Disasters happen every day. Most of us can recognize a bad situation where a doctor could be needed. But suppose there is no doctor available. How prepared are you to care for the wounded? Here are five medical techniques you should learn. They could save a life.

Wound Care Techniques

  1. Always start by washing your hands. This helps avoid infection. Put on protective gloves if available. An open wound is an injury that involves a break in the skin. There are five types of open wounds: Abrasions – occur when the skin rubs or scrapes against a rough or hard surface. There is usually not a lot of bleeding, but the wound needs to be cleaned to avoid infection. Incision – a sharp object such as a knife or shard of glass causes an incision. They bleed a lot and quickly. A deep incision can damage tendons, ligaments and muscles.  Laceration – is a deep cut or tearing of the skin. Bleeding is rapid and extensive. Puncture – is a small hole caused by a long, pointy object or a bullet. They may not bleed much but they can be deep enough to damage organs. They also have a tendency to close and trap bacteria inside. A tetanus booster shot is recommended if you have a puncture wound. Avulsions – is a  partial or complete tearing away of skin and tissue. These usually occur during violent accidents. They bleed heavily and rapidly.1
  2. Stop the Bleeding. Minor cuts and scratches usually stop bleeding on their own. If not, apply a little direct pressure with a sterile bandage or clean cloth and elevate the wound.2 You need to recognize the difference between venous and arterial bleeding. Arterial bleeding has red, purple blood. It is clear because it is oxygenated. Usually it gushes or pulses from the arteries because it is being pumped by the heart. Venous bleeding has a darker color blood because it contains carbon dioxide. Blood in contact with air and tissue normally coagulates naturally. Compression helps, be patient. To stop a large vessel bleeding you will need a clamp. Once the clamp is in place put a thread behind it and tie it off. If you did it right, when you release the clamp, no blood will flow. Tie a second knot as a backup. Use bandages to move the tissue around to be able to see where the blood is coming from. Once the bleeding is under control you can treat the wound.3
  3. Old or new wounds? In the first eight hours a wound is considered a new wound. There are many treatment options for dealing with new wounds, After that the wound is considered an old wound. Old wounds are believed to be contaminated by bacteria (which are everywhere). Old wounds will need to be left open allowing the body to heal itself from the inside out. Then the critical issue will be keeping the old wound clean. So for best result get an open wound treated immediately.3
  4. Cleaning the Wound. Minor wounds should be washed to clean and disinfected. Use clean tweezers to remove any debris or dirt. Don’t gouge into the wound. Wash the wound with lots of lukewarm running water and a mild soap. If you have a water spryer in your sink, use it. Creating a saline (salt water) solution makes a good wound rinse. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 16 ounces of boiled water.  Betadine swabs can also be used to gently clean out debris. Rinse with clean water or saline.4
  5. To suture or not. Small cuts will naturally heal without being stitched but if you have a large wound, some way to hold the wound closed may be required. There are a variety of options including, skin glue, steristrips or sutures. For instructions on suturing watch Pass PASchool’s video.

References
1. http://www.healthline.com/health/open-wound#Treatment3
2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-cuts/basics/art-20056711
3. http://www.survivopedia.com/medical-techniques-save-your-life/?source=newsletter
4. http://www.webmd.com/first-aid/tc/cleaning-and-bandaging-a-wound-topic-overview?page=2
5. http://www.surgerysupplements.com/how-to-heal-open-wounds-faster/

Billie Nicholson, Editor
February 2016

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