be seen. The casualty may appear flushed in the face and both breathing rate and pulse may slow noticeably.

Compression injuryThe casualty’s eyes may not work as they should, with pupils not reacting to light or not reacting together.

If the casualty is conscious, keeping them in a position where their head is up may help to slow the effects of compression but this is a medical emergency and warrants a 999 call.


Skull Fractures

A skull fracture may occur if a significant enough impact takes place. Signs of skull fracture include bruising around the eye sockets and behind the ears as blood pools in the soft tissues, fluid or blood coming from the ears, nose and possibly eyes, severe headache and any ‘boggy’ sensation found when gently feeling the skull.

Any suspected skull fracture needs assessing in A+E even if the casualty feels well.

Caution Advised

Head injuries are amongst the more concerning incidents a first aider might have to deal with. The brain is such a complex and delicate organ that only a cautious approach is appropriate. Any concerns regarding head or brain injury must be referred to A+E.

Further info

For more information on brain injury and the support available, take a look at Headway’s website. If you’d like to join one of our first aid courses for individuals and businesses, take a look at our courses page.

Heart Attacks: Know the Signs

A heart attack is an interruption in the supply of blood to the heart muscle, usually caused by a blockage such as a blood clot in an artery. No two heart attacks are the same, so it’s important to recognise the range of signs that could signify a heart attack. Equally important is knowing what to do about it.

What is it?

Heart attacks are often associated with coronary heart disease, a condition that results in the arteries becoming coated in a waxy plaque. If a piece of plaque breaks away inside the artery a blood clot may form around it. If the clot is large enough it can block the artery, preventing blood from reaching a part of the heart muscle. If the clot is not removed then the affected part of the heart muscle will die away through lack of oxygen.

What are the signs?

The classic signs of a heart attack include severe chest pain that may also present as shooting pains in the limbs, neck and jaw, as well as shortness of breath and severe anxiety. A large number of people experience other symptoms though and some do not experience pain (a large-scale study in the USA found that around a third of men and two fifths of women who had suffered a heart attack did not experience any pain at all – sometimes known as a ‘silent heart attack’).

Because oxygen is not being circulated to the vital organs as it should be, signs of shock can develop. Shock is a medical condition and will usually result in the casualty appearing pale and clammy. Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and the heart itself beats more rapidly but becomes weaker. Feeling sick or being sick are other signs and pain, if it is present, may be in other parts of the body such as the lower back or abdomen.

What else could it be?

Other conditions may present with similar signs to a heart attack but regardless of the cause, somebody showing signs of shock needs urgent help. Angina may present with similar signs and symptoms but these should get better with rest and use of the person’s prescribed medication.

Can I do anything to help?

Recognition of the problem is the most important first aid for a heart attack. Somebody who is in shock requires urgent medical attention regardless of the cause so a 999 call is needed. Whilst waiting for help the casualty should be kept warm and comfortable. The ‘Lazy W’ position is often a comfortable position for somebody experiencing heart problems.heart attack treatment

Aspirin is a recognised first aid treatment for heart attacks. Ask a few questions to make sure there’s no reason not to give aspirin first and then give a single adult dose, chewed rather than swallowed whole.

“Do you have any allergies?” (aspirin is related to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen, so caution should be exercised)

“Are you on any medication?” (aspirin should not be given to people on blood thinners and there is a need for caution if on medication for the heart / blood)

“Have you had aspirin before?”

Is a heart attack the same as cardiac arrest?

Although heart attacks can develop into cardiac arrest they are not the same thing. In a cardiac arrest the heart has stopped pumping blood effectively around the body. The casualty will be unconscious and either not breathing or taking irregular, ineffective gasps of breath. Cardiac arrest needs a 999 call, CPR to buy time and a defibrillator if one is available.

Find out more

Further reliable information on heart attacks is available from the British Heart Foundation, NHS Choices and the Resuscitation Council.

Information on our first aid courses for individuals and businesses can be found here.

First Aid for Asthma: recognition and treatment

Asthma is a serious medical condition, responsible for over 1200 deaths per year in the UK and with well over 5 million people receiving treatment for the condition. Despite this, or perhaps because of the high numbers of people on medication, there can sometimes be a perception that it’s not so serious. With 185 people admitted to hospital every day because of the condition though, this simply isn’t true.

What is it?

Asthma is a long-term condition which affects the tubes (airways) inside the lungs that are sensitive to an irritant trigger such as pollen, animals, dust or exercise. When an asthma attack occurs, the airways narrow because they become inflamed and swollen. Mucus can also be produced, meaning that there is even less space in the tubes for air to pass through.

How is it managed?

Some people are prescribed preventer medication. This works by helping to reduce the sensitivity, swelling and inflammation of the airways. Preventer inhalers contain a steroid and come in a number of different colours, depending on the exact medication that has been prescribed. These should be taken regularly everyday as prescribed to keep the airways under control & help prevent an attack. Reliever inhalers are prescribed to control asthma quickly when symptoms occur.

