First Aid at Home - Dealing with some common illnesses and injuries
I wanted to do a post on this topic because I sometimes feel like as a student nurse, I get taught to cope with serious illnesses and injuries, but slightly more common mishaps (the kind that you’re bound to get someone going, ‘You’re a nurse! What do I do?’ in) are often overlooked. So here’s some basic first aid! Enjoy.
Basic Life Support
Although you rarely need it in your everyday life, it’s one of those things you REALLY ought to know. Just in case.
I was going to write out a humongous list of steps of what to do if you discover an unconscious casualty, but then I found this video:
and this video:
which explain the steps a lot more efficiently than I would have.
1. Sit down and pinch the top of the nose.
2. Lean forwards and breath through your mouth. Leaning forwards prevents blood from running backwards down the throat.
3. Stay like this for around 20 minutes in order to clot the blood. Stay upright (do not lie down) as this will decrease the blood pressure in the nose and reduce the amount of bleeding.
4. Place an ice pack on the area to reduce swelling.
5. Do not undertake any strenuous activity, bending or blowing your nose for around 12 hours after a nosebleed. If nosebleeds happen often, see your GP as there may be an underlying cause.
Burns and Scalds
1. Remove the cause of the burn/scald as quickly as possible (i.e. by pulling the casualty away from a fire, for example).
2. Remove any clothing, jewellery, etc around the burn/scald but do not remove any item of clothing or anything that is actually stuck to the burnt area.
3. Cool the burn/scald with cool-lukewarm water for 10-30 minutes. Do not use cold/icy substances or creams/greasy substances and this can damage the aea further.
4. Ensure the person is still kept warm to prevent hypothermia (this step is only really necessary if cooling a large area in cold/lukewarm water, particularly if the casualty is elderly or a small child).
5. Cover the burn/scald with clingfilm (place a layer on the burn, do not wrap it around a limb, for example) and administer painkillers such as paracetamol.
If the burn/scald has caused blisters, is deep or large, or other symptoms are experienced by the patient such as shock, exhaustion, heatstroke, etc., further medical advice should be sought. This also applies if the patient has an electrical/chemical/infected burn, or has inhaled smoke, or has other injuries or health conditions.
1. Ask the patient to cough as effectively as they can (although people normally don’t need to be told this if they’re choking…)
2. If the item causing the blockage doesn’t budge after a good cough, administer five ‘back-slaps’ with the palm and heel of your hand in an upwards motion, directed between the patient’s shoulder blades. Check to see if the item has been dislodged between each slap.
3. If the item is still not dislodged, stand behind the patient and place one hand (in the shape of a fist) in the area above their bellybutton but just beneath the ribcage (on women this is usually just below the bra strap). Place your other hand over the top and push in and upwards in a rapid motion. Repeat up to five times if the item does not come out.
4. Repeat the back slaps another five times, followed by abdo-thrusts another five times. Repeat this entire process five times and call for medical assistance if the item is still not dislodged. Continue until medical help arrives, but as the patient’s airway is blocked it is likely they will pass out if the item continues to prevent breathing. In this case, it is necessary to start CPR (see the link to the second video I posted under Basic Life Support).
Anaphylaxis (Allergic Reaction)
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency! If someone becomes very unwell or collapses following something like an insect bite or accidental ingestion of a known trigger, call for an ambulance and tell the operator you believe they are experiencing anaphylaxis.
In severe cases of anaphylaxis, an injection of adrenaline must be given. Usually people with a known allergy will have a kit on hand which they can administer or you can help with.
If the person is experiencing difficulty breathing, help them to sit upright, perhaps leaning over the back of a chair to help expand the lungs.
If they are experiencing hypotension (low blood pressure, feelings of light-headedness or dizziness, tiredness, etc) get them to lie flat and elevate their legs.
If the patient becomes unconscious, place them in the recovery position.
In milder cases of anaphylaxis where the patient is experiencing skin reactions to a trigger (rash, itch, etc), adrenaline is not usually needed but antihistamines and steroids may be required. All cases of anaphylaxis should be treated as an emergency.
Using the FAST guide (face - is their face drooping on one side? Can they smile?, arms - can they raise both arms to the same level? speech - can the person not speak correctly, are they slurring, can they not understand what you’re saying?, time to call an ambulance) to identify if you think someone has had a stroke, call an ambulance as this is also a medical emergency.
If someone is bleeding severely, medical help must be sought ASAP to reduce symptoms of shock and effects of blood loss.
Wearing gloves if possible, check there is nothing embedded in the wound. If there is, apply pressure around the object but do not push on it, and pad well around the item before bandaging to prevent the object from becoming embedded further.
Apply and maintain firm pressure on the wound, preferably with a clean pad or cloth, and then bandage the area firmly. If possible, raise the area to reduce blood flow.
If a body part has been severed (like a finger), wrap it in a clean material such as clingfilm or a plastic bag and keep it cool. Try not to put it in direct contact with ice to reduce damage to the skin.
Medical attention should be sought for fractures, sprains, etc. so call for assistance if you are unable to take the patient to hospital yourself (i.e., if the patient has a broken arm/wrist, etc, they can be taken to hospital in your own car or via public transport, but if they have a broken leg or something that prevents them from walking easily, call for an ambulance).
Try to keep the patient/affected area as still as possible until they arrive at hospital. If the patient is showing signs of shock (clamminess, weak pulse, shallow breathing), lie the casualty down and raise their legs above their heart, loosening any tight clothing, and call for urgent medical assistance.
Do not give the patient anything to eat or drink as they may require a general anaesthetic at hospital.
So those are some very basic guidelines on what to do in a few more common medical emergencies. If you would like more info, check out the British Red Cross website which has more scenarios and lots of other really useful information: