Easy First Aid for Household Injuries
A cheat sheet on what to do when you hammer your thumb or step on a nail or otherwise bang yourself up while completing your latest project
Let's face it: we all get a little dinged up as we hammer and saw our way toward finishing that latest project. Nadine Saubers, a registered nurse and author of The Everything First Aid Book, helped us create this cheat sheet of fast fixes for cuts, bumps, and bruises. Keep it handy so you'll know exactly what to do the next time a tool plays target practice with your extremities.
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Ice the area with a towel-covered ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day to combat swelling. Take
a painkiller containing ibuprofen, like Advil
or Motrin, as needed. Ibuprofen helps reduce inflammation, unlike acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, which is most useful for general
aches and pains. For any bruise or internal injury that swells, avoid taking aspirin, which thins blood and can worsen bleeding.
Don't pop the blister, which can slow healing and lead to infection. Cover small blisters with an adhesive bandage and larger ones with a porous, plastic-coated gauze pad that will absorb moisture while letting the skin breathe. (If the blister breaks on its own, apply antibiotic ointment before covering it.) It should clear up in a few days.
Apply pressure with a sterile cloth or bandage and elevate your hand above your heart until the bleeding stops.
If the cut bleeds for longer than 10 minutes, or is deep enough that you can see fatty tissue, seek medical attention. Otherwise, wash your hands with soap and water, then rinse the wound with saline solution or tepid water and pat it gently with a clean cloth to dry. Apply antibiotic cream and dress the wound with a nonstick bandage. Replace the dressing daily or whenever it gets wet or dirty.
Elevate your food higher than your heart as often as possible for 24 hours after the injury to reduce swelling and pain. Ice your toe for 20 minutes at a time for the rest of the day. If you've broken your toe, it should heal on its own within six weeks—just splint it to the healthy toe next to it by placing cotton balls between the toes and taping them together snugly (but not tightly) with wide medical tape. See a doctor if your toe is misshapen or pointing in the wrong direction, or if walking is very painful.
Ice the area for 5 to 10 minutes every hour during the first 24 to 48 hours. If pain persists after two days, switch to a heating pad and use it for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours for the next day or two to improve circulation to the area. Take an over-the-counter painkiller as needed (any type is fine). Avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting, but keep moving to prevent stiffness. See a doctor if the pain lasts longer than a month.
Puncture wounds get infected easily, so treat your injury as quickly as possible. First, wash your hands and then hold your foot under running water for 5 minutes. Next, clean and disinfect the area with iodine to kill bacteria, then dry your foot with a sterile cloth and cover the wound with a clean bandage. Elevate your foot above your heart as often as possible for several days to keep swelling down. Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date, and call your doctor so he or she can determine whether medical attention
Ice the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 to 4 hours for the first day, and take ibuprofen as needed to fight pain and inflammation. Minor goose eggs usually disappear in a few days. See a doctor if you have symptoms such as confusion, blurry vision, or slurred speech, which can signal a concussion or
a more serious injury.
Rest and take a painkiller as needed (any type is fine). A massage may help speed healing; in any case, sore muscles are a good excuse for a little R & R.