Summer is already here and in full swing, with barbecues, picnics, and other outdoor fun. That’s all fun and games, but it means that people are at an increased risk of hurting themselves.
When it comes to treating injuries, the strategies parents used when we where children may not work anymore, or doctors have found better treatments. If first-aid techniques aren’t up to scratch, you risk exacerbating the injury.
A recent study was conducted that asked 654 adults a multitude of different multi-choice questions relating to first-aid techniques and skills, and not one person answered every question correctly. In addition, only 60 per cent of the questions were familiar to them.
It shouldn’t be this way. To make sure you are up to speed with the latest first-aid techniques, the does and don’ts for various situations like heat burn, heat stroke, and minor injuries, below is a list of different ways to help yourself and others who may be injured.
First aid kit supplies
Well stocked first aid supplies can help effectively respond to minor injuries and emergencies. You should always keep first aid kit supplies stocked in your home or in your car. It can also be beneficial to show children old enough the purpose of first aid kits and their location.
You can buy a first aid kit from many drugstores or assemble your own. Most of the first aid kit supplies should be tailored based on your activities and needs. The most common first aid kit supplies include:
- Adhesive tape
- Elastic wrap bandages
- Bandage strips and butterfly bandages in assorted sizes
- Super glue
- Rubber torniquet 16 French catheter
- Nonstick sterile bandages and roller gauze in assorted sizes
- Eye shield or pad
One of the more universal recommendations for first aid kit supplies is the inclusion of aspirin. Aspirin may be life saving for an adult who is experiencing chest pain. New or unexplained chest pains may be caused by a heart attack, and will require immediate medical attention.
Make sure to check your first aid kid supplies regularly to be sure everything is in working order.
For the summer, first aid supplies may differ from the ones you store all year round. Whether you’re holidaying locally or travelling abroad, it’s always important to be prepared for minor injuries. Here are some of the best first aid supplies for the summer…
- Water flask or bottle
- Water is always a summer essential – not only for hydration but also for washing cuts and grazes. It can also be used on people who may be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Sun cream
- To enjoy the sun safely, remember to take sun cream that has a protection factor of 50+. Make sure that the cream protects against both UVA and UVB. Children are advised to avoid direct sunlight.
- When someone has a cut or graze it’s important to clean the area before applying a bandage. Disinfectant is important for reducing the risk of infection.
- Rehydration/nutrient treatments
- Sachets that contain a combination of sugar and salt. These are great for people who have been vomiting or have had a bad case of diarrhoea. They can help restore fluid and much needed nutrients that may have been lost.
- Helpful tool for removing splinters and thorns, usually found in the hands and feet. Ticks can also be safely removed using tweezers. Grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it out, slowly and steadily.
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Going abroad to a tropical location can introduce you to a whole bunch of different insects. Hydrocortisone cream can help relieve soreness and itching from bites.
For something as simple as heat burn, running a burn under cold water for 20 minutes can reduce its severity. The cooling sensation should be able to stop the pain and any further damage to the skin.
Thermal damage to the skin still continues even after the skin is no longer in contact with the burn source. Immediately cooling the area where the heat burn has occurred is the key to limiting damage.
After cooling the heat burn, it is recommended that you pat it dry. If any discomfort is felt, ibuprofen or an appropriate pain killer can be taken, and antibiotic ointment should be applied to reduce the risk of infection.
As myths go, you may have been told growing up by your parents that things like butter, egg whites, or vitamin E can help heat burns, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. All of those can introduce contaminants and irritate the raw skin.
Ice is also something that should be avoided when trying to treat heat burn. Applying ice directly to a burn can lead to more tissue damage.
It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that it’s a deep burn. You can identify a deep burn by looking at the skin and noticing if it looks angry (like raw meat) or waxy. This should be seen immediately at an accident and emergency department.
