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December 9, 2009 > How to Avoid Common and Treat Household Injuries

How to Avoid Common and Treat Household Injuries

You're slicing an onion when you accidentally miss the vegetable and cut your finger. Your child is running downstairs when he trips and splits open his lip. Your elderly mother slips on a slippery surface and is unable to walk. You're not a doctor, and you haven't taken a first-aid course since college. So what's an average Jane (or Joe) to do? First things first: Don't panic. Just read on.

When it comes to unexpected household injuries-falls, lacerations, chest pain, bee stings, burns, broken bones, ingestion of dangerous substances-what you have on hand could mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, countless people are involved in accidents-in the comfort of their own homes-each year. Frighteningly, most of these people don't know how to best treat the victims or themselves.

Dr. David Orenberg, Medical Director of Washington Hospital's Emergency Department has some advice on preventing and treating the most common household injuries.

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up
Falls, which can lead to wrist injuries (by putting your arm down to brace yourself), hip fractures or worse, are one of the most frequent home accidents. If there are seniors in the house, be prepared. Elderly people, especially those on blood pressure medication, tend to get lightheaded and fall if they get up too quickly.

Orenberg advises to not leave things on the floor. Install railings for people to hold on to-especially in the bathroom, which is a common place for falls. He also recommends stocking up on ice packs, bandages for bumps, bruises and other superficial injuries that result from spills. If someone has taken a bad spill, and looks severally injured, you may not want to move them due to head, back or neck injury. In this case, he advises to call 911 immediately.

The First Cut Is the Deepest
Household lacerations-from knives or other sharp objects-also are extremely common. The best way to control bleeding is to apply direct pressure with a clean towel is adequate, though in some cases you have to hold it there for several minutes to stop the bleeding. Orenberg says there is no reason to panic because most cuts will stop bleeding after several minutes with direct pressure. If bleeding is severe and doesn't stop with direct pressure after 5 to 10 minutes and the person is sweating, looking pale, or is dizzy, then call 911.

Burning Questions
In the case of a first-degree burn (redness of the skin) or a second-degree burn (blistering), soak clean towels in cool water and apply to the damaged skin. (Make sure the water is cool, but not ice cold. Freezing water could worsen the damage.) Orenberg says a cool soak is basically for comfort and to bring the skin back to the normal body temperature. There is no reason to freeze the skin. It also helps to have an ointment or spray that contains a local anesthetic and is normally used for sunburn, such as Solarcaine, in the medicine cabinet.

If someone has burns over a large portion of their body, then this person may have third-degree burns. Third-degree burns are full-thickness burns, and these severe burns need to be seen. It takes a pretty severe accident to cause that, but if it happens, immediately call 9-1-1.

Bad Gulp
In the case of accidental ingestions, everyone should have the number for their poison control center posted on the phone. You may have heard of syrup of ipecac, but it is not recommended any longer. Instead of waiting for ingestion, prevent it by making sure all medications are out of your child's reach. And dial poison control immediately after something dangerous has been swallowed. Time is critical. The national Poison Help Line is 800-222-1222. To find the number of the poison center in your area, visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers at Select "Find a Poison Center" and then plug in your zip code. Post the number by your telephone in case of emergency.

We're Here When You Need Us
For illnesses and injuries that just can't wait, but don't require emergency room care, Washington Urgent Care, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont, just across the street from Washington Hospital, offers convenient, walk-in care when you need it most. Washington Urgent Care is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year to give you high quality urgent care whether you have an appointment or not. Call (510) 791-CARE or visit: for more information.

Washington Hospital's emergency room (ER) is available to the community 24 hours a day and is staffed by highly skilled emergency medicine professionals. The Emergency Department is located at 2000 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, on the northeast corner of the main Washington Hospital campus and can be easily accessed directly from Civic Center Drive. Free parking is available between the Emergency Room and Center for Joint Replacement.

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