We've all been faced with our children, friends or relatives coming to us for help with minor cuts or scrapes. Here are some thoughts on how to help.
Assessing a Wound
First, you need to determine if the wound needs more medical attention than you can provide.
Following are some circumstances where the injured person should be referred to a doctor:
- Large or complicated wounds, such as those that continue to bleed, that are potentially deep puncture wounds, lacerations more than two centimetres long, gaping wounds, or those that expose fat, muscle or bone.
- Animal or human bites or wounds that occurred in a contaminated environment (for example, a garden).
- Visible dirt or debris in the wound after cleaning.
- Wounds with severe pain or where the injured person is not able to use the limb.
- People with underlying medical conditions or drug treatment that puts them at risk for infection or delayed healing.
- People with minor wounds whose tetanus immunization is incomplete.
- If after 48 hours of self-treatment, signs and symptoms of infection are present, or if wound is still raw, red and weeping.
Bleeding from a wound isn't a pleasant sight, but it serves to help clean the wound of foreign material. Most cuts or scrapes will stop bleeding within a short time. Bleeding can be stopped by applying firm but gentle pressure on the cut with a clean cloth, tissue or piece of gauze. Raising the arms or legs above the heart will slow down the bleeding in those parts of the body. If bleeding doesn't stop within 10 minutes of firm, direct pressure, a doctor should be consulted.
Tips for Cleaning & Caring for a Wound
Skin around the wound should be thoroughly cleansed with soap and water. Soap should be kept out of the wound because it can cause irritation. Remove bits of grass, dirt, or anything else that could cause infection in the wound. Tweezers that have been soaked in isopropyl alcohol are appropriate for this purpose. The area of the wound should be kept clean and dry after cleaning it.
Leave the wound uncovered if it is in an area that will not get dirty or rubbed by clothing. Otherwise, cover it with gauze or an adhesive bandage. Your PROfile Pharmacist can help you choose a first aid ointment to prevent infection. If used on the hands or feet, the ointments are generally used for the first day only because they can slow down the healing process.
Assessing a Burn
The following types of burns should be referred to a doctor as soon as possible (after initial care):
- Burns involving more than a few scattered, small blisters
- Burns that appear charred or black
- Any burn involving thin skin areas (inner area of arm, around eyes)
- Burns affecting children less than five years old or adults older than 55 years old
- Burns affecting people with underlying conditions or drug treatments that increase the risk of infection or delayed healing
- Electrical burns
- Chemical burns involving concentrated products or hydrochloric acid
- Burns resulting from fire with fumes (symptoms suggest lung problems such as coughing and shortness of breath)
- Burns that appear infected one to two weeks after injury
Care of Burns
- For burns caused by heat, chemicals or direct contact with a hot substance, cool water should be run over the burn for at least 30 minutes, or cool water compresses applied.
- In the case of an electrical burn, do not touch the person unless he/she is clear of the live power source. Once clear, check for anything blocking the airways and for proper breathing and pulse. Find medical help immediately, and administer CPR if necessary. Once the victim is stable, run cool water over the burns for at least 30 minutes or apply cool compresses.
- Do not remove clothing that is stuck to a burn by cutting or tearing it.
- Dry, superficial burns where the skin is not broken do not require a dressing. Others should be covered with a non-adherent dressing or clean cotton material.
- Blisters should never be drained.
- Talk with your health care professional about recommending an appropriate topical antibiotic, pain relief medication and/or anti-itch product if needed.
What to Do in Case of Poisoning
The most important phone numbers you can have available for easy access are those of your local poison control center, ambulance and hospital emergency. This is especially true in areas where 911 access is not available.
In case of poisoning, take the following steps:
- Look into the victim's mouth and remove all poisonous materials. Check in the mouth for cuts, burns, swelling, unusual colouring or odour. Rinse and wipe out the mouth with a cloth.
- Call the poison control center. Identify yourself and your relationship to the victim. Give your telephone number and describe the age and sex of the victim. Describe the poison, when it was swallowed, how much was swallowed, and how the victim is acting. Be calm and follow the advice given.
- You should have ipecac syrup (causes vomiting) on hand in case you are instructed by the Poison Control Center or a doctor to use it. Vomiting can sometimes do more harm than good, so wait for instruction before inducing vomiting.
A Checklist of First Aid Supplies
Your Sobeys Pharmacist can help you to prepare a first aid kit personalized to your needs at home or abroad.
- Antibiotic ointment
- Antihistamines to relieve allergic reactions (obtain medical advice if possible, and use proper dose in relation to age)
- Bandages of various sizes, antiseptic wipes
- Compliments Antibiotic Ointment
- Compliments Hydrocortisone Cream
- Digital thermometer (for infants under the age of one, use a rectal thermometer)
- Elastic wraps to wrap joints (wrist, ankle, etc.)
- Gauze pads (two and four inch) and adhesive tape
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Oral medicine syringe for measuring accurate dose
- Safety pins, tweezers
- Sharp scissors with rounded edges
- Solarcine lotion
- Syrup of ipecac (for use on recommendation by health care professional to induce vomiting)
- Triangular bandage to wrap injuries or make sling
More Information About First Aid
Canadian Red Cross
Atlantic Zone Office:
70 Landsdowne Avenue
P.O. Box 39, St. John, N.B. E2L 3X3
Phone: (506) 674-6200
Your Sobeys Pharmacist has many resources for health care education and is always available to discuss your health concerns!