The suggestions in this first aid section are not medical procedures that have been validated or recognised by any qualified entity for that purpose. Implementing the suggestions presented below is the sole responsibility of those who use them. The Association of Friends of the Caminhos de Fátima is not responsible for the damages or consequences of the practical implementation of these suggestions. We recommend all pilgrims to do certified first aid training.
Advance preparation is the best way to deal with problems
on the caminho. We recommend that you take a first aid course.
It's a good way to start preparing for this aspect of the
pilgrimage. Look for a first aid training that goes beyond basic
life support. Ask the trainer, any and all questions you may have,
even if they seem strange. Start by using the starter aid kit
in your daily life. By practising become familiar with the contents
of the case and how to use each item. If you use something from the case, you should replace it as soon as possible. Practise first aid at home and on short walks. On the caminho, when you're tired and in unfamiliar surroundings, a first aid situation will probably be more stressful, so be prepared, practise and take action.
BEFORE YOUR PILGRIMAGE
When preparing your kit, remember three things: first aid, daily medicines (with prescription), and medicines you may need on the caminho (non-prescription). Remember that everything is extra weight for you to carry.
It’s hard to know what over-the-counter treatments you will need on your caminho and it can vary greatly, but there is no need to carry a whole pharmacy in your backpack, as you’ll find many things in pharmacies and supermarkets along the way. If in need you can ask for an aspirin, for example, at the fire station or health centre, and if this isn’t possible, ask where the closest place to buy what you need is. Prepare your first aid kit.
Make sure you check that all medications and first aid materials are not past their expiration date.
If you have this feature on your mobile phone, set a button to call 112 directly (speed dial). Create a simple shortcut for your phone to go into energy saving mode. If possible, have your medical record on laminated paper for quick access in case of emergency, stating your main health problems, medication, blood type and emergency contact details.
DICA IMPORTANTE: a forma mais simples de tornar um telemóvel comum impermeável é usar um saco de plástico de congelação com fecho. O plástico permite usar o telefone e o ecran, enquanto protege do contacto com água.
BASIC FIRST AID KIT
1. Sterile compress dressings in assorted sizes
2. Plasters in assorted sizes
3. Hypoallergenic adhesive cloth tape
4. Non-elastic bandage
5. Antiseptic ointment
6. 70% ethyl alcohol (do not apply to wounds or skin lesions)
7. Saline solution 0.9%
8. Round-ended scissors
10. Disposable gloves
11. Blister plasters
12. Syringe and protection with written carrier identification (blister packs)
13. Thermal blanket
14. Vaseline (do not apply to wounds)
16. Salt (Feet)
ADVANCED FIRST AID KIT
The list of items below, are a reference for pilgrim Guides, who have done the training with the Association of Friends of the Caminhos de Fátima.
Portable CPR mask for basic life support.
2. Finger oximeter
3. Blood pressure reader (portable)
4. Glucose reader (portable)
6. Steri-strips adhesive skin closures
7. Hemostatis sterile sponges
8. Ice pack
9. Heat pack
10. Elastic bandage
11. Anti-inflammatory cream
12. Healing/scarring ointment
15. Rehydration salts
16. Painkiller (Paracetamol)
17. Signal lights (backpack lights)
ON THE CAMINHO
You should plan what to do if you are alone in the case of an incident on the caminho, or if you need to help another pilgrim. If you have an accident, try to stay as rational as possible and assess which steps need to be taken, one step at a time. Emotions can hinder your judgment. At nighttime, your brain can play tricks on you (out of fear). If you are thinking about calling 112, make sure that this is not simply because you feel like giving up, as discouragement is usually associated with a lack of food. Have a break, relax and have something to eat.
First, find a stable position. Slowly, seek a safe position that does not worsen your condition. If possible, seek shade and use your mat for the floor. If it's cold, cover yourself (use your poncho). Make yourself visible (using the backpack signal lights).
Assess your condition, try to locate the source of the problem and whether you can resolve it. Slowly place your backpack next to you and take out your first aid kit and mobile phone. If you are confused or are unable to resolve your problem, call 112.
Calling 112 is free and it works with any network, even when you have no network available or your phone has no sim.
Start by giving the 112 operator your name and age, and give your phone number in case they need to call back. Explain what happened to you, the symptoms you have, if you are cold, hot, dehydrated, where you are (use google maps on your phone to determine your exact location), explain that you are a pilgrim and how many days you have been walking the caminho.
