Welcome to the third and final part of this “Prepper First Aid Basics” series, where we share with you the key first aid elements, we as preppers should know and practice.
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Note: This guide is not a substitute for professional medical care. In the event of any of these injuries, call your local emergency line (911 in the United States) and follow the dispatcher’s instructions.
Treating Joint Dislocation
Dislocation is when two bones become separated at a joint. The most common dislocations occur in the shoulder, elbow, and knees. It can also occur in fingers and toes.
Join dislocation is caused by sudden trauma such as an automobile accident or falling. A dislocation can sometimes cause intense pain, depending on the severity of the trauma.
Dislocations should be handled by a medical professional because if the joint is put back into place incorrectly, you may have reduced use or permanent lack of use of that joint.
To fix a shoulder dislocation, have the person sit or lay down. Try to rotate their shoulder blade until the joint pops back into place. You can also try the Hennepin Maneuver.
The person will either sit or lie flat, and you bend their elbow at 90 degrees. Gradually rotate the shoulder, the muscle will probably spasms. After about 10 minutes, the spasms should subside with gentle pushes and the join will relocate.
Take a bandage and wrap it around the shoulder and have the person move it as little as possible to prevent re-dislocation.
Dislocated elbows are more common in children, but sometimes occur in adults. For an elbow dislocation, you want to gently flex their arm and rotate the forearm so it faces up.
Sometimes the elbow will slip back into place on its own. Bandage the elbow to prevent re-dislocation.
Dislocated fingers and toes are fairly common, but no less painful than any other dislocation. The person can try to wiggle the affected finger or toe to get it to pop back into place, or you can give it a firm pull.
Try to check to see if the bone is aligned properly and splint the digit.
In all cases of dislocation, it’s important that the person begins using the affected joint again to strengthen the muscles and joints.
For simple joints (fingers and toes) a splint is sufficient to support the joint. For more complex joints (shoulder, elbow) you should wrap the area with an ace bandage.
Authors note: I dislocated my knee during a game of street football. My friends carried me to a chair and upon putting a small amount of pressure on the leg where the dislocation happened, it snapped right back into place.
Sprains are injuries to the ligaments that hold your bones together and keep joints connected. The most common sprains tend to be in the knees and ankles.
Ligaments are tough, but a sprain means the ligament has been torn, possibly completely. Most sprains are easy to deal with, though some may require surgery to completely fix.
To treat a sprain, you’re going to use the RICE technique.
Rest the limb where the sprain occurred. Most sprains should be rested for about two days at the least. Avoid putting pressure on the limb, have the person use crutches to get around if necessary.
Ice the sprained area for 15-20 minutes several times a day for the first two days. Don’t leave ice on it for too long, which can cause damage to the tissues.
Compress the area with an ACE bandage or something similar. Don’t wrap it too tightly or you may reduce blood flow and cause more damage.
Elevate the injured limb above the heart if possible. This reduces blood flow which helps the swelling.
You can also give the person something for the pain such as Motrin or Tylenol. The injured person should begin to recover in a few days. On day three, have the person start using the injured limb gently.
It’s an important step for recovery because muscles begin to atrophy (waste away) when they aren’t used.
Treating Animal Bites
I hope you don’t run into one of these!
Not all animals are friendly, so it’s important to know how to treat wounds inflicted by an animal. It’s especially critical to know how to determine if an animal is rabid.
Unlike in movies, animals don’t typically foam at the mouth when they have rabies. A rabid animal does tend to drool because rabies causes an increased amount of saliva production.
They do, however, act peculiarly, either being very aggressive or more commonly, seeming a little lethargic. Animals tend to shy away from humans so if you are able to get close to a wild animal, it might have rabies.
Another sign is if an animal is active during hours when it would otherwise be asleep.
For animal bites, the first thing to do is stop any bleeding. Apply pressure with a dry cloth until the bleeding stops. Wash the injury with soap and water, then apply an antibiotic cream and bandage.
If you suspect you were bitten by an animal with rabies, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Depending on how long it’s been since your last tetanus shot, you may need a booster shot.
Do not wait to seek help if you were bitten by a rabid animal. Very few humans have survived rabies once symptoms start appearing.
Most animal bites come from dogs and cats, but they are unlikely to carry rabies. The animals that most commonly carry the disease are bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.
Treating Venomous Bites
There are about 375 types of venomous snakes and virtually every species of spider is venomous though few are deadly to humans. In North America, you mainly have to look out for the black widow and brown recluse spiders. Contrary to popular belief, most tarantulas are not harmful to humans.
There are also 25 species of scorpion known to be deadly to humans. For those who like to go swimming, there’s an estimated 1,200 species of fish that are venomous.
Don’t try to suck the venom out!
If someone is bitten by a venomous critter, you want to clean the bite wound and tie a tourniquet around the limb that was bitten.
Don’t tie it too tightly or you’ll cut off blood flow completely and there will be more damage to the tissues. Have the person lie down and try to calm them.
The faster their heart beats, the further the venom will spread into their system. Venomous bites require a trip to the hospital for intravenous antivenin,
Do not try to suck out the poison! That only works in movies.
You can buy snakebite kits and antivenin but they tend to be expensive and aren’t guaranteed to work. Antivenin in particular tends to only work for specific species and if administered wrongly, the results may be worse than if you did nothing at all.
If you are unable to get to a hospital for whatever reason, there’s not a whole lot you can do, unfortunately. In dire situations where doctors are absolutely out of the question, the best you might be able to do is amputate the limb, which carries whole new risks.
If you can make contact with emergency personnel, do so and try to identify what bit you if possible.
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Disclaimer: This article should not be a substitute for professional medical care.
Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on basic first aid.
Keeping a first aid kit handy could mean the difference between life and death. Check out my recommendation for the best Every Day Carry (ECD) kit on the market.
Featured Image Credit: Double–M