Don’t: Leaning back can be harmful—the blood could get into the windpipe, blocking the airway.
Do: Sit in a comfortable upright position and lean forward slightly, then pinch your nose just below the bony bridge and above the fleshy lobes of the nostrils until the bleeding is stemmed. Might help: Ice packs applied around the nose and on the forehead.
Aftercare: Once the bleeding is controlled, do not blow your nose as this might dislodge the clot and make you bleed again.
Don’t: Never scrub the tooth it to “clean” it as this may damage the root surface. Indeed, avoid handling the root end; pick it up by the top.
Do: Gently rinse the “lost” tooth in a bowl and then drop it in a glass of milk or a warm, mild saltwater solution; then head to the emergency department, where it might be re-implanted. Also always handle the tooth by the top only, not the root.
CUTS AND SCRAPES
Don’t: Contrary to last century’s popular wisdom, do not apply a tourniquet or tie the injured limb to stem bleeding. You will cut off circulation, doing more damage.
Do: Wash the wound with distilled water. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own, so swab with antiseptic and wait. If that’s not enough, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage, and hold it in place for 20-30 minutes.
Alert! If blood spurts forth from the wound or continues to flow after continuous pressure for half an hour, seek medical assistance at once.
Might help: A wound more than ¼-inch deep may need stitches. Get a tetanus shot if your last one was taken five years ago, and make sure you follow it up with a booster a month later, to ensure five more years’ immunity.
Aftercare: Apply an antibiotic and cover with a bandage. Change dressing daily until healed.
Don’t: Never put ice on the burn—it’ll delay healing or cause extra damage (think frostbite). Also, leave the butter in the kitchen, unless you want to make it worse.
Do: Immediately cool the area by holding under cold running water for at least 10 minutes.
Aftercare: Cover the burn with a loose bandage (or clean washed cotton sheet for a larger area) and go to the doctor.
Don’t: Don’t rub the affected area and never rub snow on frostbitten skin.
Do: Get out of the cold. Warm your hands by tucking them under your arms. If your nose, face or ears are frostbitten, warm the area by covering it with dry, gloved hands.
Alert! In severe cases, seek medical help quickly.
Don’t: Never pop a blister. Doing so will expose very sensitive raw skin, which can be more painful and can lead to infection. If the blister does break, do not tear the loose skin off. Often the tear will heal; else the hanging section will fall off naturally in a few days when the underlying skin has toughened up.
Do: Cover with a loose gauze or cotton wool bandage until healed, after applying an antiseptic, just in case.
TWISTED KNEE OR SPRAINED ANKLE
Don’t: Exercising it will not make it go away nor lessen the swelling!
Do: Remember the acronym RICE:
• Rest the injured area.
• Ice it for 20 minutes at a time (at 20-40 minute intervals) for the first 24 hours.
• Compress lightly with a bandage if you’ve managed to treat it before the swelling has developed.
• Elevate it over the level of the heart if possible to minimize swelling.
Don’t: It is everyone’s first instinct, but don’t slap someone who is choking on the back. You could force the offending object further down the windpipe. Let the person cough and don’t rush to offer water.
Do: Coughing forcefully is usually the best way to dislodge a piece of food. If that is not helping or the person seems unable to cough or draw breath, stand behind the person and deliver five sharp blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. Check the mouth quickly after each blow and remove any obvious obstruction. Meanwhile, call a doctor.
If the obstruction is still present, try up to five abdominal thrusts—this is known as the Heimlich manoeuvre: Place a clenched fist above the navel and pull inwards and upwards.
Don’t: Making the victim vomit is a bad idea—it can do more damage than good. Do not offer water either.
Do: Is it something they swallowed? Remove anything remaining in the mouth while you rush the person to hospital.
Might help: Bring the ingested substance (bottle or package) along for faster, more effective treatment. Keeping the person calm can also help slow down absorption.
Alert! Does the substance seem corrosive? Check for blistering or raw, reddened skin in or around the mouth. If you find any, the poison may also have spilled on to the person’s clothing, skin or eyes, so remove the clothing and wash the skin and eyes with cool or lukewarm water (a 20-minute shower, or until help arrives, should do).
FOREIGN OBJECT IN THE EYE
Don’t: Do not rub hard. Trying to pick out the object or brushing it out with a handkerchief or tissue can cause more injury.
Do: Examine the eye gently to find the object. Pull the lower lid down and ask the person to look up. Then hold the upper lid open while the person looks down. If the object is floating in the tear film on the surface of the eye, try flushing it out with a saline solution or clear lukewarm water.
Alert! If any irritating liquid has been splashed into the eye, don’t use anything except water to wash the eye (not even eye drops). Rush to the eye care department of a hospital for intensive cleaning; meanwhile, try to rinse the eye gently with clean, lukewarm water for at least 20 minutes and make sure you wash your hands well too.
Don’t: Never try to yank the person away. Touch him at your own peril.
Do: Break the contact between the person and the electrical supply by switching off the current. If you cannot reach the mains supply, protect yourself by standing on some dry insulating material, such as a telephone directory, and use a non-conductive rod (such as a wooden broom handle or ruler) to push the person away from the electrical source (or the appliance away from the person).
Immediately call the doctor or emergency services while you check for respiration and pulse. If absent, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately—provided you are trained (your local emergency department or general physician should be able to point you in the direction of a course or first-aid class)—while you rush the victim to the hospital.
