The First Aid Series is back, but with a twist! In this installment, we’re going to take a look at incidents you might come across in your daily life. Whether it’s at work, school, or various other places, there are three common events that require first aid: bloody noses, broken bones, and allergic reactions.
Some of these incidents might not require emergency medical services (EMS). Of course, it’s important to know when you should call for help, and it’s equally important to know the best way to handle each condition.1 There are some misconceptions about best first aid practice—particularly for nose bleeds—and you never know when you might need to put this knowledge to use, for others or yourself!
Let’s start with nosebleeds…
How to Treat a Bloody Nose
Nosebleeds might be messy, uncomfortable, and even a little scary. They can happen to anyone at any time, and they’re fairly common. According to Michigan Health, most nosebleeds are harmless and easily treatable. Typical causes include “dry climate, heated indoor air during winter months, steroid nasal sprays, or direct injury to the nose.” Additionally, people who take blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) might be more likely to get a bloody nose.
Check out these tips from Michigan Health to stop a bloody nose:
- Keep calm. “Bloody noses can be scary, but they are rarely dangerous.”
- Lean forward. “If there is blood in your mouth, spit it out; do not swallow it.”
- Stay upright. “Do not tilt your head back or lie flat. This may cause you to choke on blood. Blood in the stomach can make you sick to your stomach and cause vomiting.”
- Try a spray. “Apply three sprays of decongestant nose spray, such as Afrin, into the side that is bleeding.”
- Skip foreign objects. “Do not pack the nose with tissues or other household items like tampons. This can make the bleeding worse.”
- Use a pinch. “Pinch the soft part of your nose shut for 10 minutes. Use a clock to keep track of time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see if your nose has stopped bleeding.”
- Observe and react. “After 10 minutes, let go of your nose. If it is still bleeding, soak a cotton ball with the nose spray. Place the cotton ball into the bleeding nostril and pinch for 10 minutes. Again, use a clock to time it.”
- Check your blood pressure. “High blood pressure can cause nosebleeds.”
- Take it easy. “Once bleeding has stopped, do not blow your nose for two days.”
- Avoid exertion. “It can take up to two full weeks to heal after a nosebleed. Do not lift anything heavy, such as groceries, or perform physical activities or household chores. Do not pick up young children and babies.”
In some circumstances, though, you should seek immediate medical attention. Michigan Health advises you to do so if you experience the following:
- Bleeding that does not stop in 30 minutes.
- Bleeding that is very heavy, pouring down the back of your throat and out the front of your nose.
- Bleeding accompanied by other symptoms, such as very high blood pressure, light-headedness, chest pain, and/or rapid heart rate.
- Bleeding that occurs three to four times weekly, or greater than six times per month.
How to Treat Broken Bones
This one is probably obvious, but broken bones require medical attention. If the break was caused by major trauma or injury, be sure to call your local emergency number! The Mayo Clinic also advises that you call for emergency help if you spot any of the following scenarios:
- The person is unresponsive, isn’t breathing or isn’t moving (begin CPR if there’s no breathing or heartbeat).
- There is heavy bleeding.
- Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
- The limb or joint appears deformed.
- The bone has pierced the skin.
- The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
- You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.
It’s important that you refrain from moving the person to avoid further injury (unless it’s absolutely necessary). Here are a few other tips from the Mayo Clinic that you can try while waiting for medical help:
- Stop any bleeding. “Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.”
- Immobilize the injured area. “Don’t try to realign the bone or push a bone that’s sticking out back in. If you’ve been trained in how to splint and professional help isn’t readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites.”
- Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain. “Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.”
- Treat for shock. “If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths, lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk and, if possible, elevate the legs.”
How to Treat Anaphylaxis (Severe Allergic Reaction)
You might be wondering, just what is anaphylaxis? It’s a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that might cause shock, an immediate drop in blood pressure, or trouble breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with an allergy can experience anaphylaxis “minutes after exposure to a specific allergy-causing substance (allergen).”
Additionally, in some cases, there might be a delayed reaction or anaphylaxis might occur without an obvious trigger. Here are some of the Mayo Clinic’s signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Skin reactions, including hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin.
- Swelling of the face, eyes, lips or throat.
- Constriction of the airways, leading to wheezing and trouble breathing.
- A weak and rapid pulse.
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
- Dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness.
Some common triggers include things like medications, insect stings, or foods (think peanuts, shellfish, etc.) And here’s what the Mayo Clinic recommends that you do if you’re with someone having signs of anaphylaxis:
- Immediately call 911 or your local medical emergency number.
- Ask the person if they are carrying an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) to treat an allergic attack.
- If the person says they need to use an autoinjector, ask whether you should help inject the medication. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the person’s thigh.
- Have the person lie still on their back.
- Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Don’t give them anything to drink.
- If there’s vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn them on their side to prevent choking.
- If there are no signs of breathing, coughing or movement, begin CPR. Do uninterrupted chest presses—about 100 every minute—until paramedics arrive.
- Get emergency treatment even if symptoms start to improve. After anaphylaxis, it’s possible for symptoms to recur. Monitoring in a hospital for several hours is usually necessary.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful! If you’d like to know more about any of these conditions, be sure to visit Michigan Health and the Mayo Clinic. After all, you never know when you might encounter one of these situations…
A Brief Overview of Unitek EMT
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Our 14-Day Boot Camp2 is currently completed at a facility in Tempe, Arizona. Students can also attend American Heart Association (AHA) CPR courses or a stellar EMT Refresher course. Additionally, a BLS course is offered at our Tempe facility as well.
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1 Unitek EMT provides this information for general interest only, not as medical advice.
2 Our 14-Day EMT Program in AZ is taught in an intensive “boot camp” style, to simulate the fast pace of work expected on the job as an EMT.