First Aid for Triathletes

author : Team BT
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Be prepared to help yourself and help others when training goes bad


Here at CPR Northwest Washington, we understand that the Northwest includes a rich culture of triathletes and cyclists who train for fun, fellowship and competition. We also own a “Pro-level” exercise physiology lab; where we provide Olympic Training Center level “athlete fitness assessments”, so fully understand the intersection between the triathlete’s need for high level training and the need for understanding and being prepared for medical emergencies while training and racing. To begin with, we encourage these athletes to start with a good CPR, AED & First Aid course. This gives an excellent foundation for responding to a medical emergency and by taking a first aid and CPR course you are acquire skills that you can use to help others, and you might even save a life.

First of all, we all try to keep our bike, our tool kit and nutrition as light as possible so adding weight to your bike during a race seems counterproductive. That being said, being safe while being fast is always a good idea! Whether it’s training or the racing, you’ll want to have some basic but essential first aid supplies with you. Along with and an ID card with your emergency contact information and if you do have a chronic medical condition or you are allergic to bee stings, spider bites or other Anaphylactic issues, an appropriate medication or EpiPen is very important and call 911. Also, a medical alert tag can let others know about your condition so that appropriate treatment (the EpiPen for instance) can be administered and call 911.

Even though there are first aid stations throughout the course of a triathlon, it’s always a good idea to the bare essentials first aid items “on board” with you in case you encounter a medical situation while swimming, running or cycling. Medical problems often occur in any the three legs of a triathlon. So, having a mobile first aid kit provides the tools for most athletic situations.

Basic but essential items you need in your first aid kit:

Pack a few bandages and a small tube of antiseptic/antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes can help reduce infection and are a good idea and serve as anti-inflammatory medication. And don’t forget the sunscreen.
Beyond these essentials, having a more complete first aid kit with you can come in quite handy when you encounter an injury that’s more than the usual cut or scrape. Benadryl and a small tube of hydrocortisone. An elastic bandage or wrap to stop bleeding or create a makeshift splint.

Dealing with other Minor Injuries:

There are several common minor injuries that can occur and knowing how to handle those situations will prove useful. If you encounter a cut during a triathlon or training, and it is deep or will not stop bleeding, it is will be critical to stop and take care of it. Use an antiseptic and a gauze pad and apply pressure to stop the bleeding, then apply a bandage and get back on the road. If it does not stop bleeding, call 911.

If you or another athlete crashes and goes into Shock, this can become a life-threatening situation. Shock may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss (low blood volume), an allergic reaction, severe infection, poisoning, severe burns or other causes. When a person is in shock, his or her organs aren't getting enough blood or oxygen. If untreated, this can lead to permanent organ damage or even death.

Symptoms of shock can vary depending on circumstances but can include some or many of the following; cool, clammy skin, pale skin, rapid pulse or breathing, nausea or vomiting, enlarged pupils, weakness or fatigue, (not as an indicator of hard training or low blood sugar), dizziness or fainting, changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or being agitated. In any of these situations you need to call 911 immediately and lay the person down and keep the person still and don't move him or her unless necessary and cover with a blanket to prevent hypothermia. Do not hydrate with any liquid and begin CPR if the person shows no signs of life, such as breathing, coughing or movement.

If you crash on the bike or fall during the run, you may very well get some road rash and is probably the most common injury in cycling. If you’re out on the road and need to take care of a minor road rash, go to your first aid kit and wash it with your antiseptic and clean it out with the wipe as much as possible. If you have DuoDERM, use that to cover the wound; if not, use whatever bandage you have handy.

If you sprain an ankle or wrist, ice is your best bet. Keep your shoe on, as it can act as a compression. If the injury is serious, you should probably seek medical attention and reduce exacerbating the injury and race again on another day. You can always contact us at we’d be happy to suggest customizing your Triathlon First Aid Kit.


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date: October 30, 2018

Team BT