The basics: taking care of minor summer injuries
A badly skinned knee. A turned ankle. A ginormous blister. A bad case of sunburn.
Summer bummers happen. We are here with tips on how to deal with the small stuff and guidance on when you need to get help for the serious stuff.
"Take care of little things promptly so you can get back to the family reunion, the hiking trail, the playground, or whatever fun you have planned this summer," says WellSpan primary care physician Dr. Zachary Geidel. "Gather some simple supplies and know what to do so you can be back in action soon."
Dr. Geidel recommends these go-to basic first aid supplies: bandages of different sizes, elastic bandages for sprains, rubber gloves to keep hands sanitary when treating any cuts or open wounds, petroleum jelly, hydrocortisone cream (for swelling, itching and redness), and over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (also in child-strength version if you have kids at home).
"Take care of little things promptly. Have some simple supplies, such as bandages and petroleum jelly, on hand and know what to do so you can be back in action soon."
– Dr. Zachary Geidel
Here are his basic first aid tips.
Scrapes and cuts
You stepped on a sharp rock while walking barefoot. Your kid tripped at the playground. If the injury is not serious, try some simple first aid.
What to do for a cut or scrape:
- Rinse the wound with water.
- Cover the wound with a clean cloth.
- Apply direct pressure if there is active bleeding.
- Once bleeding has stopped, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the scrape and cover with a clean bandage.
When to get help:
- The wound is deep and wide.
- Blood continues to flow even after pressure is applied.
- Blood is soaking through bandages.
Sprains and strains
Sprains are usually caused when a joint is injured and connective tissues, which hold the joint together, are stretched or torn. Turning an ankle while running, reaching out your hand to stop a fall – both can result in a sprain, says Dr. Geidel, who is certified in sports medicine.
What to do, following the RICE method:
- REST: Stop moving the injured area, avoiding putting weight on it for 24 to 48 hours.
- ICE: Aim for 15 to 20 minutes of icing every two to three hours. A bag of frozen peas works great if you don’t have an ice pack or lots of ice on hand.
- COMPRESSION: Wrap the joint with an elastic bandage. Make it snug but not tight.
- ELEVATION: Get the joint above the heart, if possible.
When to get help:
- The injured person has severe pain when they move or the area is touched.
- The person cannot put any weight on the injured joint.
- The person has increased bruising or numbness near the sprain.
Your new hiking shoes or those strappy sandals you wore to the backyard wedding did you wrong. You raked mulch without wearing gardening gloves. Now you have a nasty blister. Resist the urge to pop these fluid-filled blobs, as it can lead to infection.
If a blister is large and breaks open on its own:
- Gently wash the area with clean water.
- Smooth the flap of broken skin over the newly exposed skin if you can.
- Put petroleum jelly on it.
- Cover it with a bandage.
- Change the bandage when it gets wet. Take it off when you go to bed to give the area a chance to air.
When to get help:
- The skin near the blister is red, swollen, or hot.
- The blister fills with yellow or green liquid, rather than a clear fluid.
You forgot the sunscreen or did not reapply it, and now you are very sore and resemble a ripe tomato.
What to do:
- Take frequent cool baths or shower. Pat yourself dry, leaving a little water on your skin, and gently apply moisturizer with aloe vera or soy.
- Apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream if you have pain.
- Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling or discomfort.
- Drink extra water to stay hydrated, as fluid will be drawn from your body to the skin’s surface to heal the sunburn.
- Allow any blisters to heal. Do not pop them.
- Protect your skin from the sun while it is healing.
When to seek help:
- The affected area swells significantly
- Signs of infection appear, such as blisters with pus or streaks.
- Pain gets worse and is accompanied by headache, confusion, nausea, fever, or chills.
WellSpan Urgent Care can help treat more serious strains, sunburn, cuts, and other injuries. Go here to find the nearest location and waiting times.
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