Burns? A fracture? Here's how knowledge and a little awareness can help you provide first-aid

First-aid measures are simple, but crucial and potentially life-saving. So, arm yourself with the knowledge of such measures. In general, when under trauma, the immediate reflex is to panic. It is understandably, but try to stay calm — it will help you think well and save yourself or the next person better.

Poisoning

Pesticides, kerosene, rat poisons, ant poisons, toilet cleaning fluids, and plant poisons are the commonly ingested poisons. So, store them away from regular things. The common cause of accidental poisoning is because such fluids are stored in cola or juice bottles. “If you notice someone vomiting, having stomach ache, panting and fainting, suspect poisoning and rush to get medical help. Home remedies do not work. And, the poison in the vomit may get absorbed by the skin. So, wipe it off, change the clothing and rush to the hospital,” says C. Rajendiran, director and professor of medicine, Madras Medical College.

“If the person you are taking to hospital is unresponsive, make him lie down with his head turned to the left, so that the vomit doesn't enter his airway,” says Dhavapalani Alagappan, consultant and head, emergency department, Apollo Hospitals. “Excess vomiting can cause low blood pressure and giddiness. So while transporting, don't make the person sit or walk, or transport him in a bike where he may not be able to hold himself,” cautions Dr. Rajendiran.

Burns and scalds

If you see anyone on fire, don't let them run around — it will only fan the flames and make them burn stronger. “Instead, remove the burning clothing, and wrap the person with a (preferably wet) non-inflammable blanket and roll him on the floor, or douse with water to put out the flame. Once the flame is out, cover the area with a clean wet towel or cling film and rush the person to the hospital. In the meantime, for pain relief, over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol can be given,” says Dr. Alagappan.

In the case of a scald (hot water or wet burn), wash the area with cold water, cover the area with a clean wet cloth or a cling film to protect the exposed nerve endings and rush to the hospital. However, this is not the thing to do in case of an injury on the face area, as the person might suffocate.

Falls and Injuries

Any neck pain following a fall or injury has to be taken seriously and given immediate medical attention, as it could indicate spinal cord injury.

In case of an inflammation or swelling on a body part, place or wrap an ice pack on the area. “It is a good idea to always keep in your freezer a water sachet; if unavailable, use anything from the freezer, such as a packet of flour,” suggests Ram Kumar, general physician. “Also, keep the inflamed or swollen part elevated to bring down the swelling. Keep the injured area immobile so that, in case of fracture, the broken bone does not move, or poke into the flesh and injure the tissue,” says Dr. Alagappan.

If the injury is on the arm, use a sling to hold the arm close to the body and keep it immobile. A simple sling can be put together by knotting a towel or a cotton dupatta with the knot resting on the shoulder. For a leg injury, render the leg immobile by tying two strips of a stiff material such as cardboard along the leg and the thigh, so that the knee can't be bent. Then, rush to the doctor.

Bleeding wounds

“For this, you need to apply direct pressure with a wet towel and take the person to a hospital. Hold up the injured part at an elevation to prevent further blood loss. And, don't keep unwrapping to investigate if the blood flow has stopped or not. This will interfere with closure of the wound,” informs Dr. Alagappan.

He adds: “For a nose bleed, pinch the soft tip of the nose, breath though the mouth and wait for about 10 minutes. If the bleeding continues, or if it trickles down the back of the throat, whereby it could block the airway, call for an ambulance. Don't lie down, as this could also make blood trickle into the airway. Sit straight on a chair, with the head turned down.

Other than this, always keep handy ambulance telephone numbers and the hospital/family physician's telephone numbers. And finally, it pays to maintain friendly ties with your neighbours — you may need their help in a crunch. In an emergency, immediate help can make a world of difference.