Calamity rings no bell and accidents happen when we least expect it. What happens in the first few minutes of any emergency is most critical and can be the difference between life and death. While the intent of saving a life is pure and noble, knowing exactly what it is you are doing is a major plus. Ignorance and blindly following old wives’ tales can be make an already bad situation worse.
Here are 5 common First-Aid mistakes people do when trying to administer first aid.
Tilting your head back to stop a nose bleed
On the surface, it seems logical to tilt your head back during a nosebleed. Working against gravity should stop the flow and avoid staining your favorite sweeter, so you might think. This however does nothing to stop the bleeding. The blood will not flow out through the nostrils but will find way down your throat opening a new can of worms. You might choke on it, which is way worse than staining your clothes if you ask me, or you might swallow it. Besides being utterly disgusting, blood in the stomach can irritate the mucosa causing vomiting or diarrhea
Instead; St john ambulance first aid handbook advises one to pinch the soft part of your nose, leaning slightly forward for 10 minutes. Release pressure to check if bleeding has stopped, go back to pinching your nose for two more periods of 10 minutes. You can clean around the nose with lukewarm water. You should avoid blowing your nose lest you disturb already formed clots. If the bleeding last more than 30 minutes, it is best you sought medical help.
Applying heat on a sprain
A sprain is simply a tear or stretch of ligaments. It could be a miscalculated step, a skating trick gone wrong or heels that tapped out leaving you under the mercies of unforgiving gravity. We have all sprained our knee or ankle at some point. Applying heat, especially during the first 3 days may not be the best idea. Heat dilates blood vessels increasing blood flow to the injury, leading to increased swelling and inflammation.
Instead; ice should be used in acute injuries (e.g. sprains, fracture, bruise) while heat is more helpful when dealing with chronic injuries or pain, the rule of thumb when handling sprains is R.I.C.E
Rest – rest the injured part. You might use a sling for arm injuries or crutches for leg injuries. Make sure the patient is comfortable.
Ice – place an ice pack on the injured part to help reduce the pain for 10 to 20 minutes. Do not put ice directly onto the skin as this might cause frost bites or ice burns. Instead use clothing as a barrier between the ice and skin.
Compression – tie an elastic compression bandage on the injury firmly though not too tightly that it may obstruct blood flow.
Elevation – elevate the area.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like paracetamol or ibuprofen might be used to manage pain
Putting objects in a patient’s mouth during a seizure
A cloud of ignorance casts shadow on the condition, epilepsy. The number of myths and misconceptions still going rounds proves that there are still milestones to be made as far as creating awareness is concerned. One such absurd myth is one might swallow their tongue during a seizure hence the putting of spoons, pencils, wallets and all manner of things to try get a grip of the tongue. It is IMPOSSIBLE to swallow your tongue. The worst that can happen is biting your tongue seizure as is seen in some types of epilepsy.
On Everyday Health, Kurt Eichenwald gives three horrid incidence, one involving himself, where these interventions proved dangerous and fatal – a man whose bottom teeth were broken by witnesses who tried to pry his mouth open with a bottle opener, a woman on twitter who shuttered her back teeth on a wooden spoon put in her mouth during a seizure and horror of all horrors, during one of his seizures, Kurt almost chocked on a broken pencil.
Instead; Like a bullet fired or a stone thrown, there is only so much you can do for a seizing patient. Start by removing anything that may cause possible harm to the patient such as jewelry that may choke them or sharp objects. Place a pillow or blanket beneath their head to minimize head injury. Do not restrain them! Let them have their seizure and be sure to time how long it takes. After the episode, roll them to their side or put them in recovery position.
Red cross advices that medical attention is needed if;
- It is their first seizure
- The seizure last more than 5 minutes
- They may have hurt themselves
- The cause of the seizure is unknown
Applying Vaseline or butter immediately on a burn
Burns differ in types and degree of severity. An age-old remedy in the books involves applying a layer of butter on the burn to help with the pain. This however, does more harm than good. Toothpaste, butter, Vaseline or any other greasy when applied on a burn tends to trap heat in the layers of skin causing more damage to tissue.
What to do; immediately run cold water over the burn for at least 20 minutes to cool the area. Ice or ice-cold water should not be used as it can cause frost bites. Do not burst any blisters as open wounds increase risk of contamination and infection. See how to treat different type of burns here.
Sucking out venom after a snake bite
There is that one jungle-based movie we have all watched where a character is bitten by a poisonous snake, and the protagonist without thinking twice, pulls out his pocket knife and makes an X incision on the bite marks. He then rips off his shirt, makes tourniquet and proceeds to suck the venom off the causality’s limb thus saving his life. All this seems plausible at face value but in reality, it does not work so do not go reproducing that scene in a real-life situation. These efforts are counterproductive and waste a huge chunk of critical time of saving a life.
What to do; Snake Aware urges all to follow St John DRSABCD action plan and seeking emergency medical services. Reassuring and calming the patient helps lower their hear rate slowing the spread of the venom. Firmly bandage over the bite site. Reptile Garden lays out some important Dos and Don’ts when dealing with snake bites.
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