Aftercare: See the doctor.
Don’t: Even if you are not sure about the symptoms, if you suspect a heart attack at all, do not wait—call an ambulance immediately.
Do: Sit the person down and try to keep them calm and conscious. If the person is conscious, give them a 300mg tablet of aspirin to chew.
Alert! The main risk is that the heart will stop beating. Be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
SHOCK (AFTER INJURY OR A TRAUMATIC EVENT)
Look for: Signs of shock include shallow, fast breathing; rapid pulse becoming weaker; pale, cold and sweaty skin, tinged with grey.
Don’t: Despite what tradition dictates, don’t offer hot milk. Do not give the person anything to eat or drink.
Do: Lay the person down on a blanket or rug to keep them warm. Quickly reassure the person; raise and support the legs above the level of the heart, loosen any tight clothing and call an ambulance.
SEIZURE (or epileptic fit)
Don’t: The worst error is to put something in the victim’s mouth.
Do: Roll the victim on to his or her side to keep the airways clear. Clear away any hard or sharp objects from the vicinity to avoid injury from a violent seizure. Also loosen tight clothing around the neck, especially ties or collars. If possible, put a small pillow or rolled-up jacket under the head to provide padding, and call for the doctor pronto.
Don’t: Trying to pull the stinger out with fingers or tweezers will squeeze the attached poison sac and push more venom in.
Do: Remove the stinger as quickly as possible by scraping off gently with a straight-edged object, such as a credit card or the back of a knife. Wash the area with soap and water. Then apply a cold pack (frozen peas or ice wrapped in cloth) to reduce pain and swelling.
Might help: Hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion several times a day can help symptoms subside. You should also take an antihistamine.
Alert! If the victim seems allergic to bees (check for hives, rapid swelling or difficulty in breathing), check if they are carrying an epinephrine auto-injector. If so, help the victim use the device as directed.
Also, take the victim to the emergency department at once if they have been stung more than 10 times, or if there are bee stings inside the nose, mouth or throat, or they seem to be allergic.
Don’t: Whatever the last Bollywood flick showed you, absolutely no cutting (it will just create infections) or sucking (the snake will probably get two for the price of one here) the wound. Also, avoid squeezing or applying a tourniquet.
Do: Get to the emergency department immediately. On the way, keep the affected limb immobile and, if possible, below the level of the heart.
Might help: Wash the area with (preferably warm) water and soap if you can. Remove constricting clothing and jewellery from the limb (it may swell and constrictions can cause tissue death). Apply a firm (but not tight) bandage over the bite.
OTHER ANIMAL AND INSECT BITES
For minor wounds: If the bite barely breaks the skin (no visible blood) and there is no danger of rabies, treat it as a minor wound. Wash thoroughly, apply antibiotic cream and cover with a clean bandage.
For deep wounds: Apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding and see your doctor as soon as possible.
Don’t: Never put the severed finger in ice directly, or you’ll cause irreversible damage.
Do: Put the severed finger in a waterproof bag, and then place the bag in ice and rush to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. It is often possible to reattach the lost bit.
MAKE YOUR KIT
• First-aid booklet
• Emergency phone numbers
• Sterile adhesive bandages, assorted sizes
• Absorbent gauze
• Cotton wool
• Adhesive tape
• Premedicated adhesive plaster
• Tweezers (for removing splinters)
• Assorted safety pins
• Torch and extra batteries
• Distilled water
• Soap or anti-bacterial gel
• Antibiotic ointment
• Eye wash solution
• Antiseptic lotion
• Calamine lotion
• Antihistamine cream and tablets
• Numbing spray or ointment
• Eye and ear drops
• Plastic gloves
• Mouthpiece for administering CPR
• Blood pressure cuff
• Blood sugar monitor
• Add prescribed medication for those with special conditions: insulin, heart medicine, asthma inhalers
• Check the box monthly to replace expired or consumed items
• Never discard packaging that shows date of expiry
First-aid kits tend to end up in the broom closet—where you can’t find them when the need arises. Keep the kit in a central, accessible location (in the kitchen or hall). However, keep out of reach of children and pets; make sure even older children (10-plus) cannot access it without supervision. Have a separate kit for the car, edited to fit in the glove compartment. If you work on DIY projects, keep a first-aid box nearby, be it the sewing corner or your study.
Experts: Verinder Anand, senior consultant, internal medicine, Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi; Ashutosh Shukla, consultant, internal medicine, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon.
Graphics by Jayachandran / Mint
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To get the best treatment, you must be a “smart patient”, says S.N. Misra, public health and infectious diseases expert, Futures Group International.
• Make and keep appointments
• Choose the doctor or hospital through a referral
• Come with a list of questions, symptoms and other details
• Talk when the doctor is all ears; ask precise, relevant questions
• Seek a second opinion, but don’t confuse yourself with several
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• Discuss all fears and concerns before agreeing to a procedure
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Simple steps can help ease jet lag, says B.C. Tandon, general physician, Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi:
• Finish packing and other chores the day before you leave. Make sure you get a good 8-hour sleep before you fly.
• Drink lots of water during flights; juices help too.
• Avoid alcohol, aerated drinks, high-fat or high-protein foods (a Harvard University study suggests it may be best to avoid in-flight eating completely, especially if moving across time zones).
• Exercise: stretch in your seat; walk in aisles, airport lounges.
• Eat and sleep according to the local time at your destination.
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