The summer holidays can bring a number of medical emergencies that do not have to end in disaster if you know what to do. Estelle Ellis asked Port Elizabeth Red Cross first
aid expert Coralie Peo-Swartz, how to deal with any crisis
“ACCIDENTS can happen anywhere and at any time,” Red Cross Port Elizabeth branch spokeswoman Coralie Peo-Swartz said. “It is better to be prepared in the event of an emergency than not to know what to do.
“First aid always begins with SABC,” she said.
- S is for Safety. Ensure that the injured or ill person is away from harm. Don’t try to be heroic in dangerous situations.
- A is for Airway: Always check that the person’s airway is not obstructed and if possible, remove all obstructions.
- B is for Breathing: Check that the patient is breathing and if the breathing is normal.
- C is for Circulation: Check for signs of life and check for any severe bleeding and control it.
“Certain techniques in first aid should only be applied by someone who has been trained to do them.
“This includes CPR and the Heimlich manoeuvre.
“The application of procedurally incorrect techniques can cause further harm to the patient,” Peo-Swartz said.
HOW TO TREAT COMMON HOLIDAY EMERGENCIES:
SUNBURN The best cure is prevention. Use a good sunblock, preferably a SPF 50.
To treat sunburn, use a cool compress or take a cool shower or bath.
To relieve pain, apply a water-based lotion such as aloe vera or aqueous cream and take Vitamin E supplements, which can reduce inflammation caused by sunburn.
Don’t apply ice, butter or soap, as this will aggravate the condition.
HEATSTROKE To avoid heatstroke during hot summer days, you should not go out when the sun is at its hottest.
Make sure you remain hydrated by drinking lots of water.
The elderly, children and those who are frail or sick are most likely to suffer from heatstroke, which could even cause death.
To treat heatstroke, let the person lie down, remove unnecessary clothing and place a lukeMETHOD:
Mix the solution and give small amounts until such time as the patient recovers. warm damp towel over them. Provide small amounts of water at a time, as too much can lead to vomiting.
Don’t give the person ice water or ice blocks as this could cause them to go into shock.
BITES AND STINGS To a person with an allergic reaction to bites and stings, first aid could mean the difference between life and death.
If there is no allergic reaction, place an ice pack on the bite or sting for 10 to 15 minutes every six hours.
For bee stings: Try to remove the stinger by using the back of a butter knife, scraping it away from the sting.
Calamine lotion can be used to soothe the area and an antihistamine can aid in relieving symptoms.
For jellyfish or bluebottle stings: Try to remove the tentacles and pour vinegar or seawater over the area.
Don’t rub sand or use alcohol on the area, as it will aggravate the injury.
Tick bites: Some can cause tick bite fever and infection.
If you notice a tick on you, remove it by grasping the tick’s head with tweezers.
You can also cover the tick and bite area with Vaseline, which will suffocate it and it will fall off.
If the area starts swelling or becomes inflamed, seek medical help immediately.
BURNS A burn wound must be soaked or placed in cool, clean water for 10 to 15 minutes every hour for at least six hours.
If your first aid box does not have Burn-Eeze, try using aloe vera on the burn.
You can also place a cool, wet tea bag over the burn wound.
Vinegar and milk can also be used to make damp compresses.
Do not open blisters or remove clothing stuck to the skin.
If the wound becomes red or inflamed, see a medical professional immediately.
If the wound is larger than a fist or looks charred, seek medical attention.
NEAR-DROWNING The use of resuscitation and CPR in helping to save a person from near-drowning is critical.
Remove the person from the water and, if necessary, resuscitation and CPR must begin immediately.
Once the person starts to breathe by themselves, check for injuries and get them to hospital as soon as possible.
In the event of an obstruction to the airway, it is recommended that the object be removed from the person’s mouth or throat.
If the object is further down the windpipe, the Heimlich manoeuvre can be applied.
The Red Cross does not recommend that untrained people apply this technique because it could result in serious injuries such as cracked or broken ribs.
CAR ACCIDENTS Call for help immediately. Try to move your limbs, look out for dizziness and make sure you are fit enough to help others.
Give priority to someone who is still or quiet, has breathing difficulties or is not breathing at all, and then move on to those who are less hurt.
If a patient is able to answer questions, they most likely don’t have a head injury.
Be careful to move a patient who might have spinal injuries, as this can cause harm.
If you have first aid training, provide life-saving techniques such as resuscitation and CPR and keep the person warm.
Try to stop any bleeding by putting pressure on the area with a cloth. Press down using your palms instead of your finger tips.