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Basic First Aid Tips for Emergencies

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/1/2011

Learning some basic first aid tips will help you handle common injuries and emergencies. Use these tips to treat burns, stings, bites, cuts, scrapes and other injuries.

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    Animal Bites

    For minor animal bites that barely break the skin, wash the wound with soap and water. Prevent infection by applying an antibiotic ointment and covering the wound with a bandage. Deep puncture wounds require evaluation by a doctor, but you can apply pressure to stop the bleeding. See a doctor if the wound swells or oozes, or if you suspect the animal that bit you has rabies.

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    Broken Bones

    Broken bones usually do not present an immediate danger, but they do require some basic first aid. For a broken wrist or arm, immobilize the arm with cardboard or a folded newspaper. Use pieces of cloth to tie this material in place. You can use the same type of splint for an ankle or lower leg fracture. Do not move a person with a pelvis or hip fracture unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must move the person, strap his legs together and use a back board for transport.

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    Burns

    For first or second-degree burns, soak the burn in cool water for five to 15 minutes. First-degree burns are the least severe and cause swelling and redness. Second-degree burns are more serious—they blister and cause severe pain. Apply antibiotic ointment to the burn and then cover it with a sterile dressing. Keep the dressing clean and dry to prevent infection. Third-degree burns, which cause charring of the skin and damage to the nerves and blood vessels, require medical attention. Do not soak a third-degree burn or apply any type of cream or ointment.

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    Choking

    Choking on food and foreign bodies blocks the air way and could lead to death if not treated quickly. The Police Notebook indicates that choking causes approximately 3,000 deaths on an annual basis. If you see an adult choking, ask if he is choking. Do not attempt first aid if the person can speak or breathe; this means the airway is not completely obstructed. If the person cannot breathe, give the Heimlich maneuver to push the food or foreign body out of the throat. Ask the choking victim to stand, place yourself behind the person and place your arms around her waist. Make a fist and point your thumb toward the victim’s belly button. Using your other hand, grab your fist and make five upward thrusts. Repeat this method until the victim expels the food or foreign substance.

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    Cuts and Scrapes

    For minor cuts and scrapes, clean the affected area with water and apply an antibiotic ointment. Cover the wound with an adhesive bandage to prevent infection. For deeper wounds, remove any dirt or debris with a pair of tweezers and cleanse the area thoroughly and apply an antibiotic ointment. Keep the wound covered with a clean bandage. Change this bandage frequently to prevent infection.

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    Dental Emergencies

    Some emergencies affect the teeth or oral cavity. For a chipped tooth, clean the injury with warm water and cover the tooth with gauze. This will prevent exposure to cold liquid and air. Decrease swelling by placing a cold cloth or ice pack over the face. If you knock a tooth out, locate it immediately. Do not touch the root of the tooth—handle only the top. Rinse the tooth with warm water and place it in a cup of milk for preservation. If you suspect a broken jaw, check for muscle spasm and swelling. If you observe these signs, stabilize the jaw by tying a piece of fabric around it and securing the fabric at the top of the head. Seek immediate medical attention.

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    Electrical Shock

    Electrical shock occurs when an electric current passes through the body. Do not touch an electrical shock victim, as he may still be in contact with the source of the electric current. Turn off the electricity source. If you cannot turn off the source, move it away from the victim using a piece of plastic or wood. Check to make sure the person is breathing and has good circulation. Elevate the victim’s legs and position his head below his trunk. Call 911 if the victim experiences seizures, numbness, cardiac arrest, muscle pain, burns or respiratory failure.

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    Eye Injuries

    In cases of chemical burns, immediately flush the affected eye with water. Keep it as open as possible during this procedure. After flushing, seek medical attention. If you have a speck in your eye, do not rub the eye. Use eyewash to try to wash it out of the eye. If you cannot wash the speck out of your eye, close the eye, bandage it and seek medical attention. If you receive a blow to the eye, apply a cold pack to the eye, but do not place any pressure on the injured area. Seek medical care if you experience a loss of vision.

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    Fainting

    If you feel faint, sit down to prevent injury caused by fainting on the floor. Place your head between your knees until the feeling passes. If a family member or friend faints, position the victim on his back and elevate his legs above the heart. Loosen any constrictive clothing to prevent him from fainting again. Check for normal breathing and heartbeat.

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    Frostbite

    One of the best first aid tips to follow in cases of frostbite is to let the affected area warm gradually. Warming a frostbitten area too quickly can cause further damage. Protect the skin from exposure to cold, get indoors and remove any wet clothes. Put frostbitten digits in warm water, or put other areas under a warm blanket. Avoid using heating pads ort heat lamps. Tingling and burning indicate that normal circulation is returning. If you experience numbness or blisters, go to the emergency room.

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    Heat Exhaustion

    Signs of heat exhaustion include nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, weak heartbeat, pale skin, headache and heat cramps. If you experience these signs, get out of the sun and into a location with shade or air conditioning. Lie down and elevate your feet and legs; loosen your clothing to prevent additional heat exposure. Drink cool water to help your body cool down more easily. You can also cool yourself down by spraying your skin with cool water.

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    Heat Stroke

    Heat stroke is the most serious problem related to heat exposure. This problem occurs after excessive exercise or outdoor work on hot days. Get a heat stroke victim out of the sun immediately and cover her with damp sheets. Call 911 for emergency assistance.

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    Seizures

    If someone experiences a seizure in your presence, there are several important first aid tips to follow. Place a pillow or blanket under the person’s head to prevent a head injury. Move any hard objects out of the way to prevent falls or other injuries. Do not administer medication or provide food for the person until she is fully alert. Record the length of the seizure so the person can share the information with her doctor.

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    Sunburn

    Sunburns cause pain, swelling and redness. Reduce these symptoms by taking a cool bath or show and applying aloe vera lotion to the affected area. Do not break blisters, as this prolongs the amount of time it takes for the burn to heal. Take naproxen, aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain. Avoid putting butter or oil on the sunburn.

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