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First Aid for Bicyclists





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Basic First Aid: Patient Care - Injuries

Injuries: Wounds.

Closed wounds. Internal bleeding may occur when the skin’s surface is not broken and damage to soft tissue and blood vessels happens below the surface.  Seek medical attention if the victim complains of severe pain or cannot move a body part without pain, injury was caused by great force, injured extremity is blue or extremely pale, victim has excessive thirst, becomes confused, faint, drowsy or unconscious, vomits or coughs up blood, has a rapid or weak pulse, skin that feels cool or moist or looks pale or bluish, or the victim has tender, swollen, bruised or hard areas of the body, such as the abdomen.  While waiting for medical assistance care for life-threatening conditions (ABC), watch for changes in level of consciousness and treat other problems.

Open wounds. There are four main types of open wounds:

Abrasions. The skin has been rubbed or scrapped away – road-rash.  Dirt and other matter can enter the wound.  Cleaning the wound is important to prevent infection.

Lacerations.  Cuts bleed freely and deep cuts can bleed severely.  Deep cuts can damage nerves, large blood vessels and other soft tissue.

Avulsions. A cut in which a piece of soft tissue or part of the body is torn loose or severed entirely.  Often deeper tissues are damaged, causing significant bleeding.

Puncture. These often do not bleed a lot and can easily become infected.  In severe wounds there can be severe bleeding and damage to blood vessels and internal organs.  An embedded object in the wound should be removed only by medical personnel.

Care external bleeding. For a minor wound; cover the wound with a sterile dressing, apply direct pressure until bleeding stops, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, apply triple-antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a sterile dressing.  For a major wound; cover the wound with a sterile dressing, apply direct pressure until bleeding stops, cover the dressing with a roller bandage and tie the knot directly over the wound, treat for shock, summons EMS personnel.

Injuries: Special Wounds

Animal and Human Bites. Seek medical help if the wound bleeds severely or if the animal is suspected of having rabies.  For severe bleeding, control the bleeding.  Do not clean the wound.  For minor bleeding, if the bite barely breaks the skin and there's no danger of rabies, treat it as a minor wound.

Burns. Heat, radiation, chemical, electrical, cold and frictions can cause burns.  Heat burns can be caused by fire, hot objects or hot liquids.  Burns can be superficial (first degree), partial thickness (second degree) and full thickness (third degree).  The severity depends upon the temperature or strength of the heat or other source, duration of exposure, location, size and the victim’s age and general medical condition.

The general care for a burn is: remove the person from the source of the burn, cool the burn area with cool, running water, and cover the burned area loosely with a sterile dressing to prevent infection.  Do not pop any blisters.

Minor sunburns can be treated with a moisturizing cream, over the counter hydro-cortisone cream (follow direction closely) or apply aloe vera either the plant form or gel. Aloe contains active compounds that help reduce pain and inflammation.

Severe burns (those causing difficulty breathing, burns covering a large area, those to the head and neck, burns to the airway, burns from chemicals, explosion or electricity, and those to young children or the elderly) can lead to shock and require immediate medical attention.  Do not remove clothing stuck to the burn. Do not immerse in cold water.  Do not apply any ointment. Do not pop any blisters or disturb dead skin. Do not blow or cough on the wound. Do not give food or water to a person who has a severe burn as they may require surgery.

For electrical burns you must be sure that the scene is safe before proceeding.  Electrocution can cause cardiac and breathing emergencies and there can be more serious injuries under the skin that may not be visible to the eye.

For chemical burns, brush off dry chemical with a gloved hand, being careful about where you brush the chemical.  Flush chemical wounds with large amounts of water.  If possible, have the person remove contaminated clothes to prevent further injury.

Scalp Injury.  Scalp injuries often bleed heavily. Do not apply direct pressure on a skull fracture.  Putting pressure on the area around the wound can help control the bleeding.

Eye Injury. Never put direct pressure on the eyeball. Do not try to remove embedded objects from the eye.  For small foreign bodies in the eye (i.e. sand or dust) have the victim blink several times and gently flush the eye with water. For chemicals in the eye, flush with water continuously for 10 minutes. Always flush away from the uninjured eye. The eye can be bandaged loosely. A paper cup can be use to protect the eye.

Nosebleed.  Have the victim sit leaning slightly forward.  Pinch the nostrils together for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.  Other remedies include applying an ice pack to the bridge of the nose or putting pressure on the upper lip just beneath the nose.

Mouth Injury. If a head, neck or back injury is not suspected, rinse out the mouth with cold water, if available. Try to prevent the victim from swallowing blood, which may cause vomiting.  Apply a dressing.

Tooth Injury. Rinse out the mouth with cold water, if available.  Try to prevent the victim from swallowing blood, which may cause nausea or vomiting.  Have the victim bite down on a rolled sterile dressing in the space left by the tooth.  Save any displaced teeth (handle by the crown, not the root).  Rinse the root – do not scrub or remove attached tissue.  Place the tooth in milk, if possible, or water.  Go to the dentist as soon as possible.

Abdominal Injury. Carefully remove clothing from around the wound.  Do not attempt to reinsert any internal organs that have pushed out.  Cover the organs with a moist, sterile dressing and cover the dressing with plastic wrap. Place a folded towel or cloth over the dressing to keep the organs warm.  Care for shock.

Embedded Object. Do not remove the object. Place several dressings around the object to keep it from moving. Seek medical assistance.

Severed Body Part. Seek medical help immediately.  Control the bleeding and wrap and bandage the wound to prevent infection. Wrap the severed body part in sterile gauze (or clean material), place it in a plastic bag and put the plastic bag on ice (but so not freeze it.)  Care for shock.

Injuries: Muscle, Bone and Joint.

There are four types of muscle bone and joint injuries: Fractures (a break, chip or crack in a bone), dislocation (movement of a bone away from its normal position at a joint), sprain (tearing a ligament at a joint) and strain (stretching or tearing a muscle or tendon).

It is not necessary to know what type of injury the victim has because the care that is provided is the same:  Support the injured area above and below the site of the injury, check for feeling, warmth and color below the site of the injury, immobilize and secure the injured area if the victim must be moved and recheck for feeling, warmth and color below the site of the injury.

Splinting is a method of immobilizing an injured extremity.  Splint the injury in the position in which the injured area was found.  Splint the injured area above and below the site of the injury.  Check for circulation before and after splinting.  Three kinds of splints used for transporting a victim are: Anatomic splint (securing injured extremity to another body part), soft splint (using a soft material to provide support) and rigid splint (using rigid materials to provide support).

Open Fracture.  Do not move the exposed bone and limb.  Place sterile dressing around the open fracture and bandage the bandage in place around the fracture.

Injuries: Head, Back and Neck. If a head, back or neck injury is suspected perform in-line stabilization. Move the victim as little and as gently as possible. Check for consciousness and ABC.

Basic First Aid for Bicycle Traveler and Tours

In An Emergency

Patient Care: Illness

Patient Care: Injuries

Return to Education: Bicycle Safety and Health Index.


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