Healthy Husky: Dealing with open wounds
While it may deviate from the norm of this column, one of the key skills you should carry with you in your life is the ability to deal with emergencies, both big and small. One of the best abilities you can learn is basic wound care. Whether it's a kitchen knife or broken beer bottle, when you cut yourself and see blood, you shouldn't have to panic and call 911, except in the dire situations.
The first thing to do when dealing with an open wound is to not panic. While the sight of blood may be scary to some and nauseating to others, panicking will make all situations worse. For any bleeding that you cannot quickly control, you should seek emergency help, either through 911 or a trip to the emergency room, but that does not mean that you cannot first take charge of the situation. If there is anything in the wound that can be easily removed, take it out. If there are any body parts that are no longer attached, keep them on ice until they can be reattached at a hospital.
Once you have remained calm and taken control of some of the nitty-gritty of more serious wounds, the next step is to apply direct pressure. This is best achieved with gauze or some other absorbent material, and ideally you should be wearing gloves. Unfortunately, where some individuals mess up this step is they intermittently apply pressure. In any case with serious bleeding direct pressure, if it is going to be effective, will need at least five minutes of continuous pressure. If the wound were on an appendage that can be elevated, it would be prudent to do so.
Unless you have more formal training, when the bleeding cannot be controlled with the steps above, you should seek professional medical help. However, there are several things you should keep in mind. In the case where an individual may need stitches, you must get them to a doctor or care facility within seven hours of the injury. Otherwise they may not be able to be stitched and further problems like scarring may present down the line.
Other special considerations occur with the nose and teeth. Nosebleeds are incredibly common, however, they can be difficult to manage. The same rule for 5 minutes of direct pressure applies. Do not have the person tip their head back or forward. Sometimes it can be helpful to put a piece of gauze under the upper lip. When it comes to teeth, there is not much you can do immediately, but if a piece or whole tooth is knocked out, save the tooth in water or milk until you can get to a dentist. This is another case where time is of the essence and you should not delay.
While this is by no means exhaustive medical advice, and if in doubt you should seek professional care, there are few skills more useful than first aid. If you would like to gain more knowledge, the Red Cross provides a course and you may even be able to take it on campus.
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