What about an asthma attack?

In an asthma attack, the airways are narrowed and it becomes difficult to get air in and out of the lungs. The patient may be ‘wheezing’ when breathing out and may be distressed. We usually breathe by using our diaphragm and chest muscles, but somebody suffering an asthma attack may also be trying to use their shoulder muscles to make the space inside the chest larger

When somebody is suffering asthma symptoms, they need their reliever inhaler. These are blue for most people, but some people are prescribed a different drug and so will have a different coloured inhaler. The drug contained in the inhaler helps to relax the airways, so should relieve the symptoms.

When is an ambulance needed?

The reliever inhaler should bring asthma symptoms under control. If it’s not effective after 10 puffs of the inhaler or the symptoms are worsening, an ambulance should be called. Difficulty in speaking, eating or sleeping are all signs of a severe attack, for which an ambulance should be called.

Somebody who’s had an asthma attack but recovered should still seek urgent medical advice from their GP or asthma nurse.

How are inhalers administered?

There are several different types of inhaler that are prescribed for emergency use.

First aid for asthmaMetered dose inhalers are probably the most familiar for many people. These require the patient to begin to inhale and then administer a spray of the drug whilst continuing to inhale & hold breath for 10 seconds. This can be complicated and difficult to co-ordinate when the patient is panicked and stressed. A spacer device can help to administer the drug more effectively by removing the need for co-ordination when taking the drug.

Breath actuated inhalers require the patient to inhale deeply. & hold breath for 10 seconds. This then releases a spray of medicine into the airway.

first aid for asthmaasthma first aid

Dry powder inhalers are prescribed to some people rather than spray inhalers, again it requires the patient to inhale deeply and hold their breath for 10 seconds.

Can anyone get an inhaler?

The blue reliever inhaler contains a drug called salbutamol. This is a prescription only medication in the UK and so is not available for purchase from a chemist unless you have a diagnosis of asthma. There is an exception for schools, where inhalers can be purchased and held as spares in case a child with a diagnosis of asthma needs their inhaler and cannot use their own (e.g. forgotten it or broken it).

Although salbutamol rarely has serious side effects, some people do have severe and life-threatening allergic reactions, so the drug should not be administered to somebody without a diagnosis of asthma, other than by a qualified healthcare professional.

Find out more

There’s more information on recognition and treatment of asthma on the Asthma UK website as well as helpful videos on how to administer inhalers for control of asthma symptoms.

For details of our first aid courses, click here.

Go wild for garlic

From March to July there’s really no need to shop for garlic. The wild variety (also known as ramsons) grows in abundance in the UK, carpeting woodlands and other shady areas throughout the spring and early summer. So, to enjoy this tasty spring treat, here’s our quick guide to harvesting wild garlic.


Pointed oval leaves reaching up to about 30cm grow one to a stem; these appear in early spring although you will usually smell them before you can spot them. Small clusters of white flowers, resembling a six-pointed star, bloom in April. The flowers are edible too but have a much milder taste than the leaves. Do not confuse with Lily of the valley – the leaves are very similar but the stems are slightly purple and the flowers are more bell like.


Pick them way down at the base but avoid unearthing the tiny bulb; we want plenty left for next year! Collect what you need and store either in the fridge or in some water in a windowsill. You can also freeze it to use later in the year, but the taste will become milder.

Eat fresh

The stem has a pleasant chive like texture. Use scissors to cut them into 1cm pieces and sprinkle over your favourite dish. The stems are also a tasty addition to egg mayonnaise or mash potato.

The leaves can be added whole to a sandwich, burger or salad as an interesting alternative to lettuce.

The flower can be used in a garnish. Before blooming the buds are a nice peppery surprise.


Use a hand blender and add to mayonnaise or sour cream for a yummy dip. Wild garlic pesto is also a winner. Simply whizz up a large bunch of leaves with 60g of toasted pine nuts, 60g of parmesan and 150ml of olive oil. This tastes great with mixed with your favourite fresh pasta.


When simmered for about a minute, the leaves can be used as leafy vegetable. They reduce a lot in size however so make sure you use plenty. Chopped leaves can also be added to casseroles or similar in the last few minutes of cooking. Mix with butter and then smear it on to ciabatta to make garlic bread or gently fry with mushrooms or scallops – all three make a great starter!

Try it yourself

These recipes are merely a suggestion, so why not get out into the woods in search of wild garlic and see what you can come up with. Just make sure you’ve identified correctly and remember to always wash it before consuming.

Want to try this and more wild food? Contact us for a course.

