Monday, April 21, 2008


Asthma and Allergies

Firstly, I’m glad that the event that David has reported didn’t turn into something very serious. I agree fully with his conclusion about “screening” for asthma and I would add the need to screen for ALLERGIES.
It’s important to note that a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, is potentially fatal if not treated promptly.
As well as food allergies (nuts particularly), some people can react very badly to a bee or wasp sting. Whatever the cause, people at risk usually carry a pre-loaded injection kit called an EpiPen which contains a single measured dose of adrenaline. This is the one medication that (in the UK) a suitably trained first aider can administer.
So, if you are aware that a client is vulnerable you can check (discreetly of course) that they have an EpiPen with them before going off on the walk. Needless to say, you will need to ask where it’s kept.
On a similar subject, some people can be allergic to latex so it might be worth considering swapping any latex gloves in your first aid kit for a non latex type.
I also think that it is good practice to include “client medical condition” as an identified hazard on your risk assessment*. The control measures can be as above, ie. The walk leader is a qualified first-aider, screen via a questionnaire and check for medication prior to an outing.
(* I know that if you are a self employed person (in the UK) having fewer that five employees you are not obliged to keep written risk assessments, but I have always been advised that it’s good practice to do so.)

If it’s been a while since your last first aid course, it’s worth a quick look at the EpiPen website at and the site of the Anaphylaxis Campaign at

Here’s hoping that you will never need to put any of this into practice.

Malcolm Jarvis Nordic Walker Leeds UK

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Nordic Walking UK First Aid Course, Helps Prevent Potential Medical Emergency

Among the range of great new courses launched by Nordic Walking UK this past month is a First Aid course specifically for Nordic Walking instructors. As an attendee on that first course I can say that it was very well worth attending!

I needed to update my First Aid qualification and just at the time I was starting to look for a local course I received notification about Nordic Walking UK's course. I was keen to attend (even though it involved a 200 mile round trip) because unlike most First Aid courses that tend to focus on first aid in the work place this course was speciafically aimed at Nordic Walking instructors working in the great outdoors!

The private company who delivered the course on behalf of Nordic Walking UK are HSE (Health & Safety Executive) licenced, the standard for First Aid training in the Uk, which means that as instructors we can use the qualification for instructor insurance purposes.

I must commend our course instructor Dawn who provided a great day of training and she really made the effort to make the course relevant to our work as outdoor instructors, whilst at the same time making sure the core syllabus was covered.

Was the course worth attending? Absolutely! Just one piece of advice Dawn gave only two weeks ago may have prevented an emergency situation arising in a new class I began teaching on Monday evening.

Dawn made a point of emphasized the importance not only of instructors requiring their clients / class members to complete a Pre-Exercise Screening Questionaire but (and here's the really important bit) - "Questioning" their class members / clients based on the information that they provide on that form. This is really basic, simple stuff, but it is so easy to overlook things that are basic and simple. We probably all do it from time to time.

One of my new class members on Monday evening was a lady who had stated on her form that she was asthmatic. Dawn had emphasized that an Asthma attack is one of the most frightening first aid emergencies to be faced with because if someone is having an asthma attack and their medication eg inhaler is not at hand they can die and you are suddenly in an emergency CPR situation!

I know it should be obvious but it is well worth emphasising how vitally important it is (it could be the difference between life & death!) that instructors ensure that asthmatics in their class carry their medication always!!! Also instructors must question class members and clients to make sure they have included "everything" that is relevent on the pre-exercise screening form.

One instructor on our course said that at the end of a recent Nordic Walking session a new client said "that was a great session and it didn't effect my asthma!" The instructor said "what asthma? You didn't put asthma on your form!" - The client said she didn't think it was important because she had lived with asthma for so long! Well here's how imortant it can be...

Before the start of my class on Monday I said to my new lady (the asthma sufferer), "do you have your inhaler with you?" She replied, I have left it in a bag on by bicycle! I asked her to go and get it and to give it to me to look after. Towards the end of the session we were about a quarter of a mile away from her bicycle (where she was going to leave her inhaler), when suddenly she started gasping for breath, she needed her inhaler urgently....

