The first aid you administer for a wound depends on the size and severity of the wound. Minor cuts and scrapes require very little attention, while major wounds need immediate attention to prevent shock, blood loss and infection. One of the best ways to prepare for this type of situation is to create or purchase a ready-made first aid kit for your home and one for your vehicle. These kits contain the supplies needed to treat wounds effectively. These supplies include gauze, adhesive bandages and antibiotic ointments.
First aid for minor cuts and scrapes involves several steps. MayoClinic.com recommends that you stop the bleeding first. Apply pressure to the wound with a bandage or clean piece of cloth. Elevate the wound to stop blood loss. If you cannot stop the bleeding on your own, seek medical attention. Your next step is to clean the wound with clear water. Avoid using soap because it may irritate the wound tissue. Use a pair of tweezers to gently remove dirt and other debris from the wound. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a dressing or bandage. Change the dressing regularly to keep the wound clean and prevent infection.
Take the same steps to clean a deep wound, but use caution when cleaning a wound that exposes the underlying tissue. The Merck Manuals Home Edition recommends that you seek medical attention for any cut that has edges that separate or if the cut is longer than one-third inch. Keep a close eye on any wound for several days after the injury. If you notice signs of infection, such as oozing or redness, consult a medical professional.
The first aid tips you follow for treating burns will depend on the severity of the burn. Doctors classify burns as one of three degrees. First-degree burns turn white when you press on the affected area. They cause pain, redness and swelling. The burned skin may peel off after just a few days. Second-degree burns blister and cause swelling, redness and splotchy skin. These burns are thicker than first-degree burns and cause a great deal of pain. Third-degree burns damage all of the layers. Because these burns damage the nerves in the skin, the burn victim may not feel a lot of pain. The skin appears charred or white in cases of third-degree burns.
You can use basic first aid to treat a first-degree burn. Soak the burned skin in cool water for a minimum of five minutes, as recommended by the American Academy of Family Physicians. This reduces swelling and eases pain. Use an antibiotic ointment or cream formulated for burns on the affected area. This helps the skin heal more quickly. Ease pain by taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If the burn swells, take an anti-inflammatory such as naproxen or ibuprofen. If you are concerned about getting the burn dirty or wet, wrap it loosely with a dry gauze bandage.
First aid for second-degree burns is more in-depth. Soak the burn for 15 minutes instead of five. Put cool cloths on the burn for a short time each day and then use antibiotic cream on the burned skin. Protect the burn with a nonstick dressing held in place with medical adhesive tape. Change this dressing every day to prevent infection. Before changing the dressing, wash your hands to prevent the transfer of dirt and bacteria to the wounded skin. Look for signs of infection such as swelling or oozing. Avoid scratching burned skin, even if it itches while the burn heals.
Do not use first aid tips to treat third-degree burns. Take the victim to the hospital immediately. Do not soak the burn, apply creams or ointments or remove clothing that is stuck to the burned skin. Elevate the burned area so that it is above the heart.
Things to Avoid: Breaking blisters; applying ice, oil, ice water or butter to burns
Bites & Stings
Spending time outdoors often leads to bug bites or encounters with stinging insects. Bites and stings do not usually cause an emergency situation, but in people with allergies, it’s important to be prepared. The first aid tips you use will depend on the type of insect and the severity of the bite or sting.
Remove the bee stinger as soon as possible. Wasps do not leave a stinger in the skin, so there’s nothing to remove in cases of wasp stings. Wash the affected area with water and mild soap. Repeat the washing two or three times each day, as recommended by the Nemours Foundation. Reduce swelling by applying a cold washcloth or ice pack to the skin. Seek medical attention for stings inside the mouth, as they can swell and block the airway. Get emergency medical attention if signs of a life-threatening allergic reaction occur. These signs include fainting, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, dizziness and tightness in the chest.
Most spider bites do not cause serious damage, with two exceptions. In the United States, black widow and brown recluse spiders have venom that causes serious problems. Without treatment, a bite from one of these spiders can cause death. For other spider bites, wash the bite with soap and water and apply a cool compress to relieve swelling. If the bite produces pain, administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Prevent infection by applying antibiotic ointment to the bite. If you suspect a black widow or brown recluse spider bite, seek emergency medical attention.
Ticks feed on the blood of humans or animals, so they attach themselves to the skin. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, or have pets that go outdoors, check your skin for ticks regularly. If you find a tick that has attached, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick’s head and pull firmly until the tick lets go. Wipe the bite with an alcohol pad to prevent infection. Because some ticks carry Lyme disease, your doctor may want you to save the tick for identification purposes.
Sprains & Strains
Muscle sprains occur when the tendon of a muscle stretches or tears. This happens when you overuse the muscle or stretch it too much. Sprains occur when a ligament, a thick band of tissue that stabilizes the joints, tears or stretches. Use the R.I.C.E. acronym to remember the proper first aid for sprains and strains. Rest the affect muscle. Apply ice to the injury. Limit swelling by compressing the affected area. Elevate the injured area to reduce swelling. Use caution when compressing a sprain or strain. Too much compression could cut off the blood supply. Administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce the pain of a sprain or strain.
KidsHealth: First Aid & Safety
MayoClinic.com: Cuts & Scrapes: First Aid
The Merck Manuals Home Edition: Wounds
FamilyDoctor.org: First Aid: Burns
KidsHealth: Bug Bites and Stings
eMedicineHealth: Sprains & Strains