In the course of everyday life, in virtually any situation, accidents can happen. Sometimes, the accidents are minor in nature, just involving scrapes or superficial bumps. Other times, the mishaps may be more serious or potentially even life-threatening. Knowing first aid will enable you to respond appropriately. Often, you can resolve the issues yourself with basic care. First aid skills will also enable you to recognize an emergency and know when medical assistance is needed from professionals such as nurses and physicians.
Burns can occur from contact with flames or hot objects, from chemicals, or from contact with electricity. With an electrical burn, it’s crucial to avoid physical contact with a victim until the source of the electricity is cleared or you could be electrocuted as well. With other types of burns, running cold water over the injury site is necessary. If clothing is stuck to the burn site, leave it intact until medical personnel can attend to it. Do not scrub the burn surface, and do not apply any topical remedies to the skin. Seek medical attention for severe burns with blistering, when the skin feels stiff, or if a white substance appears on the skin.
Scrapes are open wounds that break the skin’s surface. When this happens, blood usually comes out through the opening in the skin. Generally, scrapes are minor, and any bleeding will stop on its own within a short time without much treatment as the wound naturally clots. When a scrape occurs, cleaning the wound will be important to prevent infection. As germs enter the body through the opening in the skin, infection can occur. After cleaning the injury site, covering the scrape with a bandage can also help keep it clean while it heals.
Shock can refer to several different types of medical emergencies. In general, shock causes a disruption of blood and oxygen reaching organs and tissues, and it can be life-threatening. Cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, such as with a heart attack. Hypovolemic shock occurs after a significant loss of blood or fluids, such as with severe dehydration or with a serious injury. Septic shock involves an infection in the bloodstream, which moves throughout the body. People with severe allergies to foods may experience anaphylactic shock if they ingest the allergen. General shock symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, sweating, rapid breathing, and pale skin. The appropriate treatment for shock depends on the type, but in all cases, shock requires swift medical attention.
Muscle, bone, and joint injuries can be minor or serious. The least serious types of injuries may involve a pulled muscle or tendon or a minor sprain. Basic first aid in these situations generally involves icing the injury site and rest. More serious injuries may occur after a fall, a car accident, or a sports mishap. A dislocated joint, a bone protruding from the skin, or inability to move a limb are symptoms of a serious injury requiring immediate care. Keeping the victim as still as possible is important, and preventing shock is also crucial. Cover the person to provide warmth, and elevate the feet slightly to help prevent shock.
When a poisonous substance enters the body, illness or death can occur. Children and older adults are at a higher risk for poisoning. Poisoning can occur from swallowing, absorbing, or inhaling substances. Medications, cleaners, and other household substances are common poisons that can harm people if they ingest them. Examples of inhalable substances include car exhaust, chlorine, and fumes from products such as paint or glue. Some pesticides and fertilizers can be absorbed through the skin to cause harm. When poisoning is suspected, try to gather as much information about the incident as possible. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, trouble breathing, loss of consciousness, and sweating. If the person is conscious, call the national poison hotline for assistance. If the person is unconscious or having breathing problems, call for emergency help immediately.
Cardiac emergencies are serious events that can result in permanent impairment and death without fast action. A person in cardiac arrest loses heart function, which means that the heart is not pumping blood throughout the body. Without CPR in this situation, death will occur within just minutes. Even someone without any CPR training can perform chest compressions in this situation, which may save a life until medical personnel arrive. Hands-only CPR involves pushing firmly and quickly in the center of the victim’s chest.