I was able to take it out of my back pack and she was able to take some breaths and she was fine. However, had I not made her go and get her inhaler from her bicycle at the start of the lesson, when she started struggling to breathe I would have had to run a half mile round trip during which time I would have had to identify her bicycle and find her inhaler (assuming she had been able to tell me where her inhaler was eg where her bicycle was and what it looked like whilst she was struggling to breathe)!

Would I have asked her to get her inhaler had I not done this first aid course so recently? Put it this way it was so clear in my mind after the asthma discussion we had on the course, that it was at the front of my mind! So I wasn't going to forget and now for sure I never will and I am even more determined to make sure that not only do I screen my clients / class members properly but that I do all the extra questioning necessary to reduce the risk of having to deal with a medical emergency in the first place.

The incident on Monday night was resolved ever so easily but it could so easily have turned into a medical emergency, involving CPR and the need to call out the emergency services, if I had not insisted that the lady went and got her inhaler and then gave it to me for safe keeping.

To any UK based instructors who needs to renew their First Aid qualification in the near future, I recommend you get booked on to the next Nordic Walking UK First Aid Training day.

David Downer
Owner: Nordic Walking News


Leeds, England on the Map by Malcolm Jarvis

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Nordic walking instructor Tony Pattison who has recently initiated a Nordic Walking project here in Leeds.

Tony, a recently qualified INWA lad, has set up a programme for the over 50’s which he has dubbed “Hardy Perennials” and is planning to use Roundhay Park as his “green gym”. Tony, who lost sight in one eye when young, has obtained sponsorship from the “Ready to Start” programme run by Leonard Cheshire Disability in conjunction with Barclays.

The park, one of the largest in Europe, contains 258 hectares of mixed green space, including woodland and two lakes and has fine paths ideally suited to Nordic Walking. Challenging sections can be had by taking off along some of the quieter but steeper tracks through the woods, or if you are up to it, tackling the infamous Hill 60 which is gives a 200 metre lung-busting work-out!

I hope the Nordic Walking community will wish Tony well in his mission to promote our sport to this important social segment. Tony can be found on the Nordic Walking UK database or can be contacted by email

Malcolm Jarvis Nordic Walker Leeds UK


Neglect your feet at your peril by Malcolm Jarvis

Whilst perhaps not being the most exciting topic, recent personal experience reminded me of the importance of good footcare. I will spare you the details, but I developed an ingrowing big toe nail which needed antibiotic treatment, plus a minor procedure to remove the offending “spike”. Suffice it to say, my toe was very tender and stopped me from walking for about a week (Nordic or otherwise). A wake up call, perhaps, to the importance of good foot maintenance (my partner suggested that I looked after my poles better than I do myself!).

For basic footcare guidance I found the website run by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists to be very helpful. Their site is entitled “Feet for Life” and contains highly accessible information about nails, blisters, infections and other sexy stuff. Try them out at

Needless to say, if you develop something a bit nasty, pay a visit to a suitably qualified chiropodist/podiatrist.

Credit card sized Romer (UK use)

For those of you who record map detail as part of Nordic walk route planning, can I recommend a clever, clear plastic romer card* which I have recently obtained (*a device used to accurately plot grid references by measuring subdivisions of a kilometre square).

There are a few different kinds on the market, and some compasses have grids engraved on the plate, but this particular model is very clear and easy to use. It depicts a complete subdivided grid square, printed on clear plastic, which you place on your map (1:50000 or 1:25000) and read off the “tenths”.

The cost of the “special edition” is £2.59, but part of this (£1) goes to Mountain Rescue (England and Wales), which can’t be bad. They can be obtained from

Nordic language

There are a growing number of words and phrases now in use in Nordic walking circles which describe certain walking actions. Personally, I like a lot of this as it gives our activity its own arcane language – much as in any other sport. It would be fun to collect it together, with definitions, and so far I have encountered:

Spotty dog walking, jazz hands, Groucho Marx walking, and holding the little bird! I know what they all mean, but I came across “Moose Hoofs” the other day (used by skiers) and that had me beat. Any offers of an explanation? Are there any other colourful terms out there?

Malcolm Jarvis – Nordic Walker, Leeds, England

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