Be patient. If you are in a remote place without access for cars, it may take over an hour for the rescue team to arrive. Don’t fall asleep. Use your backpack belt whistle and light to make it easier to find you.
No matter how many caminhos you’ve walked, your body and that of other pilgrims provide an unending source of situations that you might have to resolve during the caminho. Here is a link to the National Health Service’s First Aid page, where you will find information on how to deal with the most common first aid situations.
The worst blisters are not on your feet but in your head, where no one can pop them.
LOOKING AFTER FEET
The feet are the weak spot of most pilgrims that walk the caminho for the first time. It’s very important to prepare your feet for the great mission that they are going to embark on. A 25km stage is on average 50,000 steps. This section about looking after your feet is split into three parts: before, during and after the walk. Some of the information will only make sense once you’re on the caminho.
Before you start your training walks for your pilgrimage, start by preparing your feet.
Cutting nails and moisturising
You should cut your nails no less than 1 week before starting your pilgrimage, to avoid freshly cut nails rubbing your toes and causing soreness. Before cutting, place your feet in hot water for 15 minutes to soften your nails, and dry them well. Cut nails carefully so as not to cut yourself or pull out hairs. For more complicated cases, consider visiting a podiatrist. Let them know that you are going to do a pilgrimage.
To increase your skin’s elasticity and resistance, moisturise your feet before bed and cover them with a pair of old socks (for increased hydration and to protect the bedsheets!)
During your pilgrimage, you should start your day by preparing your feet before they walk thousands of steps! One little stone can turn into a drill perforating the skin on your feet.
Sit down with your shoes, socks and vaseline within reach.
Take out the soles, check that there isn’t anything in your shoe and place it next to you.
Cross your leg over your knee to inspect your foot with your hand. Look for any dirt, especially in the gaps between your toes.
Keeping your leg crossed, lather your foot with plenty of vaseline.
Ensure that there is nothing stuck to your foot or inside your sock.
Put on your sock.
Put on your shoe and push your ankle right to the back of the shoe.
Tie up your laces firmly on the ridge of the foot, and more loosely on the bend, and tight at the ankle so that your foot is not loose in your shoe. Tie a double knot as in the video below. Throughout the day you should keep your shoe tight, the big toe not touching the tip.
Repeat the process with the other foot.
Try to keep your feet dry during your caminho. Damp feet will become more easily worn and torn, making the skin weaker to the abrasive effects of the walk.
Wear shoes and socks that are breathable
If needed, change your socks during the day
By rubbing vaseline on your feet in the morning you lessen the chances of footsores from humidity
IMPORTANT TIP: when taking care of feet (your/others), you should use disposable gloves to protect against infections and fungus. One pair of socks for one pair of feet. For the safety of all, change your gloves after use.
Keep an eye on your feet
Remove stones and other things that get into your shoes throughout the day.
Keep your laces and shoes tight, without allowing your toes to touch the tip of the shoe.
If you feel discomfort or rubbing, protect the area with a blister plaster
It’s normal for feet to swell. You can counter this with cold water. Make sure to remove any fluff or bits from your feet when they're wet, and be aware of the contrast of temperature in digestion stops.
If you get blisters on your feet, protect the area with gauze and tape or with a blister plaster, until you finish the stage. Avoid popping blisters.
If you have a cut on your toes, wash the area with saline solution and cover it with a blister plaster until reaching the albergue.
DICA: as melhores sandálias são feitas de uma esponja com maior densidade para aumentar a durabilidade. Característica que aumenta o peso das sandálias. Recomendamos que escolhas sandálias de menor densidade, pois são mais leves.
When you are approaching the end of the stage, slow down your pace before completely stopping. Take a shower as soon as possible, making sure you wash and dry your feet well. Wear sandals or flip-flops to allow your feet to breathe. If it's cold, wear socks and open shoes.
End of day care
Find a comfortable place to sit and assess the condition of your feet.
If you need to see a health professional, don’t leave this to the end of the day.
If you have blisters on your feet that cause pain when walking, you should drain them.
Popping blisters can cause infection and in extreme cases put an end to your pilgrimage. This should be done by a health professional.
Be very careful not to tear the skin on the blister when removing blister plasters. Use hot water to take off the plaster slowly.
If your legs are swollen, run cold water over them in the shower and keep them elevated when lying down.
Do not massage the soles of your feet at the end of the day, to avoid excruciating pain.
Dry your shoes well over night with a heater and placing scrunched up newspaper inside them.
Drink plenty of water, eat and rest.
The greatest riches that I possess will not fit in any bank