Disclaimer: This article contains information on basic first-aid techniques. I am a registered nurse and the details contained in this article have been checked for accuracy with official first aid guidelines in my country (the UK). However no advice in this article should be taken over advice given by your doctor or other healthcare professional. Always seek medical attention for serious injuries.
Basic first aid is simple stuff. You don’t need any special products or materials. You just need knowledge and a cool head. Even the smallest, correct, intervention can prevent tragedy or unnecessary hospital visits. Here I will provide guidance on dealing with everyday minor injuries for parents as well as others, as well as what to do in the event of more serious injuries and emergencies.
Cuts, Scratches and Grazes
Firstly, put away the antiseptic! Antiseptics, no matter what the companies that make them might proclaim, should never be applied to simple wounds. Clean water is all you need to clean a minor wound. Antiseptics can actually make the risk of infection higher by killing off ‘good’ bacteria and leaving the area free to be colonised by harmful bacteria.
For a simple cut or graze, clean the area with clean water and a cotton wool pad, removing any grit or debris. At the very most use cooled boiled water with a small amount of salt dissolved in it. But clean water is fine. Apply a plaster if necessary until a scab has formed.
For more serious wounds where there is bleeding, apply pressure to the area using your hand and a paper towel or clean cloth. Raise the wound above the level of the heart. If the bleeding stops and the cut is not deep, clean it and apply a dressing. However for deep cuts, maintain pressure and seek medical attention.
For very serious wounds where there may be glass or other items in or sticking out of the skin, seek medical attention immediately. Never remove any foreign objects from a serious wound! It may be that they are blocking a bleed that would otherwise be life-threatening. Apply pressure to the area and raise it above the level of the heart.
Do not be tempted to apply a tourniquet under any circumstances, no matter how bad the bleed. Tourniquets should only be applied by experienced medical practitioners when the risk of death from bleeding outweighs the risk of the loss of a limb! Tourniquets cut off blood supply, so applying one could result in necessary amputation.
Burns and Scalds
Again, never apply any antiseptic, lotion or cream to a burn or scald. It may make the injury worse or increase the risk of infection. Also, never apply ice to a burn.
For all burns or scalds, immerse the area in cool water for 10-30 minutes as soon as possible. Do not interfere with the burn or pop blisters. Place cling-film over the area once dry to protect it from infection. More serious burns will require medical attention, but the above steps can be followed until help arrives to minimise any damage caused.
For chemical burns such as bleach or acid burns, run the burned area under cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Remove any clothing or jewellery exposed to the chemical. Apply a sterile dressing and seek medical attention.
Electrical burns can be more serious than they look. Seek immediate medical attention.
Broken Bones and Dislocations
The three most common signs of a broken bone are pain, swelling and deformity. If you suspect a bone has been broken, seek medical attention.
Dislocations are most common in the shoulder and usually occur during sports or other vigorous activities. A dislocated joint is very painful and obvious to look at. Seek medical attention immediately.
Seizures among children and babies are fairly common, and not necessarily an indication of anything serious. In fact most seizures are harmless, although they may be highly distressing to watch.
If your child has a seizure it is extremely important that you do not put anything in their mouth! There is a common misconception that they may swallow their tongue, so you should insert something into their mouth to stop this happening. This is an urban myth!
Firstly, remove any hazards nearby that they could bump into and harm themselves. Stay nearby and offer comforting words. Time the seizure if possible (this is important information to give to a doctor and may help them judge what type of seizure it was). Once the seizure has stopped the person may feel disorientated and sick. Stay with them and reassure them they are ok.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if your child has suffered a seizure and have no previous history of seizures.
If you suspect your child or other person has ingested a poisonous substance or medication, seek immediate medical attention. Take the empty container with you to the hospital so the medical team can identify what was ingested. Do not try to make them sick or give them anything to drink, it may make matters worse.
Shock can occur for a number of reasons, but often occurs after blood loss or severe burns or other injuries. It is serious. Signs are pale, clammy skin; fast, shallow breathing; a rapid pulse; sighing, and maybe even unconsciousness.
If you suspect a person is in shock, lay them down with their legs raised. This will ensure blood flows towards the head and vital organs. Loosen tight clothing and keep them warm. Seek medical attention immediately.
By equipping yourself with knowledge you can be prepared for even the worst emergencies, and feel confident in your abilities to deal with injuries and provide first aid. Basic first aid is something all parents should familiarise themselves with.
(Photo source: http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/greenshock/14105253/)
Article by Lindsey Wilson
Lindsey is an attachment parenting, unschooling mummy to a beautiful baby girl. She lives in the north of England, and works part-time as a psychiatric nurse. Her hobbies are reading, cooking and baking, knitting and seeing bands.
Lindsey has written 25 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.
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