10 common first aid mistakes you could be making

By , K24 Digital
On Thu, 8 Feb, 2024 07:00 | 3 mins read
Woman blocking view from her nose. PHOTO/Print

Measures taken during a medical emergency can make all the difference. However is our basic knowledge correct or too fragmented to be useful?

Here are some of the things you might have been doing all wrong.

1. Putting jelly or ice on a burn

Applying ointment can trap the heat within the burn and make things worse. Freezing the tissue with ice is also unhelpful.

The goal is to return to normal temperature and the ice can make the skin too cold. Run cool (not icy cold) water on burns for several minutes. This will help the excess heat to dissipate.

Don’t cover a burn with a towel or blanket, because loose fibres might stick to the skin.

When dealing with a serious burn, be careful not to break any blisters or pull off clothing stuck to the skin.

Head to the hospital for any burns to the eyes, mouth, or genital areas, even if mild; this includes any burn that covers an area larger than your hand; and causes blisters or is followed by a fever.

2. Tilting head back during a nose bleed

Tilting your head backwards and pinching your nostrils together, is a bloody bad advice.

Why? If blood flows down someone’s trachea as they are reclining, it could make it hard to breathe or cause him or her to swallow blood, which may trigger vomiting. Sit upright, lean forward and pinch your nose steadily (just below the nasal bone) for five to 10 minutes. If the bleeding persists for more than 15 minutes, see a doctor.

3. Wearing warm when having fever

When you are ill, having fever when you are shivering at the same time indicates that your body temperature is rising.

When we wrap up warmly, our temperature goes up even faster. Although the heat helps fight against infection, a body temperature that’s higher than 38 degrees Celsius does more harm to the body than good.

If you have a high temperature combined with the shakes, you need to get cooler rather than warmer.

4. Moving a seriously injured person

If you are ever the first on the scene of a bad accident such as a car wreck or devastating sports injury, you may be tempted to try to get the person moving to make sure they are okay. But don’t do it.

They could have a serious spinal cord injury, and any kind of movement may result in permanent neurological damage or paralysis.

The only time it is okey to move a patient like this is if there is a threat of imminent danger such as a fire, explosion, or collapsing building. The best thing is call for a medical emergency.

In the meantime, it is crucial to immobilise the injured area and refrain from moving or manipulating the suspected fracture.

Support the injured limb using splints or improvised materials to keep it stable and reduce further damage

5. Removing gauze from a bleeding wound

Clotting factors in the blood surface help stop bleeding; picking up the old gauze can remove them and make the wound start bleeding all over again. Just add a fresh piece of gauze on top.

If the gauze does come off, apply pressure to the cut until the bleeding stops, then rinse the wound out (to prevent infection), apply an antibiotic ointment (if not allergic), and rewrap with a bandage.

6. Applying heat to a sprain

People think that they should use a warm cloth and switch between applying warmth and cold to help pulled muscles.

But a warm cloth could dilate blood vessels so that blood rushes into the area and increases swelling. Apply a cold compress for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, to the bruise for an hour with the area immobilised.

7. Inducing vomiting after swallowing poison

Vomiting can cause further injury by exposing the throat and mouth to a toxic substance. Specifically, do not have the person vomit if he or she has a burning sensation in the mouth or throat.

Seek medical help immediately and if possible, have the poison container with you. That way, medical experts can identify the specific chemical involved, enabling them to provide the best medical advice.

If the person has swallowed prescription medicines, have the bottle or tube handy as well.

8. Rubbing your eyes when you get a debris

This can cause a serious scratch or abrasion to the eye. Tears will wash the substance out. The only exception is if you get a chemical in your eye; in that case, flush it out with water for about 15 minutes.

9. Lying down after hitting your head

Some head injuries can be serious. If you lose consciousness or have a change in your mental state after hitting your head, seek medical attention immediately.

Look for signs of significant head trauma such as severe headache that doesn’t respond to treatment with a pain reliever, nausea, vomiting and confusion—any of these symptoms mean you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

10. Fishing objects out of your skin yourself

If you step on a piece of glass, a nail or get a big splinter, don’t try to remove it yourself.

You can actually damage the tissues or nerves in your body. If you have a deep foreign body, you should seek medical attention.

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