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3 Tips for Trailside Trauma: Carilion Wilderness Medicine’s To-Dos for Summer Trail Safety

Written by  Christine Stoddard

Recently,Virginians of all ages were invited to learn more about trailside trauma and safety. Here’s some of what they learned. 

With warmer weather finally upon us, you’ll probably want to explore some of Virginia’s natural beauty this summer. But just because a place is beautiful doesn’t mean it’s safe. Trailside trauma is a serious reality. Whether you’re hiking in your backyard, along the New River, at Shenandoah National Park, or elsewhere, you will need to be prepared to handle trail-related injuries, ranging from snake bites to serious fractures.

In May, Carilion Clinic held a lecture on trail safety as part of its Distributing National Selection Series. Lecture-goers learned the ins and outs of common trail-related injuries from physicians in the Carilion Clinic Wilderness Medicine department. These sorts of lectures are becoming more and more vital as the region changes.

“As the Roanoke Valley increases opportunities to experience the great outdoors, injuries in remote locations will increase,” says Sarah Beth Dinwiddie, trauma outreach coordinator for Carilion Clinic. “With education from this program, participants are able to manage injuries and illness until aid is available.”

If you missed the event, don’t worry. Dinwiddie spoke to OurHealth about the lecture’s main takeaways so you, too, can be safe on the trail this summer. Here are three things to know:

1. Never venture out without a plan. You never know when an emergency will hit. That’s why lecture-goers were taught to be ready for likely threats and inconveniences. “Let someone know where you will be and when you will be back,” says Dinwiddie. “Be prepared to take care of yourself for an undetermined amount of time.” After all, you won’t always be able to call 9-1-1 when you’re out on the trail—and even when you can, “there can be significant delays in treatment.” Dinwiddie adds, “For every hour that a person walks into the woods on a trail, it can take 3-4 hours to carry that person back out to an ambulance.” Because of this, you should go slowly, carry food and water, and know what to do in case the weather changes.

2. Non-life threatening injuries are common. Think you’ll never get hurt on the trail? Think again. Sprains, strains, abrasions, and lacerations are some of the most common injuries that are seen,” says Dinwiddie. “With wound care education and splinting education, many people are able to treat these injuries while on the trail and able to get back to help instead of having to wait for assistance.” Fortunately, if you know what to do, you often can treat yourself and keep relishing your adventure. Not every injury requires a hospital visit.

3. First aid kits are not one-size-fits all. Your first aid kit needs to be personalized to you. “A first aid kit will be as unique as each individual who is carrying one,” says Dinwiddie. “Carry what will keep you comfortable and make life easier for you if you are injured.” You might take a big, pre-packed first aid kit, but these tend to be heavy and somewhat burdensome if you don’t know how to use everything in it. “Instead, think through the injuries you may sustain while exploring the great outdoors and how you would treat those injuries,” she says. “Carry the things you would need to treat those injuries.”

Learn these and other skills at an Outdoor Safety Program. For more information, visit or Roanoke Parks and Recreation at

Sign Up for a Paddle Sports Safety Class this Summer!

Many people increase their outdoor activity during the summer, especially involvement with moving water. Learn about water hazards and how to enjoy the great outdoors while staying safe by participating in a free paddle sports safety class offered by Carilion Clinic.

During the paddle sports safety class, you will learn how to:

•    Prepare for a river trip.
•    Manage personal safety and personal protective equipment.
•    Manage basic self-rescue techniques.
•    Identify and respond to moving water hazards such as strainers, sieves, and hydrolytics.

Who should attend?

•    Everyone who kayaks, canoes, or SUPs (stand-up paddleboards)
•    Everyone who is interested in spending time on rivers or creeks.
•    Everyone who enjoys going on commercial rafting trips.


•    Closed toed shoes must be worn.
•    Wear clothes that can get wet in the river.

For more information about class dates and times and to register, visit or call Carilion Clinic Direct at 540.266.6000 or Toll-Free at 800.422.8482.

Note: kayaks, canoes, and SUPs are not provided and attendees are encouraged NOT to bring their own. The paddle sports safety class focuses on personal safety after entering moving water without a watercraft.