Jay Allen St John
Jay Allen

Member Article

Winter first aid tips from Jay Allen from St John Ambulance, North East

With Halloween and bonfires behind us, we’re well on the way to winter and Christmas, but fun though it may be, the cold weather and the festivities can often lead to dangers.

Jay Allen from St John Ambulance gives advice on how to deal correctly with some winter emergency first aid situations: fractures, hypothermia and frostbite.

Remember these tips are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid! St John Ambulance holds a variety of first aid courses for businesses and individuals throughout the North East. By learning first aid, you could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved. Go to www.sja.org.uk for more information or call 0191 273 7938

Fractures

During the winter months when the ground is often icy, falls that result in fractures can become more common. Both the severity of the fracture and the area that is injured can determine the best treatment.

There are two types of fractures called open and closed. A closed fracture is where the skin is unbroken, but internal damage to surrounding tissue can be seen as swelling. An open fracture has a wound and there is also internal damage to surrounding tissue.

If you suspect a fracture, call 999/112 for emergency help and follow these steps:

Closed fracture:

- Support the injured limb
- Immobilise the affected part
- Treat for shock: if possible, lay the casualty down on a blanket and reassure them. Keep casualty warm and monitor their level of response and breathing until paramedics arrive.

Open fracture

- Control the bleeding without pressing on any protruding bones
- Protect and immobilise the injured limb
- Support the injured limb
- Immobilise the affected part
- Treat for shock as above.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops when the body temperature falls below 35°C (95°F). It does not just occur when outdoors; hypothermia can also occur in poorly heated housing and can often affect the elderly. The effects vary depending on the speed of the onset and the level to which the body temperature falls.

There may be:

- Shivering and pale, cold, dry skin
- Disorientation, apathy or irrational behaviour; occasionally belligerence
- Impaired consciousness or lethargy
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Slow and weakening pulse
- In extreme cases the heart may stop.

Treatment for hypothermia:

For a casualty who has been brought in from outside, immediately replace wet clothing with warm, dry garments.

The casualty can be re-warmed by bathing if they are fit, young and able to climb into a bath unaided. The water should be warm but not too hot – about 40°C (104°F).

Put the casualty in a bed and ensure that they are well covered. Give them WARM drinks or high energy foods such as chocolate to help re-warm them.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when the extremities, usually fingers or toes, freeze due to low temperatures. If you suspect frostbite, do not place the extremities near direct heat.

With frostbite the tissues of the extremities – usually the toes and the fingers – freeze due to low temperatures. In severe cases, it can lead to a permanent loss of sensation and, eventually, tissue death (gangrene) as the blood vessels become irreversibly damaged.

Frostbite usually occurs in freezing or windy and cold conditions. People who cannot move around are particularly susceptible. In many cases frostbite is accompanied by hypothermia and this should be treated accordingly. There may be:

- ‘Pins and needles’ to begin with
- Pallor followed by numbness
- Hardening and stiffening of the skin
- A colour change to the skin of the affected area: first white, then mottled and blue. On recovery, the skin may be red, hot, painful and blistered. Where gangrene occurs, the tissue may become black due to the loss of blood supply.

Treatment for frostbite:

If possible move the casualty into the warmth before you thaw the affected part.

Gently remove rings, gloves and any other constrictions such as boots. Warm the affected part with your hands on your lap, or under the casualty’s armpits. Rubbing the affected areas must be avoided as this can damage the skin and other tissues.

Place the affected part in warm water at around 40°C (104°F). Dry carefully, and apply a light dressing of fluffed-up, dry gauze bandage.

Support and raise the affected limb to reduce swelling. An adult casualty may take two paracetamol tablets for intense pain. Take or send the casualty to hospital.

DO NOT:

- put the affected part near direct heat
- attempt to thaw the affected part if there is a danger of it refreezing
- allow the casualty to smoke.

For more first aid tips, to enrol on a first aid course, or to find out more about St John Ambulance in your area, go to www.sja.org.uk

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jay Allen .

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