Wednesday, May 22, 2013

12 things I learned in First Aid that you oughta know

To my long list of accomplishments—including but not limited to Butt Wiper and Master Laundress—I can now add Certified in First Aid. I took the American Heart Association Basic Life Support Course for our Girl Scout troop last week, and learned a whole lot from the instructor and the Academy-Award level actors featured in the course DVD.

I picked up some really useful info, including several things that surprised me, and I'm sharing. What I'm telling you, of course, is not a substitute for actually taking the course (sorry, you don't get off that easy)! But you never know when these tips might come in handy.

It's better to use a landline to call 911
If you call from a cell phone, emergency responders likely won't be able to detect your exact location so you have to tell them where you are; that could be an issue if, say, a parent is injured and a child with speech issues is calling. Dial from a landline and your exact home address will instantly flash on the operator's screen. (Here's a good Consumer Reports article on this.)

The full dose of an Epi-Pen Jr. is TWO of them
Max has a peanut allergy so I carry around one Epi-Pen Jr from the two-pack, and keep the other at home. Wrong, as it turns out; the full dose is TWO. As in, if the injected one does not stop an anaphylactic reaction, you need to use the second pen. The info about dosage on the EpiPen site notes that up to 20 percent of patients may require a second dose. File this one under Clueless Mom Moments.

To stop bleeding, apply pressure and don't remove the gauze
If a wound is gushing blood, place a gauze pad, clean cloth or a gloved hand over it and apply pressure. If that doesn't stop bleeding, do not remove the dressing or you could mess up the clotting that's started to form. Instead, add another layer of gauze and press harder.

Tip the forehead forward to stop a nosebleed
Have the person sit and lean forward, then press both side of the nostrils for a few minutes until bleeding stops. If you can't stop the bleeding in about 15 minutes, it's heavy (as in, gushing blood) or the person has trouble breathing, call 911. And if your child has just bled all over your Shabby Chic sofa, call your husband and wail.

Tourniquets save lives
The instructor spoke of the tourniquets used after the Boston Marathon bombings that helped save lives by stopping blood flow. It's pretty easy to make one: Fold a cloth or cravat so it's long, and at least one-inch wide. (In Boston, they made them from t-shirts and belts.) Wrap it about two inches above the injury. Tie a half-knot, like the first part of tying your shoelaces. Place a stick, a screwdriver or something similar on the half-knot, then tie a full knot over that. Then just turn the stick to tighten the tourniquet, continue tightening until the bleeding stops then tie it again. (Here's a good YouTube video on making a tourniquet.) It's important that medical personnel know what time the tourniquet was placed; our instructor suggested writing it on the victim's forehead, so it can't be missed.

To deal with a tooth injury:
• If the tooth is just loose, have the person bite down on a piece of gauze to keep it in place and call a dentist.
• If the tooth has come out, apply pressure with gauze to stop bleeding at the empty socket, then put the tooth in a cup of milk or clean water and bring the person to a dentist or ER. Remember not to drink from the cup with the floating tooth.

To deal with a sprain:
Put a plastic bag filled with ice and water on the hurt area, with a towel between the ice-bag and skin for up to 20 minutes. Cold packs are not as effective as ice and water. Pinot Grigio may as effective for adults.

To make a simple splint:
A rolled up magazine that cradles the arm or ankle gives really effective support until you can get to a doc. An issue of Martha Stewart Living will look especially lovely. Place the magazine so that it extends beyond the injured area and supports the joints above and below. Tie with tape, gauze or cloth. Note: A pillow can also work effectively for splinting a foot or ankle. It's best to keep the shoe on—the compression helps prevent additional swelling.

To treat burns:
For small burns, run under cool but not ice-cold water until the burn doesn't hurt. Cover with a dry, nonstick dressing. Do not use ointment.

And if someone's bitten by a tick...
Using tweezers, grab the tick by its mouth or head as close to the skin as possible and lift it straight out without twisting or squeezing its body or noting how much it looks like your mother-in-law. Lift the tick until the person's skin "tents," wait for several seconds and the tick may release its grip. If someone suggests dousing the area with hydrogen peroxide, do not listen—this will force a tick to, as the instructor said, "puke its guts out into your body." You also want to save the little bugger in a plastic bag and give it to the doc, because they can test for disease.

Diabetics experiencing low blood sugar need sugar
If you're ever around a diabetic who gets woozy, pale or otherwise seems ill, immediately give them fruit juice, milk, sugar, honey or a regular soft drink, not a diet one. (Yes, it seems rather obvious that you should not give someone in need of sugar a Diet Coke, but the manual mentioned it so people must do it.) 

The signs of a stroke: think STR
• The person is unable to SMILE symmetrically
• The person cannot TALK lucidly or clearly, and speech is impaired
• The person cannot RAISE their arms symmetrically, or even at all.
There's not any First Aid you can administer; call 911 asap, because the new treatments that reduce damage from stroke and improve recovery must be given within the first hours after the first signs of stroke appear.

Hope you found this helpful! I'll be quizzing you tomorrow.

