New boots should be broken in and tested BEFORE you go bush. Know your feet. Some walkers find blisters are best prevented by wearing two pairs of socks, others pre-tape areas of the foot that are sensitive to rubbing. It is always worth the time to stop to take preventative action before a blister becomes a problem. There are several "artificial skin" preparations available to treat blisters. If fluid in a blister needs to be released, use a needle sterilized in a flame and cover with antiseptic and a dressing.
Bites, stings and other annoying things
Leeches are an unpleasant nuisance rather than a danger. They are generally only found in wet or damp forest areas. In leech infested areas wear clothing to minimize exposed skin and wear gaiters or pull socks over trouser legs. Inspect for freeloaders at rest stops. Leeches can be readily removed with a little salt, or saltwater solution if easier to apply to areas such as the eye. Profuse bleeding may occur but can be easily stopped and there may be irritation or itching a day or two later.
Ticks can be more of a problem, depending on the variety, but are not commonly found in the Victorian bush except in coastal regions and East Gippsland. If walking in scrub in areas known to have ticks, inspect daily for these parasites. Small larvae stage ticks can be killed using a paste of bicarb soda but it is not currently agreed that killing adult ticks with stove fuel or insect repellent is advisable. Use fine, preferably curved tweezers or a piece of knotted thread as close as possible to the skin to ease out the tick. Take care not to crush or squeeze the body during removal. The source of toxins is removed once the body is removed. The affected area may swell a little and itch for a day or so.
Repellents and anaesthetic creams are useful to minimize the impact of the irritation of bites or stings from ants, sandflies, march flies, mosquitoes, wasps or bees which may be encountered whilst walking in the bush. Individuals who are allergic to particular insects should carry antihistamines or prescribed drugs for their treatment.
Strains and Sprains
A sprain occurs when a joint is forced beyond its normal movement. The chance of a sprain can be reduced by wearing boots with good ankle support and stopping for sustenance or avoiding walking when tiredness increases clumsiness. Adjustable walking poles are becoming increasingly popular, particularly amongst older walkers, to minimize the stress on knee joints particularly during steep descents.
A sprain can be very painful but is not as disabling as a fracture or dislocation. If possible, cool and elevate the injured joint and apply a firm crepe bandage before continuing the walk after a rest. Lighten the load of the injured party, fashion a stick for support and do not rush their progress.
A strain is caused by over-stretching a muscle or tendon and is indicated by pain and a loss of power in the injured area. Treat as for a sprain. A routine of stretching muscles prior to commencing exercise is recommended to help prevent strain.
Cramp is a sudden and painful involuntary tightening of a muscle. It is relieved by manually stretching the affected muscle, and then gently massaging the area, keeping it warm. When bushwalking in hot weather, failure to replace body salts lost through perspiration can result in heat cramps, but are avoided by making sure that when you are drinking a lot of fluid that you maintain an equivalent increase in food intake.
Cool the burn area immediately in cold water (wet cloth if not possible) and continue treatment for at least 10 minutes. Do not apply cream or ointment. Cover with a clean dry dressing. Any blisters which form should not be deliberately broken.