(Health Secrets) Most people have forgotten the first aid knowledge they acquired during scouting. Add this to the fact that first aid techniques have changed over the years, and often what we do is really based on bad information or old wives tales. This means it’s time for a refresher so at least one person in the family knows what he or she is doing when the time for first aid rolls around. The following information can get you up to date.
Minor burns – The Mayo Clinic tells us to cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cool running water for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain eases, or apply a clean towel dampened with cool tap water.
Remove rings or other tight items from the burned area. Try to do this quickly and gently, before the area swells.
Don’t break small blisters (no bigger than your little fingernail). If blisters break, gently clean the area with mild soap and water, apply aloe vera gel, and cover with a nonstick gauze bandage.
Major burns – Until an emergency unit arrives, take these actions:
*Protect the burned person from further harm, but don’t remove burned clothing stuck to the skin.
*Check for signs of circulation. Look for breathing, coughing or movement. Begin CPR if needed.
*Remove jewelry, belts and other restrictive items, especially from around burned areas and the neck. Burned areas swell rapidly.
*Don’t immerse large severe burns in cold water – doing so could cause a serious loss of body heat (hypothermia) or a drop in blood pressure and decreased blood flow (shock).
*Elevate the burned area. Raise the wound above heart level, if possible.
*Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, bandage or a clean cloth.
Every home should have a well-stocked first-aid kit
The Mayo Clinic recommends a basic first-aid kit that includes:
Elastic wrap bandages
Bandage strips and “butterfly” bandages in assorted sizes
Nonstick sterile bandages and roller gauze in assorted sizes
Eye shield or pad
Aluminum finger split
Instant cold packs
Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
Disposable non-latex examination gloves (several pairs)
Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
Plastic bags, assorted sizes
Safety pins in assorted sizes
Scissors and tweezers
Antiseptic solution and towelettes
Turkey baster or other bulb suction device for flushing wounds
Syringe, medicine cup or spoon
Include an emergency kit
This kit should travel with your first aid kit. It contains what your family needs for an emergency.
*Emergency phone numbers
*Contact information for your family doctor
*Medical consent forms for each family member
*Medical history forms for each family member
*Small, waterproof flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries
*Small notepad and waterproof writing instrument
*Cell phone with solar charger
You may also want to include a hat or scarf. Check your first-aid kits regularly to be sure the flashlight batteries work and replace supplies that have expired or been used up.
Myths vs. reality
The Red Cross tells us to seek health and safety recommendations from credible sources and disregard popular myths, such as:
Myth: Soothe a burn by applying butter. Reality: If you apply butter or an oily substance to a serious burn, you could make it difficult for a doctor to treat the burn later and increase risk of infection.
Myth: If a child swallows a poisonous substance, induce vomiting with syrup of ipecac.
Reality: Inducing vomiting is not recommended for certain poisonous substances and may be harmful. Never give anything to eat or drink unless directed to by the Poison Control Center or a medical professional. If an accidental poisoning occurs, immediately call the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222) for advice.
Myth: The best way to treat a bleeding extremity is by applying a tourniquet. Reality: Tourniquets stop the flow of blood, which could cause permanent damage to a limb. They should be used only as a last resort in the case of severe bleeding. Pad the wound with layers of sterile gauze or cloth, apply direct pressure and wrap the wound securely. Seek medical help if the bleeding doesn’t stop or if the wound is gaping, dirty or caused by an animal bite
Myth: Apply heat to a sprain, strain or fracture. Reality: Heat actually increases swelling and can keep the injury from healing as quickly as it could. Apply ice to reduce swelling for about 20 minutes. Place a thin barrier between the ice and the bare skin.
Myth: You should move someone injured in a car accident away from the scene. Reality: A person with a spinal-cord injury won’t necessarily appear badly injured, but any movement could lead to paralysis or death. Move an injured victim only if the scene becomes unsafe (the vehicle is threatened by fire or another serious hazard) or if you have to reach another victim who may have a more serious injury or illness. If CPR needs to be performed, do it on a firm, flat surface. Otherwise, it’s best to stabilize the victim, and leave the person in place until paramedics arrive.
Myth: Rub your eye when you get a foreign substance in it. Tears will wash the substance out. Reality: Rubbing could cause a serious scratch or abrasion to the eye. Rinse the eye with tap water.
Myth: Use hot water to thaw a cold extremity. Reality: Avoid any extreme temperature change- hot water can cause further damage. Gradually warm the extremity by soaking it in lukewarm water.
Myth: To reduce a fever, sponge rubbing alcohol on the skin. Reality: Alcohol can be absorbed by the skin, which can cause alcohol poisoning, especially in young children. If a high fever continues for several days, see a physician or go to a hospital emergency room for treatment.
Myth: Allergic reactions to bee stings can be treated at home. Reality: Delaying professional treatment to a respiratory allergic reaction from a bee sting could be fatal. For symptoms such as breathing problems, tight throat or swollen tongue, call an ambulance immediately.
Myth: If you get a cut or scrape, apply first-aid ointment, cover it with a bandage, and leave it untended to heal for a few days. Reality: Exposure to fresh air is the quickest way to allow wounds to heal, and thus it is generally best not to apply creams or ointments since they keep the wound moist. Bandages should also be changed to keep the wound clean. The first and best thing to do with a wound is wash it with soap and cool water. All dressings should be changed twice a day. At bedtime, the bandage should be replaced with a looser dressing so air can circulate around the wound. Upon waking, a slightly tighter bandage should be applied, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation. Bandages should be changed even if it means pulling off a part of a scab that’s forming, experts say. Also, try to keep the wounded area dry.
Reasons to call for emergency medical attention
*A person is unresponsive, isn’t breathing or isn’t moving. Begin CPR if there’s no breathing or heartbeat.*There is heavy bleeding.
*If even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
*The limb or joint appears deformed.
*The bone has pierced the skin.
*The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
*You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.
Don’t move the person except if necessary to avoid further injury.
Take these actions immediately while waiting for medical help
Stop any bleeding.
Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
Immobilize the injured area.
Don’t try to realign a bone or push a bone that’s sticking out back in. If you’ve been trained in how to splint and professional help isn’t readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce discomfort.
Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.
How do spot shock and what to do
According to the Mayo Clinic, shock may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss, allergic reaction, severe infection, poisoning, severe burns or other causes. A person in shock is not getting enough blood or oxygen to their organs. This can lead to permanent organ damage or even death if left untreated.
Signs and symptoms of shock vary depending on circumstances and may include
*Cool clammy skin
*Pale or ashen skin
*Nausea or vomiting
*Weakness or fatigue
*Dizziness or fainting
*Changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation
Seek emergency medical care if you suspect a person is in shock. Then immediately take the following steps:
*Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly, unless you think this may cause pain or further injury.
*Keep the person still and don’t move him or her unless necessary.
*Begin CPR if the person shows no signs of life, such as breathing, coughing or movement.
*Loosen tight clothing and, if needed, cover the person with a blanket to prevent chilling.
*Don’t let the person eat or drink anything.
*If the person vomits or begins bleeding from the mouth, turn him or her onto a side to prevent choking, unless you suspect a spinal injury.
Now that you have reviewed this basic information, do you feel more prepared? If you would like to know more, there is a variety of online courses to take. Probably the best idea is to connect with the Red Cross because first aid is their primary mission.