Last month we covered a few situations such as burns, bites and stings and as promised, this month we cover a few more common accidents. As a friendly reminder, remember that if you are unsure of the treatment, call 911.
Choking: Choking is usually an emergency and you should call 911. In desperate circumstances — choking on food for example — you might be able to clear the airway by performing an abdominal thrust. Ideally, you should learn this through first aid training but you can find a useful description online.
Cuts and Scratches: Clean the wound with cool, running water. Stronger stuff, like alcohol, can make things worse. Apply pressure with a cloth to try to stop bleeding. Moderate bleeding is okay — it helps the cleaning process — but get medical help if the cut is deep and/or it doesn’t slow after a few minutes, or if there’s something lodged inside the wound. Leaving a minor wound uncovered (but clean) will help it heal more quickly.
Nosebleeds: Nosebleeds are common and usually not serious. They may be more likely with certain medications or allergies. To try to stop the bleeding, pinch the front of the nostrils and push towards the face, with the head leaning slightly forward. Hold this for five minutes. You can also apply an ice-pack to the nose or cheeks. If bleeding can’t be stopped and is exceptionally heavy, or the person is dizzy or faint, seek medical help.
Sunburn and Heatstroke: These are totally different disorders though they spring from the same source — the sun. With both, you need to get out of the sun and into a cool place. Apply aloe vera or other lotion to ease sunburn; drink plenty of cool water (not caffeinated sodas) and take a cool bath to reduce the effects of heatstroke. If symptoms like dizziness and nausea persist, see a doctor.
Tetanus: If the victim suffers a skin-breaking wound, they may need a tetanus shot to prevent infection. Tetanus is a severe bacterial infection that hits muscles and nerves but often you’re not aware of it until a week or two after an injury. It’s preventable through immunization every 10 years. So if it’s more than 10 years since you had a shot, get one, especially after an injury with an open wound.
Dealing with sudden, severe illness
Heart attacks, strokes, loss of consciousness and high fevers demand immediate medical attention. Very often, the faster you can get that treatment, the more likely the patient is to survive and recover. Time is of the essence!
In these cases, being able to spot the early warning signs could be critical. Chest tightness or pain, especially radiating to the left arm, and breathing problems could signal a heart condition, while numbness in various parts of the body, confusion, vision or speech problems, dizziness, balance difficulties and inexplicable, severe headaches may indicate the onset of a stroke.
As for fevers, anything around 100 degrees in a child should get you to a doctor, and a sustained temperature of 103 degrees and over in an adult. (This is only a guideline; even earlier action may be necessary if there are other worrying symptoms, such as chronic sleepiness in a child.)
If you run your own business, you may want to consider having a portable, automatic defibrillator — but, if so, ensure you have someone who knows how to use it!
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