Bonfire night safety

Bonfires, Bangers and Burns

With Bonfire Night just around the corner it’s the time of year for crackling fires, fizzing sparklers and spectacular fireworks displays. Unfortunately it’s also the time when over-enthusiasm or a momentary lapse in concentration around the fire can lead to serious injury. Here are our top tips for enjoying an incident-free bonfire night.

Safety round the bonfire

  • Learn to lay and light a bonfire without using accelerants such as petrol and paraffin. When volatile fuels are poured onto a fire there’s a risk of a flashback into the container, with the fire burning up the vapour trail towards your hand. Building your fire using natural tinder removes this risk, plus you earn extra bushcraft points for not cheating!
  • Keep spectators a safe distance away from the fire. Most people are fascinated by the flickering tongues of flame and many of us could easily spend hours gazing into the hypnotic depths of a fire. With larger bonfires however the flames can reach out surprisingly far from the core of the fire, so make sure you set up a suitable ‘safe zone’ some distance away.
  • Promote safe handling of sparklers! Children and adults alike love to watch the dancing stars on the end of a sparkler but it’s easy to forget that they can reach temperatures as high as 2000 degrees celsius! Always supervise children handling sparklers and make them safer still by using gardening gloves and ensuring they are held well away from the body and anybody else. Even when the sparkler has gone out, the end can remain hot for some time so ensure they are disposed of sensibly in a bucket of water.
  • We all hate that dud firework that fails to go off, but approaching it ‘just to check’ ends in disaster for too many people. Fireworks that don’t ignite properly should be left well alone as they can still explode.

If it all goes wrong

First aid treatment for burns is really quite simple; here are the steps to take if somebody is injured by the fire or fireworks.

First steps:

  • First, make sure the area is safe to approach – ensure you’re not going to be harmed by going to help the injured person – or get them to move towards you.
  • Make sure that there are no more serious injuries to deal with first, and then apply cool running water to the burnt area for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes if required to adequately cool the burn.
  • Do not attempt to peel away clothing that is stuck to the burnt skin, but clothing can be cut away in order to properly assess the burn.
  • If the burn affects a limb, remove any watches, rings or other jewellery in order to reduce the risk of problems if the limb becomes swollen.
  • For any burn other than minor reddening of the skin, consider covering the injured area with cling film or a non-adherent dressing. Do not wrap anything tightly around a limb as this could cause problems if swelling occurs.

What about burn gels?

The evidence suggests that burn gels can be helpful in reducing the pain of a burn after it has been appropriately cooled with water. If you don’t have access to water a burn gel would be better than nothing, but the best first aid is to use water to begin with.

Do I need A+E?

  • Medical attention should be sought for any burn to the hands, feet, face or neck area and any burn that goes right around an arm or leg.
  • You should also seek medical advice for large superficial burns, blistered burns covering more than the area of the casualty’s hand and any deep burn that has gone through several layers of tissue.
  • Medical advice should also be sought for burns to children.

Fun around the Fire

Some of the best firework experiences can be had by attending an organised display; not only can you relax in the knowledge that somebody else is taking care of the dangerous bits, but you’re likely to see a more spectacular display made up of pyrotechnics beyond most peoples’ budgets!

If you do hold your own bonfire or fireworks show though, have fun and stay safe this November!

Vampire jokey first aid blog

Freaky First Aid: Top Tips for Halloween

Halloween can be a dangerous time of the year with vampires, zombies and werewolves roaming the streets at night. It pays to be prepared for any Halloween first aid emergency, so here’s our guide to dealing with monstrous injuries.

1. Safety First
If you’re the first on the scene after a Halloween attack, make sure it’s safe to approach. Look around to make sure there are no ghouls still in the area, ensure your path is free from slip and trip hazards (such as pools of blood and dismembered limbs) and don’t forget to look up for vampires.

Don’t be a hero when it comes to tackling malevolent beings – remember that there’s only limited evidence to support the use of silver bullets and stakes for werewolf and vampire slaying. Zombies can however often be avoided by slow movements and making appropriate zombie-like sounds.

2. Try to get a response
Speak clearly and loudly to the casualty. If they respond with incoherent groans they may have a lowered level of consciousness, or could be on the path to becoming undead. If there’s no response, now would be a good time to call for help.

3. Check for life-threatening bleeding
Vampire bites can be serious, as they target the jugular vein and carotid artery. Werewolves on the other hand tend to be a bit more indiscriminate. Regardless of the cause of the bleeding, major bleeds can quickly lead to serious problems, so try to stem the bleeding with direct pressure to the wound. Signs of shock include the casualty appearing pale, cold and clammy, although it can be easy to mistake a zombie for a casualty in shock (see point 1).

4. Open the airway
Tilting the head back and lifting the casualty’s chin will help them to breathe – just be careful not to get bitten by any undead casualties.

