When someone is injured, the first instinct is to help relieve their pain. However, we can often make the injury worse with our well-meaning “first-aid”.
Here are some of the most common first-aid mistakes.
1. Tilting backwards for a bloody nose
It seems to make sense that tilting you head backwards will stop blood from flowing out of your nose. However, the blood only backs up into your throat and can make you start coughing up or vomiting blood. The correct way to handle nosebleeds is to lean forward and pinch the bridge of your nose. An ice pack on the bridge of your nose will also help. A normal nosebleed- which are often triggered by allergies, dry weather, or nose-picking- will resolve in about 10 minutes. If it lasts longer than that, or if the blood is bright red and flowing quickly seek medical attention. If you experience recurrent nosebleeds, consult a doctor to determine the underlying issue.
2. Icing a burn
The coolness from ice seems to be a great idea when treating a burn, right? However, ice can trap heat within the burn and cause more damage. Freezing the tissue with ice is also unhelpful and can damage healthy cells instead of promoting healing. Other commonly used remedies, such as toothpaste and cocoa butter are similarly harmful. The idea is to return the burnt area to normal body temperature. You can safely achieve this by running cool (not ice-cold) water on the burn for several minutes. Afterwards, cover the burn with a clean, dry dressing and get medical care.
3. Moving an injured person
People often move accident victims from car wrecks. Pulling, lifting and pushing can actually make the person’s injury much worse or even fatal. The person could have serious spinal injury, in which case any kind of movement can cause permanent neurological damage or paralysis. The only time you should move an injured person is if there’s imminent danger- such as a fire, an explosion, or a collapsing building. The best way to help is to call for 911 for assistance.
4. Putting heat on a sprain or fracture
People mistakenly think that applying heat on a sprain improves blood flow and therefore promotes faster healing. This is often done using a warm cloth. However, this can dilate the blood vessels in the area and lead to more inflammation. Instead, apply a cold compress on the injured area – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for an hour before heading to the hospital. Try as much as possible to not move the injured area.
5. Giving a dehydrated person soda
If someone is parched and fainting from dehydration, giving them the nearest drink might seem like a great idea. However, if the drink happens to be a soda , beer, or a caffeinated beverage, it can do more damage than good. These drinks also cause dehydration. Water- or an electrolyte replacement drink- is your best bet in this situation. Give the person a little water (about 120 ml) at a time while resting somewhere cool. If they aren’t feeling better in half an hour, call for medical help.
6. Not seeking help after an accident
You emerged from a car crash relatively unhurt, so you don’t see why you should waste time going to the hospital. However even if you feel fine, you should get a check up to make sure you’re alright. The natural adrenaline-fueled fight-or-flight response to an accident can mask pain immediately after an accident- in fact, it can take up to two hours before the pain really hits. You might also have internal injury and bleeding, which can be fatal.
7. Trying to remove debris from an eye
When something gets in your eye, you might be tempted to remove it yourself before heading to the hospital. However, doing so can permanently damage your eye or cause blindness. Unless it’s a chemical- in which case you should clean the eye with clean, cool water for about 15 minutes. On the other hand, if it’s an object, protecting your eye from further damage is paramount. With tape, secure a paper cup over the injured eye so nothing else can get in before seeking medical care.
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