For most people, the sight of blood coming from a wound, whether it is yours or someone else's, can be very upsetting. To prepare for this possibility, it’s wise to study first aid in advance, so you can stay as calm as possible and take proper action if the need arises. It’s also wise to keep your first aid kit well stocked at all times. The following are some basic guidelines for different types of wounds.
For more information on first aid, see the Mayo Clinic First Aid Index, or attend a Red Cross training class held by your local chapter.
Minor Cuts and Scrapes
Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, removing any foreign material such as gravel or dirt, which can cause infection. Cover with a sterile dressing and bandage, and keep it clean and dry at all times. Wash the affected area daily (without scrubbing) and reapply a clean dressing until it is completely healed. Sponge the area lightly with disinfectant to keep it clean. Some experts feel that applying products like hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and iodine directly onto the site may delay healing of the affected tissues. Use your judgment and if you are hesitant, you can swab the area surrounding the cut instead.
Usually caused by a sharp, pointed object, such as a nail or needle, puncture wounds can be serious. Punctures are usually small, yet deep and microorganisms can be pushed into the wound with the puncturing object. Puncture wounds are difficult to clean. If the object has penetrated the bone, it can abscess. A common type of puncture wound is a nail in the foot. This is especially risky if a nail has gone through a tennis shoe. The foam in tennis shoes is known to harbor a type of bacteria called pseudomonas, which can cause infection of the tissues. To treat, flush the area thoroughly with water, cleaning well. Elevate the foot, and if signs of infection manifest (redness, swelling, persistent pain, pus, or fever), contact a health professional (these signs of infection apply to any type of wound). Wear a clean sock and shoe to protect the area while it is healing. Make sure you are current on your immunizations against tetanus (lockjaw).
For severe bleeding, apply constant pressure to the wound with a sterile dressing, if available. Hold for up to twenty minutes. If there is a foreign object in the wound (such as glass) don't press directly, but apply pressure along the wound area. If broken bones or dislocations are suspected, do not move the affected limb. Immobilize it by a splint, if possible. If you’re sure there are no breaks, you can gently elevate and support the part while keeping pressure on it. This action should minimize bleeding. Dress the wound with sterile non-sticking material as soon as possible and obtain professional help.
For large, open wounds:
-Contact a health professional immediately. Surgical sutures may be required to close the wound.
-Check frequently for signs of infection, as outlined under “puncture wounds.”
-Keep emergency phone numbers by each phone in your house
-Review first aid procedures with family members on a regular basis
-Keep first aid supplies well stocked in your home, as well as your car.