5. Look, listen and feel for normal breathing
With your head close to the casualty’s mouth, listen for breathing while watching for their chest and stomach area rising and falling at the same time. Do this for up to 10 seconds. Irregular gasping sounds or gurgling are not normal breathing, neither is a rasping voice whispering “bloooood…” in your ear.

6. Deal with any other bleeding
Assuming your casualty is breathing normally, check for other bleeding wounds. Vampires are likely to have left puncture wounds whilst werewolves tend to inflict lacerations on their victims. Zombies often inflict a number of injuries, so make sure you check thoroughly for any hidden wounds.

Enjoy Halloween, but be prepared
Whether you’re battling werewolves or slaying vampires it always pays to know a few simple but effective first aid skills. Whether you need to learn some new skills or refresh your existing ones, see our courses to find what you’re looking for.

Would you like to hear more from Borderlands Outdoor? Sign up for our occasional newsletters and special offers on courses and activities

* indicates required

Sugar Loaf

Cartographic confusion! Common map errors and how to avoid them

It’s often been said that, here in the UK, we’re lucky enough to have the best leisure maps in the world. Ordnance Survey mapping at 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scales offer an incredible level of detail and accuracy while the increasingly popular Harveys maps offer a user-friendly alternative in some areas. Without the knowledge of how to interpret the map though, all that fine work is useless to the average walker, cyclist or trail runner.

Many of the symbols on the map are pretty self-explanatory and easy to understand (crosses for churches, green pictures of trees for forests and so on), but there are a few areas that can lead to confusion and bewilderment when out and about in the countryside. Here are a few of the common mistakes I come across when teaching navigation.


Many compasses have a handy ‘romer’ scale etched along the edges. This enables you to measure distances in increments of 50 or 100m at a glance. With romers available for maps at different scales however, it’s easy to mistakenly use the wrong one for the map you’re following! Romers on compasses are usually at 1:25,000, 1:50,000 and sometimes 1:40,000 scales. Using the wrong romer could lead to errors such as measuring a 1KM distance as being only 500m!

Where’s the path?

Do you know the difference between a track, a path and a footpath? Did you even know that such a difference existed? Ordnance Survey maps use coloured dashes to denote public rights of way, even where there may be no actual visible path in reality. Other symbols are used to indicate actual paths that should be found on the ground.

This often causes confusion amongst walkers trying to find a public footpath that doesn’t appear to exist!

coleton fishacre

I like to explain this as green dashed lines (red on a 1:50,000) tell you that you have the right to walk on that particular route, but not necessarily the ability to do so. Black dashed lines tell you that you have the ability to walk there, but not necessarily the right! Where there is a green dashed line with black dashes beneath it, you have both the right to walk there and should probably expect to find a track on the ground.

Harveys maps are different again. These maps focus on physical features that can be found, so don’t necessarily indicate right of way information.


The black dashes  on an OS map can be either a single line or 2 parallel lines. As a rough rule of thumb, I teach that the single line is a track that you should expect to be able to walk along whilst the double lines denote something that is probably broad enough to drive a land rover along.

Just don’t get the tracks confused with…


Physical boundaries are the easy (or easier anyway) ones to deal with. Those black solid lines criss-crossing the 1:25,000 scale maps represent walls, fences, hedgerows and, occasionally, lines of trees. Tougher to find can be the earthern embankments and trenches that can also be marked in the same way; one trick is to imagine what the map-maker could see from an aerial photograph. If they could see something about the height / depth of a wall, that’s how it will be marked.


The really tricky boundaries marked on OS maps though are the ones that don’t exist! Civil parish boundaries, parliamentary constituency boundaries, county boundaries, national boundaries, national park boundaries, even European parliamentary boundaries (for now at least) are all marked on the map. Go to that spot though and you’re unlikely to find any evidence of them in reality.

Most of these administrative boundaries are marked as various schemes of dashes and dots, so it’s hardly surprising that I often see people mistaking them for footpaths and tracks. The only way to be certain of avoiding this issue is by learning the symbols thoroughly or, if in doubt, consulting the map key!

Back on Track

Once you recognise the common pitfalls in map interpretation the process of navigation begins to become clearer and a little easier. Armed with the knowledge of how to interpret the map accurately there should be nothing to stop you from making the most of it: get out and explore!

If you fancy developing your navigation skills with some hands-on training, find out more about our courses here.

Would you like to hear more from Borderlands Outdoor? Sign up for our occasional newsletters and special offers on courses and activities

* indicates required

Messing about on the river

As if outdoor adventures and first aid training weren’t enough to keep him busy, Martin – one of the partners behind Borderlands – is also a keen writer for the outdoor press. The latest piece to be published is very close to his heart: outdoor pursuits in the Wye Valley, right in the midst of the Borderlands!

Check it out here and let us know what you think!

Would you like to hear more from Borderlands Outdoor? Sign up for our occasional newsletters and special offers on courses and activities

* indicates required