Unpleasant though it may be, the fact remains that accidents happen. Even experiencing it as a bystander, an accident is not a pleasant scene.
If an accident happens at home or in the workplace, you cannot be a helpless witness, since simply standing by can potentially worsen the situation. This is why it’s important to have at least a basic knowledge of first aid.
At its most basic, first aid is the initial assistance given to a victim of injury or illness. Comprised of relatively simple techniques that can be performed with rudimentary equipment, first aid is usually carried out by a layperson until professional medical assistance arrives.
And as we continue with this conversation, here are four main first aid procedures that helpful in dealing with various accidents and emergencies you may encounter in the home or workplace.
Burns and scalds
Burns and scalds are damage to the skin caused by heat. A burn is usually caused by dry heat, like fire, a hot iron, or the sun. A scald is caused by wet heat, like steam or a hot cup of tea.
You need to be extra careful when treating burns. The longer the burning goes on, the more severe the injury will be, and the longer it may take to heal. So you need to cool the burn as soon as possible.
If someone has a severe burn or scald they are likely to suffer from shock, because of the fluid loss, so they will need urgent hospital treatment.
If you think someone has a burn or scald, there are three key things to look for namely swelling, blisters which may form on the skin later on and peeling skin.
You can stop the burning getting any worse, by moving the casualty away from the source of heat.
Start cooling the burn as quickly as possible. Run it under cool water for at least ten minutes or until the pain feels better. (Don’t use ice, creams or gels – they can damage tissues and increase risk of infection).
Assess how bad the burn is. It is serious if it is larger than the size of the casualty’s hand, is on the face, hands or feet, or is a deep burn
If it is serious, make sure you signal for emergency medical help. Remove any clothing near the burn (unless it is stuck to it). Cover the burned area with clean, non-fluffy material, like a clean plastic bag. This will protect from infection. If you are unsure if the burn is serious then tell the person to see a doctor.
A nosebleed occurs when blood flows from one or both nostrils. It’s normally caused by the tiny blood vessels inside the nostrils being ruptured. Common causes of nose bleeds include a blow to the nose, sneezing, picking or blowing the nose, and high blood pressure.
If someone is experiencing a nosebleed, your priority is to control the bleeding and keep their airway open.
Get them to sit down (not lie down) as keeping the nose above the heart will reduce bleeding.
Get them to lean forward (not backwards), to make sure the blood drains out through their nose, rather than down their throat which could block their airway.
Ask them to breathe through their mouth and pinch the soft part of the nose, taking a brief pause every ten minutes, until the bleeding stops.
Encourage them not to speak, swallow, cough, spit or sniff because this may break blood clots that may have started to form in the nose.
If the bleeding is severe, or if it lasts more than 30 minutes it is prudent to seek medical help.
When someone is choking, their airway is partly or completely blocked, meaning they may be unable to breathe properly. They might be able to clear it by coughing, but if they can’t you will need to help them straight away.
Someone who is choking may exhibit the following symptoms
- difficulty breathing, speaking or coughing
- signs of distress, and they may point to their throat or grasp their neck
If you suspect someone is choking, step up to them and verbally ask if they are choking. If they can breathe, speak or cough then they might be able to clear their own throat. If they cannot breathe, cough, or make any noise, then they need your help straight away.
Encourage them to cough and remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth.
If coughing fails to work, you need to give five sharp back blows. To do this, help them to lean forwards, supporting their upper body with one hand. With the heel of your other hand give them five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades. After each back blow, check to see if there’s anything in their mouth
If back blows fail to clear the obstruction, give five abdominal thrusts. To do this, stand behind them and put your arms around their waist. Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest. With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times. Check their mouth again, each time.
If the blockage has not cleared, seek emergency medical help straight away. Repeat five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives, re-checking their mouth each time. If they become unresponsive at any point, prepare to start CPR.
Broken bones and fractures
A break or crack in a bone is called a fracture.
In most cases the damage to the bone will be under the skin, which is called a closed fracture, but sometimes bits of the bone can puncture through the skin to become an open fracture.
There are seven things to look out for when dealing with broken bones and fractures. These are
- Difficulty moving
- Movement in an unnatural direction
- A limb that looks shorter, twisted or bent
- A grating noise or feeling
- Loss of strength
If it is an open fracture, cover the wound with a sterile dressing and secure it with a bandage. Apply pressure around the wound to control any bleeding.
- Support the injured body part to stop it from moving. This should ease any pain and prevent any further damage.
- Once you’ve done this, call for medical help. While waiting for help to arrive, don’t move them unless they’re in immediate danger.
Protect the injured area by using bandages to secure it to an uninjured part of the body to stop it from moving. For example, fractures on the arm can be secured with a sling, and a leg with a fracture can be tied to the uninjured leg.
Keep checking the casualty for signs of shock. This does not mean emotional shock, but is a life-threatening condition, often caused by losing blood.
If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who’s become unresponsive.
Without the proper first aid, a simple injury could turn into something much more severe. Many fatalities resulting from accidents and emergency situations result from lack of immediate medical treatment. First aid doesn’t just facilitate recovery. It helps save lives.
It is equally important to have access to a first aid kit. These are necessary for every household and workspace. Injuries can happen anytime and anywhere.
When you have a first aid kit within easy access of wherever you are you will ensure the safety of everyone.
First aid can reduce infections from open wounds and injuries. It can also reduce the severity of an injury. You cannot always keep people from getting hurt but you can protect them when they get injured with a first aid kit.
You can get yourself first aid kits on the MYDAWA website.3