Wound Care on the Trails

First in a series of “know when to panic!” advice pieces. You carry all your compulsory kit, but do you know how and when to use it? We aren’t always able to keep our feet rubber side down, so here is some advice on what to do when… well, when there is blood. How to handle your own, or a fellow runners’ abrasions, gashes, punctures, scrapes, skinned knees and dramatic face plants on the trails.

First, remove the clothing over the bleeding injury. Nothing fancy to it: tear it out of your way. Then rinse the area with clean water. One of the recommended ways of cleaning a wound is by using drinking water in a syringe. Great idea to carry a small syringe with you, they weigh next to nothing. Use the water pressure to irrigate the wound, and remove dirt and gravel before taking any further steps.

If an injured runner can be brought to a medic or doctor within minutes of being injured, leave the clean wound open rather than introducing bacteria. If there is going to be a substantial time delay, then intervene.

If the bleeding continues, apply pressure directly to the wound. Preferably using sterile gauze, better still, wearing pair of medical gloves. Next, cover the wound with a piece of gauze and hold that in place with some tape. For a minor wound, that will suffice until the end of a race or run, when a proper assessment can be carried out by a professional.

In the case of a wound that bleeds profusely, carry out the same as the above, but use something like wound closer strips (small sturdy plasters) to seal it up once clean, and summon help.

Remember that a bleeding runner can go in to shock quickly. Keep them warm using a non-cotton base layer, wind breaker and space (rescue) blanket.

So what should you carry in your pack?

  • Tape
  • A roll of self-adhesive strapping or bandages
  • A small syringe
  • Wound closer strips
  • Anti-septic wipes and ointment
  • Space blanket
  • Windbreaker
  • Your phone!


 Susan O Connor took a tumble during her PUFfeR training and required minor surgery to her upper lip



Sue Ulyette shows off a nasty haematoma sustained during a trail run



 Renata Schoeman’s fall took off some skin, and cracked an elbow


Still to come: managing blisters, concussion and rolled ankles!