First-aid foresight - Would you know what to do?

September 21, 2010 By David Buono, M.D.

Sooner or later, we all face a medical problem that calls for immediate first aid and clear thinking. Whether it's a child's skinned knee or a relative's ankle sprain, knowing what to do next is a health skill everyone needs. Here are some basic first-aid tips for common injuries:

Minor cuts and scrapes. Clean out the wound and the skin around the injury with soap and cool water on a soft cloth. Remove debris with tweezers cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. Cover the wound with a clean cloth or gauze and press gently to stop any bleeding. Lightly dab on an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage to ward off infection and keep it clean. Call your doctor if the cut is deep and the edges are jagged.

Minor bumps and bruises.
You can care for most bumps and bruises at home. Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling. Take aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief. If you experience unusual symptoms such as vomiting, unfocused eyes or abnormal walking within the next 24 hours call your healthcare provider right away.

Burns. Run cool water over minor burns, immerse in cold water or wrap the burned area in a cold, wet cloth for about 10 minutes or until pain subsides. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage. Call your doctor if blisters form. Burns that cover more than a two-inch area and major burns require immediate medical attention. Burns from chemicals and electricity always need advanced medical care.

Sprains and strains. To treat sprains and strains, follow the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Apply ice packs or cold-water compresses to relieve swelling. Wrap the injury in an elastic bandage and keep it elevated above the heart.

Be prepared
Create safety kits to keep at home and in the car. Kits should include:
• a first-aid manual
• emergency phone numbers
• a list of allergies and prescriptions for each family member
• an over-the-counter pain reliever
• a first-aid ointment
• a thermometer, tweezers and small scissors
• various size bandages and gauze
• adhesive tape
• a cold pack
• antiseptic wipes
• latex gloves

David Buono is an associate chief of emergency Services at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.