First Aid

A Bloody Nose An Object in the Eye A Sprain A Burn

A Bloody Nose

A nosebleed occurs when blood vessels inside the nose break. Because they’re delicate, this can happen easily.

What to do immediately: Lean slightly forward and pinch your nose just below the bridge, where the cartilage and the bone come together. Maintain the pressure for 5 to 15 minutes. Pressing an ice pack against the bridge can also help.

What not to do: Tilt your head back. “You may swallow blood, and potentially some could go in your lungs,” says David Markenson, M.D., chair of the American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid and Safety.

When to seek medical attention: Call your doctor if you can’t stop the bleeding after 20 minutes; if the nosebleed happened spontaneously; or if it accompanies a headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, or vision problems.


An Object in the Eye

Anything that gets in your eye, whether it’s a speck of sand or a chemical, can cause pain and could damage the cornea.

What to do immediately: Try to dislodge a small particle by blinking several times. If it’s not budging, rinse the eye by holding the lid open under a running tap (if possible, remove contact lenses first).

What not to do: Never rub your eyes. Even a tiny piece of dirt can scratch the cornea and cause an infection. Never try to remove an object that’s deeply embedded―leave that to the professionals.

When to seek medical attention: If you have splashed a chemical (such as bleach) in your eye or have an object embedded in it, call 911. For minor irritants, call your doctor if your eye is still stinging or swelling after rinsing or if you have vision problems.


A Sprain

Sprains occur when the ligaments surrounding a joint are pulled beyond their normal range. Sprains are often accompanied by bruising and swelling.

What to do immediately: Alternately apply and remove ice every 20 minutes throughout the first day. Wrapping the joint with an elastic compression bandage and elevating the limb may also help. Stay off the injury for at least 24 hours. After that, apply heat to promote blood flow to the area.

What not to do: Work through the pain, says Art Hsieh, chief operating officer for the San Francisco Paramedic Association, or you risk doing more serious damage, like tearing the ligament.

When to seek medical attention: If the injury doesn’t improve in a few days, you may have a fracture or a muscle or ligament tear; call a doctor.


A Burn

First-degree burns produce redness; second-degree burns cause blisters; third-degree burns result in broken or blackened skin.

What to do immediately: Place the burn under cool running water, submerge it in a bath, or apply wet towels. Loosely bandage a first- or second-degree burn for protection.

What not to do: Put an ice pack on major burns. “Ice can damage the skin and worsen the injury,” says Markenson. Don’t pop blisters. Don’t apply an antibiotic or butter to burns; doing so can breed infection.

When to seek medical attention: Call 911 for third-degree, electrical, and chemical burns or if the victim is coughing, has watery eyes, or is having trouble breathing. Go to the ER for a second-degree burn that’s larger than your palm―treatment may prevent scarring.