Tools Required: Home first aid kit
Level 1 – Basic: Essential but simple info.
Minor cuts can be treated at home with just a few simple measures to help nature along and prevent infection.
Seek medical assistance if the bleeding does not stop, if there is a foreign object embedded in the wound or there is a serious risk of infection (e.g. rusty nail puncture or a dog bite).
1> Wash your own hands well before touching the area.
2> If the wound is dirty wash it under lightly running water or use antiseptic as per the directions.
3> Use a sterile dressing or plaster to avoid touching the wound directly and put gentle pressure on the area (Fig.1).
4> Elevate the wound, above the level of the heart if possible, for example by supporting it on cushions. When bleeding has reduced clean the area and pat dry. Apply a sterile plaster or dressing.
There is a very rich blood supply to the scalp and cuts to the head may often bleed copiously making them appear worse than they actually are. However a wound to the head could represent a more serious underlying injury so careful observation and treatment is necessary. The elderly and children especially need to be monitored for any changes in behaviour after head injuries.
1> Apply gentle pressure to the wound with a sterile dressing or pad. Bandage the dressing in place if necessary by winding a roller bandage around the head to keep pressure on the wound.
2> Lay the casualty down with pillows or cushions under them to keep their head and shoulders raised above heart level.
3> Keep an eye on them for drowsiness or loss of consciousness and be ready to put them in the recovery position if necessary.
4> If bleeding is significant or there is a gaping wound, or if unconsciousness or sickness occur take or send the casualty to hospital.
Nosebleeds can be common in children and in the elderly. They may occur following picking or blowing the nose or after a heavy cold as the blood vessels inside the nose are fragile. Your aim in treating a nosebleed is to control the loss of blood and keep the airway clear for breathing.
1> Sit the casualty on a chair with their head leaning forwards. DO NOT let her lean her head backwards as blood may run down her throat.
2> Get her to pinch her nose on the fleshy part just below the bridge and apply pressure for 10 minutes. She should breathe through her mouth and you may need to give her a towel or tissue to mop up blood or dribble. If she is a young child you can pinch her nose for her, applying gentle but firm pressure to both sides. This helps the blood vessels to contract.
3> When the bleeding stops you can clean around the nose with lukewarm water or wipes. Blowing the nose should be avoided for the rest of the day as this may dislodge blood clots.
4> If the bleeding persists for longer than 30 minutes the casualty should be taken to hospital, whilst keeping calm and sitting in the leaning forward position as much as possible.
Burns and scalds
Dry burns, from flames and cigarettes, or scalds, from hot liquids such as tea and coffee or steam, are relatively common injuries occurring at home. Both are treated in the same way. Burns covering a large area or through deep layers of skin require hospital treatment but small burns will usually heal at home.
1> As soon as possible flood the burnt area with cold water or the nearest available safe, clean liquid that is cold (e.g. milk or drinks). Keep cooling with water for at least 10 minutes.
2> Remove any jewellery or tight clothing as they may become stuck later if the area swells.
3> DO NOT break blisters or try to remove skin from the area.
4> Cover the burn with a sterile, non-fluffing dressing. This is essential to protect the exposed injury from infection. If you do not have a dressing, kitchen clingfilm or clean plastic food bags may be used but DO NOT wrap them too tightly around the skin (Fig.2).
5> NEVER apply sticking plasters or adhesive tape directly to the skin, even around the burn as the burn may extend further than it first appears.
6> DO NOT use ointments or lotions of any kind.
St John’s Ambulance run courses around the UK that range from basic 3 hour sessions to in-depth 4 day courses leading to First Aider qualifications. They offer first aid targeted to specific groups such as sports enthusiasts or motorcyclists or you can learn basic skills for families. You can search for a course near you on the St John’s Ambulancewebsite.
A good first aid manual is essential for families or for anyone who is in charge of a group of people such as expedition leaders. An excellent manual covering everything you need to know is available from the British Red Cross.