Cuts, Scrapes and Burns
Whether you're in town or travelling, on Eid, New Year's, or just winter vacation, here are some first aid tips to help you counter some possible holiday mishaps.
Cuts and Scrapes
Minor cuts and scrapes usually don't require a trip to the emergency room. Yet proper care is essential to avoid infection or other complications. These guidelines can help you care for simple wounds:
1. Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If they don't, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Hold the pressure continuously for 20 to 30 minutes. Don't keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped because this may damage or dislodge the fresh clot that's forming and cause bleeding to resume. If the blood spurts or continues to flow after continuous pressure, seek medical assistance.
2. Clean the wound. Rinse out the wound with clear water. Soap can irritate the wound, so try to keep it out of the actual wound. If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles. If debris remains embedded in the wound after cleaning, see your doctor. Thorough wound cleaning reduces the risk of tetanus. To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a washcloth. There's no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or an iodine-containing cleanser. These substances irritate living cells. If you choose to use them, don't apply them directly on the wound.
3. Apply an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment to help keep the surface moist. The products don't make the wound heal faster, but they can discourage infection and allow your body's healing process to close the wound more efficiently. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.
4. Cover the wound. Bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out. After the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, exposure to the air will speed wound healing.
5. Change the dressing. Change the dressing at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty. If you're allergic to the adhesive used in most bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze held in place with paper tape, gauze roll or a loosely applied elastic bandage. These supplies generally are available at pharmacies.
6. Get stitches for deep wounds. A wound that cuts deeply through the skin or is gaping or jagged-edged and has fat or muscle protruding usually requires stitches. A strip or two of surgical tape may hold a minor cut together, but if you can't easily close the mouth of the wound, see your doctor as soon as possible. Proper closure within a few hours minimises the risk of infection.
7. Watch for signs of infection. See your doctor if the wound isn't healing or you notice any redness, drainage, warmth or swelling.
8. Get a tetanus shot. Doctors recommend you get a tetanus shot every 10 years. If your wound is deep or dirty and your last shot was more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot booster. Get the booster within 48 hours of the injury.
To distinguish a minor burn from a serious burn, the first step is to determine the degree and the extent of damage to body tissues. The three classifications of first-degree burn, second-degree burn and third-degree burn will help you determine emergency care:
The least serious burns are those in which only the outer layer of skin (epidermis) is burned. The skin is usually red, with swelling and pain sometimes present. The outer layer of skin hasn't been burned through. Treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn unless it involves substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or a major joint.
When the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin (dermis) also is burned, the injury is termed a second-degree burn. Blisters develop and the skin takes on an intensely reddened, splotchy appearance. Second-degree burns produce severe pain and swelling.
If the second-degree burn is no larger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, treat it as a minor burn. If the burned area is larger or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint, get medical help immediately.
For minor burns, including second-degree burns limited to an area no larger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, take the following action:
*Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cold running water for at least 5 minutes, or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cold water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn.
*Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Don't use fluffy cotton, which may irritate the skin. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burned skin, reduces pain and protects blistered skin.
*Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Never give aspirin to children or teenagers.
Minor burns usually heal without further treatment. They may heal with pigment changes, meaning the healed area may be a different colour from the surrounding skin. Watch for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. If infection develops, seek medical help. Avoid re-injuring or tanning if the burns are less than a year old doing so may cause more extensive pigmentation changes. Use sunscreen on the area for at least a year.
*Don't use ice. Putting ice directly on a burn can cause frostbite, further damaging your skin.
*Don't break blisters. Broken blisters are vulnerable to infection.
The most serious burns are painless and involve all layers of the skin. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white. Difficulty inhaling and exhaling, carbon monoxide poisoning or other toxic effects may occur if smoke inhalation accompanies the burn.
For major burns, call for emergency medical assistance. Until an emergency unit arrives, follow these steps:
*Don't remove burnt clothing. However, do make sure the victim is no longer in contact with smouldering materials or exposed to smoke or heat.
*Don't immerse severe large burns in cold water. Doing so could cause shock.
*Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If there is no breathing or other sign of circulation, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
*Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, sterile bandage; clean, moist cloth; or moist towels.
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