First aid for concussions

first aid for concussionsRest, rest and more rest

Gone are the days of the middle school football coach telling a player to “Shake it off and get back in the game.”

Proper first aid and treatment of concussions has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the alarming increase in long-term neurological problems—memory loss and behavior changes—suffered by professional athletes and soldiers.

Concerned pediatricians and public health officials are pushing schools, youth sports organizations and parents to be more aware of head injuries in young athletes.

Childrens’ brains are still developing, after all, and are especially vulnerable to Continue reading

First aid for hypothermia

first aid for hypothermiaBaby, it’s cold outside!

Most of the headlines over the last few days have focused on the “polar vortex” weather pattern that is pushing frigid air into most of the United States.

Low temperature records are being shattered. Some states are reporting wind chills of -30°F or less.


Outside my house, in Seattle, the weather is pretty seasonal—rainy and 40°F. Lucky us.

But anyone struggling with these super cold temperatures might need a few tips for dealing with hypothermia and frostbite.


Hypothermia, or low body temperature, occurs from exposure to a cold environment (water or air). As your … Continue reading

Self triage and save money

Know some resources and use them

Triage is a commonly used word in medicine, especially in overcrowded emergency departments as staff do their best to determine which patients are sickest (will soon die unless treated) and which can wait. This process of prioritizing patients for treatment is known as triage.

But triage has a broader definition: The principle or practice of allocating limited resources.

And for most of us, money is definitely a limited resource!

In 2014 more health insurance policies will come with huge deductibles, and I think this trend will continue. Health care costs are not going to … Continue reading

First aid for blisters

friction blistersInfections can be expensive!

When my son was about 10 years old, he developed a nasty blister on his foot after a long hike in poorly-fitting shoes. I wasn’t aware of the blister until several days later when he came to me with what was obviously a badly infected sore between two of his toes.

I had to take him to the pediatrician to have the wound lanced (opened) and drained. He was then given a prescription for antibiotics (one of the expensive new ones, of course).

Altogether, that blister cost us about $300.

Not to mention my son’s misery. … Continue reading

First aid for nosebleeds

first aid for nose bleedsNosebleeds: A common nuisance

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t had a nosebleed at least once in his or her life. And yet, people rarely know the best way to treat them. Lean forward or backwards? Ice or no ice?

The mucosal lining of your nose is highly vascular, which is why it bleeds so easily – and so much.

This lining is also thin and easily broken. By far, most kids (and some adults) start nosebleeds by picking their noses—gross!

Low humidity caused by indoor heating or cooling can also dry out the mucosa and cause it … Continue reading

Weekly rounds July 19, 2013

Flight delayed? Learn CPR!

For the next six months, Dallas-Fort Worth airport is hosting a trial program to teach “hands-only” CPR to travelers. An automated kiosk, developed by the American Heart Association in partnership with American Airlines, guides passengers through a simplified CPR technique using video instructions and a manikin torso. If the program is successful, it will be expanded to other airports.

Hands-only CPR does not require rescue breaths and is as effective as regular CPR. It sounds like a useful way to pass some time, and I’d love to try it if I’m ever in one … Continue reading

First aid for poisoning

Poisoning deaths are on the rise

Why? Drugs. And I don’t mean heroine or cocaine. Legal prescription opioids, pain pills such as hydrocodone, are involved in more drug poisoning deaths than illegal drugs.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports that 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs. And since 2009 more people have died as a result of all types of drug poisoning, whether accidental or intentional, than car accidents.

We usually associate poisoning with children, but the largest increase in poisonings has been in the 20-59 year old age range, again related to … Continue reading

First aid for the Fourth of July

Every year around the Fourth of July, hospital emergency departments and fire departments get ready.

By July 5, most large communities have reported property damage—fires, mostly—and bodily damage—burns, missing fingers, blindness.

As a reminder to everybody to be careful around fireworks—my preference is to avoid them altogether—the San Diego Fire Department put together this great public service video demonstrating the danger of explosives fireworks.

I would also refer you to some of my relevant first aid posts:

Have a happy and safe Fourth!

Frugal Nurse… Continue reading

First aid for heat exhaustion

Here comes the sun!

Living in the Pacific Northwest,  we rarely have to worry about heat exhaustion – that lousy feeling you get when your body starts to overheat.

But over the next few days the temperatures here are expected to hover around 90°F, which is pretty hot for us. Most of our homes don’t have air condtioning. Why bother when it’s truly hot only one or two weeks every summer?

But other parts of the country routinely experience high temperatures all summer long. And every summer, people die from the excessive heat.

Children and seniors are especially vulnerable. Take Continue reading

First aid for stroke symptoms

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood (oxygen) cannot get to the brain tissue, and the brain cells die. A stroke can be caused by a clot (called an ischemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel (called a hemorrhagic stroke). About 9 out of 10 strokes are caused by a clot.

An ischemic stroke is similar to what happens with a heart attack, when blood to the heart is blocked by a clot and the heart tissue dies. Risk factors for heart attack – age, smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, family history – are the same for stroke.

Stroke symptoms

Continue reading

First aid for knocked out teeth

knocked out teeth 01A common tale of knocked out teeth

A friend of mine was stepping out of her car onto the sidewalk when she tripped on the curb and, unable to catch herself in time, fell face first onto the concrete.

She sat up and immediately put her hand to her mouth; her hand came away covered in blood and she felt her front teeth hanging in their sockets. Although not hurt otherwise, she fainted at the sheer horror of having just knocked out her front teeth.

Concerned onlookers immediately called 911, and she was eventually taken to the emergency room for … Continue reading

Emergency Contact health care app

emergency health care appCustomize your iPhone with this health care app

I found a health care app I would really like to try, but sadly for me it is only available to iPhone users. Yes, I’m Android.

But if you have an iPhone or an iPad, and especially if you have a medical condition, you might want to download this free app.

It’s called Emergency Contact and it lets you create a lock screen that displays your name, picture, health information (such as diabetes or severe allergies), and an emergency contact number.

In case of an emergency (and who doesn’t worry about being … Continue reading

First aid for avulsions

avulsionsWhat are avulsions?

Avulsions are wounds where a chunk of tissue (all layers of the skin) has been partially or completely torn away. An amputation is a form of an avulsion.

Avulsions can be minor, such as slamming a finger in a door and crushing the tip, or life-threatening, such as the amputation of an arm or leg in an industrial or motor vehicle accident.

As you can tell from the picture, even a minor avulsion can be pretty ghastly to look at. But if you act quickly, you might be able to save the victim’s finger, toe or … Continue reading

Health care app for first aid and emergencies

red cross health appsBeing prepared makes a difference

I taught first aid classes for the American Red Cross for many years. I liked to use a statistic that I found in an obscure study done by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the professionals that respond to aviation and other disasters.

According to their data, how people – not including trained personnel – respond to an emergency pretty much falls along a typical bell curve: 10% aid in evacuation and helping others; 10% totally freak out and are useless, if not actually making matters worse; and 80% stand around and do nothing.

Why … Continue reading

First aid for burns

first aid for burnsTypes of burns

Burns are very common injuries that can be caused by heat (fires, hot liquids), electricity (wires, lightning), chemicals or the sun.

First-degree burns only involve the upper layer of skin. The skin will be red and painful, but will typically heal within a few days. Most sunburns are first-degree burns.

Related reading: First aid for sunburns

Second-degree burns are also red and painful, but slightly deeper and blisters may appear.

Third-degree burns go through all layers of the skin down to the bone and muscle. Such burns may be black or even white rather than red. And … Continue reading