I was very grateful for my first aid training a few months ago. While washing the dishes, a wine glass shattered in Adam’s hand. He was in a lot of pain and bleeding heavily. Because I already knew what to do in this kind of emergency, I could stay calm and give someone I care about get the help he needed when he was injured.
- Keep your house safe. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There’s no way to prevent all accidents, but you can make cuts less likely by storing knives properly and keeping glass and open cans of food out of reach of little hands.
- Survey the scene. Before you give any kind of first aid, make sure the area is safe. In the case of a cut, look out for dropped knives, sharp pieces of metal, or broken glass. If the scene isn’t safe, call 911 right away.
- Wash your hands. It’s hard to remember to stop and wash your hands when someone you care about is bleeding, but this is an important step to prevent infection.
- Stop the bleeding. With something sanitary—sterile gauze pads are ideal, but clean fabric, paper towels, or even diapers and feminine hygiene products will do in a pinch—apply gentle pressure over a wound. Small cuts should stop bleeding in a few minutes. For larger cuts, elevate the wounded area above the heart if possible and apply continuous pressure for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the more often you check to see if the wound has stopped bleeding, the more likely you are to cause further damage or introduce infection.
- Clean the wound. Once the wound has stopped bleeding, rinse it with cold, clear water. Add an antibiotic cream like Neosporin. You can pull out dirt or small splinters with tweezers you have soaked in alcohol. Do not remove any large debris or shards. Wrap gauze around the debris to keep it steady and go to the nearest emergency room.
- Cover the wound. Cover the wound with a band-aid or with gauze and adhesive tape. Many people are allergic to latex, so be careful to use only latex-free products on their skin.
- Ask for help.There are some cuts it is difficult to treat at home and require stitches. Stiches prevent infection and scarring, but a doctor can only close the wound within the first few hours. You probably need stitches if:
- the wound is still bleeding (not just oozing) after thirty minutes
- the wound is more than 1/4 inch deep
- the wound has jagged edges
- there is debris lodged in the wound
- you can see muscle, fat, or bone through the wound
- you can’t pull the edges of the skin together with a band aid or adhesive tape
- or you don’t feel confident in your ability to treat the wound.
- Key an eye on your patient. Most cuts heal quickly on their own. Once the skin has closed, remove the dressing and expose them to open air. If you see any signs of infection—redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth, or swelling—or if the wound just won’t seem to heal, see a doctor right away.
I’m only an amateur. If you’d like to be better prepared for an emergency, consider taking a first aid class with the Red Cross. Always talk to a doctor if you have any questions about your health.