Warmer weather means more time outside, but also more opportunities for bumps, bites and bruises.
“People are outdoors more, and so there’s an increased chance for injury from that or exposure to things like plants or bugs or animals,” says Dr. Brennan Lawall, a Family Medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Physicians - Primary Care.
Fortunately, when it comes to first aid, a little preparation goes a long way. Here are a few tips to help you deal with minor injuries quickly.
What to pack
Even a basic first aid kit can mean the difference between quick treatment and an unplanned side trip to get help.
“If you know you’re going on a small trip, even if it’s day trip hiking, make sure you have a small bag packed with important items,” Dr. Lawall says. “That way, if something were to happen, you could take care of it right then and there in the field.”
A good starter kit could include:
- Bandages and antibiotic ointment for small cuts and scrapes
- Hand sanitizer, which can be used on your hands or to help clean a cut or scrape
- A larger gauze pad for larger wounds (plus medical tape to attach it)
- Tylenol for headache or pain relief
- A Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID), such as Ibuprofen, Motrin or Naproxen, to treat fever, pain or swelling
- Hydrocortisone cream for itching caused by poison ivy or other conditions
- Benadryl for short-term allergy treatment
- High-protein snacks: Good to have in general, but especially for people with blood sugar issues like diabetes or hypoglycemia
- If anyone in your group has severe allergies, always bring an EpiPen
What to know
Most bug bites are not going to require professional treatment. Some swelling is normal and can be treated with ibuprofen (or Benadryl for those with minor allergies). “But if you start feeling like your throat’s closing up, you’re having trouble breathing or you’re drooling a lot, get to emergency help right away,” Dr. Lawall says.
- Wash animal bites thoroughly with soap and water or clean with hand sanitizer. Cover the wound with Vaseline or antibiotic ointment, then a bandage.
- Minor burns can be treated with Vaseline or ointment as well. Get help if you develop blisters, have a chemical burn, or if your burn turns white or charred black. (And don’t pop the blisters.)
- First aid is enough for many cuts and scrapes, which typically heal in a few days to a week.
- If you’re able to stand on a sprained ankle right away and tolerate the pain, it probably isn’t broken, though Dr. Lawall says there’s no 100 percent guarantee. “If you think, ‘This could be broken,’ come and be seen.”
Dr. Lawall also cautions parents to be careful around water, especially with younger children. “Even in a baby pool in the back yard a child can drown. Make sure you’re watching your child – hopefully within arm’s reach – at all times around the water.”
Water can be hazardous to adults too. “If you’re swimming in a creek or a river, make sure the current’s not too strong,” Dr. Lawall warns. “You might have a chance of drowning as well.”
Finally, skills like CPR (for heart attacks or drowning) and the Heimlich maneuver (for choking) are always good to know. “Getting trained in such skills is important. There are multiple organizations throughout the region that offer training, making it easy to find a location close to home,” Dr. Lawall says.
How to respond
“When there’s an emergency situation with multiple people around, try to have one person take the lead and designate jobs,” Dr. Lawall says. The lead person can delegate others to call 911, get water if it’s needed or just to stay with the patient. “Otherwise, people panic and things get missed.”
It’s also important to make sure the scene is safe. “Let’s say you’re hiking and somebody fell down a cliff, it wouldn’t be the safest thing for you to go down the cliff to get them unless you’re 100 percent sure that you can safely go down and back. Otherwise you might become a patient yourself.”
Having a primary care physician is a great way to stay on track with your health. Click to learn more about Dr. Lawall and schedule an appointment.