Health Health Matters

First Aid refresher for the holidays

With the holiday season upon us, whether you are staying at home or going away, you will probably spend more time being active. And in this silly season we sometimes even do things that our bodies aren’t primed for.

With normal routines out of the window the chances of situations requiring first aid increase and so it is a good time to refresh your knowledge and make sure you have the necessary supplies at hand.

Staying hydrated is especially important in our hot climate. Make sure that, wherever you go, there are enough cool beverages available. You may need to encourage everyone to drink fluids regularly – especially older people, and children who tend to get carried away.

The signs of heat exhaustion are a flushed face, excessive sweating, dizziness, headache and even stomach cramps. If anyone shows these signs encourage them to sit in the shade and drink plenty of fluids. They should get medical attention if they don’t recover quickly.

Sunburn is best avoided. Don’t exceed what you know your personal limits for sun exposure are and use sunscreen, especially between 10 am and 3 pm. Remember also to keep an eye on children, and reapply sunscreen often when they are in and out of the water while swimming.

If you do get sunburnt, bath or shower in cool water for 10 minutes. Just pat yourself dry, or even allow the water to evaporate naturally to cool the skin.

Then apply a cooling gel – most soothing is a gel that contains aloe vera. Aspirin or ibuprofen reduce the pain, swelling and redness. Drink extra water and protect the sunburnt skin against further exposure until it has healed.

Minor cuts and scrapes often happen during the holidays so make sure that you always have plasters on hand. After having washed your own hands, first wash the wound with cool water, ideally under running water, to remove any dirt. Then you can clean the wound with an antibacterial solution. Only do this once as these solutions will irritate the skin and slow down healing.

Smaller wounds usually stop bleeding on their own, but if bleeding continues apply firm direct pressure on the wound with a cloth or gauze. Raising the limb also helps to reduce bleeding. Once bleeding has stopped or is only a trickle, you can apply an antibacterial ointment to the wound before covering it with a sterile plaster or dressing to keep it clean and prevent infection.

Get medical attention if blood spurts out of the wound or if it doesn’t stop bleeding heavily, if you cannot remove all the dirt and debris, or if the wound was caused by a human or animal bite. A cut which is more than about 5mm deep will probably need stitching and should also be seen by a doctor.

For strains and sprains, where the affected area is red, swollen, and possibly bruised remember RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This is where an ice pack out of the coolbox and the bandage in your first aid kit will come in handy. If you don’t have a bandage, be resourceful and use any clean stretchy material such as a t-shirt.

If the area is extremely painful, especially if it is worse by the next day, you should consult a medical practitioner – there is always the possibility of a torn ligament or a fracture. Also, see a doctor right away if there is any sign of misalignment of the joint or the limb.

Insect bites and stings are usually quite harmless with mild swelling, pain and itchiness. Remove the stinger if necessary, wash the area and apply a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling. Afterwards, you can apply a cortisone cream, calamine lotion or a paste of bicarbonate of soda to ease the pain and swelling.

Insect bites can be extremely dangerous if the person is allergic. Keep an eye on anyone who has been stung and take them for emergency care if there is any sign of swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat; difficulty breathing; a rapid pulse; or dizziness and confusion.

The above tips should take care of most of the minor mishaps during the holidays. Be prepared by refilling your first aid box and stock up on the basic over-the-counter remedies for treating everyday illnesses and injuries.


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