2nd degree burn & 3rd degree burn
Burns are classified as first, second, or third degree, depending on the severity and how deep they penetrate the skin. It may be impossible to classify a burn immediately when it occurs. It can progress over a period of a day or two before the full damage can be observed.
1st degree burns only affect the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis. The burn site is often red, painful, dry, and has no blisters. Mild sunburn is an example of a 1st degree burn. Long term tissue damage is rare and often consists of an increase or decrease in the skin colour.
A 2nd degree burn involves the epidermis and part of the lower layer of the skin, the dermis. The burn site appears red, blistered, and may be swollen and painful. Relatively minor, 2nd degree burns can become more dangerous when they affect; large areas of the body, the joints, face, or hands, genitals buttocks, or occur in someone who has a weakened immune system.
Furthermore, a 3rd degree burn destroys the epidermis, dermis, and are more likely to cause underlying tissue damage. This type of burn turns the skin a white or blackened charr colour. The skin affected by a 3rd degree burn has no sensation, caused by the destruction of the nerve endings. Treatment almost always involves something called a skin graft, a procedure where healthy skin is taken from an unaffected area of the body and used to cover damaged or lost skin.
Lastly, fourth degree burns go through both layers of the skin; epidermis and dermis, and the underlying tissue as well as deeper tissue, possibly involving muscle and bone. Unlike, first or second-degree burns, this type of burn isn’t painful. This is because the damage is extended to the nerves, which are responsible for sending pain signals to the brain. Fourth-degree burns also carry an increased risk of experiencing shock due to the large inflammatory response produced by the body.
Heat Rash consists of small red spots or raised bumps that can cause a stinging or prickling feeling on the skin, and is sometimes called prickly heat. Heat rash occurs when the sweat glands are blocked due to casually sweating more than normal. It can appear anywhere on the body, but is more often seen on the face, chest, back and thighs.
Someone with heat rash may display the following symptoms:
- A rash of tiny red spots, blisters or bumps
- A prickling or burning feeling on their skin
- Itchy skin
- Redness and mild swelling
Although heat rash is not serious and should resolve itself within a few days, there are first-aid techniques you can do to help.
- Tell them to drink lots of water to prevent them from becoming dehydrated.
- Take a cool bath or shower to cool the skin and prevent further sweating.
- Avoid using perfumed shower gels or creams as this could further irritate the skin.
- Apply a cold ice pack wrapped in a tea towel for up to 10 minutes.
- Wear loose clothing, preferably made of cotton, which will allow heat to escape.
- To prevent aggravating the heat rash, try to avoid excessive heat such as a fire, heater or sitting in the sun.
- Advise them to see a pharmacist or healthcare provider for further treatment if required
- A low strength antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream may be prescribed.
- If the person seems concerned or unwell, seek medical advice.
More than likely time is all you’ll need for a heat rash, and the first aid kit or other treatment options can be left alone. For the future, it may be beneficial to include calamine lotion, antihistamine tablets or hydrocortisone cream in your first aid kit, if heat rash is a common among you or your family members.
Heat exhaustion does not typically need medical attention; however, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, which needs to be treated as an emergency. As part of recognising heat stroke, you must first be able to recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Signs of heat exhaustion can include:
- Tiredness, dizziness, headache
- Feeling sick or being sick
- Excessive sweating and skin becoming pale and clammy or getting a heat rash, but a change in skin colour can be harder to see on brown or black skin
- Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
- Fast breathing or heartbeat
- A high temperature
- Being very thirsty
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are often the same in adults and children, although children may become irritable too.
People showing signs of heat exhaustion need to be cooled down or given fluids before it turns into heat stroke.
Although there isn’t much you can keep in your first aid kit for heat stroke, you can prevent heat stroke by:
- Drinking more cold drinks, especially if you’re active or exercising
- Wear light coloured, loose clothing
- Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm, when it is usually hottest
- Avoid excess alcohol and extreme exercise
- Close curtains and windows if outside is hotter than the inside of your home
Children, older people and people with long-term health conditions are more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.