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Caring For burns, cuts, and broken bones

Riddle Hospital May 27, 2014 General Wellness

close-up on a person's hand while they're dripping a cleaning solution on a minor cut or burnSimple cuts and scrapes are usually very easily treatable; a bandage, a little ointment, and a washcloth can go a long way. Treating minor injuries like these is easy for most people, but what should you do when something more serious happens?

“Most people are prepared for the little things,” says Jason Kitchen, MD, Director of emergency medical services at Riddle Hospital. “But it’s important to brush up on what to do for bigger medical emergencies, too. How you respond to and initially treat broken bones, deep wounds and other injuries like that can affect their severity.”

Serious injuries will require a trip to the emergency room or nearby urgent care center, but, as a parent or caretaker, there are some first steps you can take to help to address the pain or reduce the risk of disease or further injury.

Broken bone

One of the most important things to remember about treating a broken bone is to keep the person stationary, as moving them to inside of a house or car might worsen the injury. Instead, have an ambulance come to you and transport the injured person. However, if you do need to move someone, use a folded newspaper, a board or piece of clothing to create a makeshift splint for the areas above and below the fracture.

Until you are able to make it to an emergency room or someone is able to respond to your injury, Dr. Kitchen recommends applying ice to the injury, but using a towel as a barrier between ice and the skin. In addition, stop any bleeding by gently applying pressure with a sterile bandage or towel.

Poisoning/chemical inhalation

The best way to prevent children from being exposed to harmful chemicals is to keep products out of reach, but accidents can happen. If a child somehow ingests poison, visit the emergency room immediately and, if possible, bring the product with you and be prepared to tell emergency room personnel how much was ingested, and the age and weight of the person affected. For chemical contamination on the skin or in the eye, water is often the best solution.

“If chemicals get into the skin or eye, rinsing or washing the affected area with water for 15 to 20 minutes should remove the chemicals,” says Dr. Kitchen. “However, if you do notice continued irritation, it is best to contact your doctor.”

Deep cuts or wounds

Most cuts or scrapes are minor and easily treatable, but for deep wounds, emergency medical care may be needed. For those wounds, apply firm pressure to the affected area and maintain the pressure until medical help arrives or until the wound stops bleeding. If, after five minutes of applying pressure, the bleeding still has not stopped, it is best to seek medical help.

Although you may be tempted to use soap and water or an ointment on the wound as you might do for smaller cuts, it is best to leave the area alone and just use bandages to cover the bleeding.

Severe burns

Pain from most minor burns can be alleviated by running the area under cool water, but severe burns require more attention. Although some home remedies might suggest using butter, cooking grease or ice to cool the affected area, Dr. Kitchen says sticking to a cool wet cloth is best. In addition, remove any jewelry or tight clothing near the burn area.

Severe burns to the eyes, mouth and hands all require immediate medical attention, especially if they are accompanied by symptoms like excessive swelling, redness of the skin or drainage from the burn, but applying cool cloths to the area will help to reduce swelling and redness en route to the emergency room or care center.

Learning how to respond to medical emergencies, no matter how minor or major they are, is an important part of being a caretaker.