Image: Flickr/Marcin Wichary


  1. This is great! Well done and thank you. You've reminded me to add "find out about first aid course" to my to-do list. Being prepared is so important and helps you keep calm in a crisis. We're pretty far from the hospital and my mother in law (who funnily enough looks remarkably like a tick) likes to regale me with stories of kids who perished in the car on the way to casualty.

    1. The course is so worth taking. Your MIL sounds quite charming!

  2. Thank you for saying that about landlines! As more people get rid of their home landlines in favor of cell phones, they are losing a really important safety measure. In a severe emergency where you lose power, landlines are the most reliable type of telecommunication. Cell towers go out, your cell phone battery dies, but your landline will most likely still be there. And do not confuse this with cable. If you have a phone through your cable carrier, it is NOT a landline. Even though your cable company assures you that they have battery backups, those only last up to 8 hours, if that. Also, if you have a cordless phone, it will not work when the power goes out. So, keep one phone in your house plugged into a phone socket in the wall. It's the most reliable friend you have in an emergency! And no, I don't work for a phone company -- I do telecom research for people with disabilities.

    1. Thanks for the added info, Paula. We've kept our landline mainly because we've been too lazy to get rid of it—but now that I know how good it is to have in case of emergency, we won't be.

  3. Great tips :) Tip number 13: If you're child who has cp is chocking go up behind him/her, put your arms around their tummy and squeeze upwards.

  4. Thank you for the nosebleed one! More people need to know that! I had semi-frequent nosebleeds as a kid (only a few a year, but more than most other kids had!) when the seasons changed. I knew perfectly well that I was supposed to tip my head forward, but at least once an adult in charge insisted that I tip my head back. I have a very clear memory of said adults actually physically forcing me to comply.

    This is the sort of thing you usually hear happening to people with disabilities, but I learned pretty well to pass for neurotypical, so I don't think I had been diagnosed with anything at that point (or if I had, I don't think the camp counselors knew about it).

    1. The nosebleed info was news to me, too. Max gets them on occasion, and I didn't know about pinching his nose. We'll be trying that net time.

  5. Thank you so much for your informative post! It has been years since I received First Aid Training. The nosebleed tip is good! My husband wants to tilt my kids heads' back and doesn't understand about squeezing both sides of the nostrils. I will share this with him! Also, "funny" (???) story about my father-in-law (may he rest in peace) lighting a match to force a tick to back out of my husband's back when we were at their cabin years ago. Let's just say that my husband is first generation Italian and has quite a hairy back. You can imagine the rest!

  6. Did they talk about what to do when someone has a seizure?
    Lots of people have misconceptions about that, too.

  7. I believe for seizures, the first thing is make them safe/comfortable (ie. grab a coat/pillow to stop head banging against anything) and into recovery position. If it stops, then reassure them and call your doctor. If it doesn't, you obviously need emergency services. Although you should make sure they don't have anything in their mouth they could choke on, it's an old wive's tale that kids can swallow their tongue: not true!

    My little girl has mild epilepsy. For me it was totally terrifying and traumatic the first few times, but against my expectations, I'm pretty calm now about it. The more you know, the easier it gets.

  8. Never use a towel when someone is bleeding. They are designed to soak up fluid and spread it through the towel. The same amount of blood on a wash cloth or gauze pads is not nearly as frightening-- to mom or the kid.

    Frozen peas or corn make good cold packs and do not have as many corners as ice cubes. If you mark the package they can be thawed and refrozen several times.

    Also, screaming or panicking in an emergency only scares you and the child more. At least try to pretend you are calm and in control.

  9. Thanks for all the info! I took at CPR course when my daughter was in the NICU, I've been wanting to take some refreshers.

  10. a quick tip about nosebleeds--- my son used to get HORRIFIC ones at LEAST once a week----- wherever he was would look like a crime scene afterwards. Since he has severe SPD with his autism, we couldn't pinch his nose. we would just strip him down, sit him in the bathtub and wait it out. The ENT was able to cauterize the nostril that was causing the problems and he NEVER AGAIN had another nosebleed, EVEN when he banged his head so hard on the toilet that he had to go to the ER because we thought he broke his nose. So for little kids who are having frequent and super intense nosebleeds, cautery might be in order. For most of us it's a quick and easy procedure. For my son, they had to put him under but it was SO worth it. Thanks for the tips Ellen!

  11. Thank you for this. I need to print it off and keep it in highly visible place. I did NOT know that about the Ep-Pen Jrs. Our two and a half year old is allergic to ant bites. He was bitten by about twenty piss ants (the little black ants) last year and his whole body swelled up. Fortunately, he did not have problems breathing, but his doctor prescribed Ep-Pen Jrs. just in case. I keep one in his diaper bag and the other one I sent to day care since he started going about twice a month (his brother goes full time). Our yard is covered in fire ants and Isaac has already had several attack his left leg. I am going to get that extra Ep-Pen back from the day care and keep it in the diaper bag too.


Thanks for sharing!

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