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First Aid and Care
Not all emergencies require calling 911. Nothing in this article advocates NOT calling 911 if your judgement so dictates! Some wounds can be treated at home with basic first aid and then emergency care can be sought out. Others may be so severe that 911 emergency care is required immediately. The Emergency College of Emergency Physicians Foundation says that you should begin first aid and then seek emergency care if the wound:
- Does not stop bleeding after a few minutes of direct pressure.
- Is jagged, gaping or potentially disfiguring.
- Is long or deep.
- Is a cut over a joint.
- Is on the face.
- Is a bite from an animal or human.
- Is over a possible broken bone.
- Has an object embedded in it.
- Was caused my a metal object.
Call 911 immediately if:
- Bleeding does not stop after a few minutes of direct pressure
- Signs of shock appear (weak pulse, rapid or shallow breathing or cold clammy skin)
- The victim is having difficulty breathing because the cut is on the neck or chest.
- The cut is deep in the abdomen area and is causing moderate to severe pain.
- The wound is in the eyeball.
- A finger or other extremity is cutoff or partially cutoff.
First Aid for Wounds: the purpose of first aid with a wound is to help stop the bleeding. Do the following, as appropriate, to help a bleeding wound:
- Apply firm, direct pressure OVER the wound with a clean cloth or sterile bandage. Maintain pressure until bleeding stops or medical help arrives.
- If the injury is on the leg or arm, then keep it elevated unless broken or you suspect it is broken.
- Do not clean or put antiseptic on deep cuts. Apply clean bandages. If blood soaks through continue to add bandages but, DO NOT remove bandages.
- If bleeding is so severe that you fear the victim may bleed to death, use a three-inch (3") wide bandage as a tourniquet, wrap it above the wound and pull tight. (Not being funny here; But, never use a tourniquet for neck wounds).
- If the victim has been impaled (by a knife, pole or other similar object) DO NOT pull the object from the wound. Wait for emergency help to arrive.
Source for the above: webmd.com, which is an excellent source for medical information.
First aid for MINOR injuries.
Proper treatment of everyday minor wounds is important in preventing infection or allowing more serious condition to occur. Of particular note to keep tetanus vaccinations current. Below we have listed several types of injuries and how to treat and care for them to include post surgical wounds. This list is NOT all inclusive but offered to cover the most common. You are encouraged to further your education through books, training or using the resources available on the Internet.
- Cuts and Scrapes
- Before beginning treatment wash your hands with soap and water and use an antibacterial cleaner to prevent infection.
- Clean MINOR wounds with cool running water and a mild soap for a minimum of five minutes.
- Use direct pressure to stop bleeding.
- Apply antibacterial ointment to the wound and cover with a bandage making sure only gauze pad covers the cut. Change bandages daily or as required and monitor for infection.
- Wash and sanitize your hands.
- Clean the wound with streaming cool water for five minutes THEN wash with a mild soap.
- Look but, DO NOT probe, into wound for any foreign objects. If found DO NOT remove and proceed to your Doctor or Emergency Room. If not foreign object is observed BUT the object that inflicted the wound is missing any piece or part or is broken, err on the side of safety and seek medical treatment.
- Apply antibacterial ointment and a clean bandage that will not stick to the wound.
- Change bandages daily or as needed and monitor for infection.
- DO NOTs FOR CUTS, SCRAPES AND PUNCTURES
- Do not assume a wound is clean because of the absence of dirt or debris. Clean it.
- Do not breathe on an open wound. Use a mask if available.
- Do not clean a MAJOR wounds especially after the bleeding is stopped. Call 911.
- Do not remove impaled object from wounds.
- Minor Burns
- Seek medical help if they are severe, on the face, or bigger than 2 inches.
- Immediately remove the victim from the source of heat or burning agent.
- Treat the burn area with cool running water or cool wet cloth.
- After cooling the area (approx 20 minutes) wash the area gently with cool water and a mild soap.
- DO NOT burst blisters. If a blister bursts wash gently with cool water and mild soap.
- DO NOT apply grease or butter to burns.
- Don't cover blisters unless their location would cause rubbing or breakage. Cover broken blisters with a bandage.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment and use a loose non-adhesive bandage and secure with tape.
- If pain increases or persists seek medical treatment and monitor for infection.
- Strains and Sprains
- Be sure there is no breakage of any bone.
- Cover the affected area with a towel or cloth and apply ice or a cold pack.
- Elevate the limb or area.
- Post Surgical Wounds
- Keep the incision site clean and dry. Follow bandaging as prescribed by medical personnel.
- When changing dressings, check the wound for signs of infection such as increased redness around the wound, a yellow or green discharge, or an unusual order. Should any of these occur seek medical advice immediately.