Basic First Aid
Let's start with a BIG disclaimer. The information in this article is from a medical professional, but does not reflect the views of any medical institution or official procedures. If at all possible, every medical situation should be handled by someone with real training and hands-on experience. This guide does not authorize you to do anything medical for another person without their consent.
That being said, in the United States, we have things called bystander laws that allow you to help out whoever wants your help as long as you're not violating any policies you're subscribed to (For example, EMTs and Paramedics don't have to help when off duty, but they have special rules to follow if they choose to help.) and the person who needs help consents. Basically, as long as you're trying to help, you should be in the legal right. However, never assume that you can handle a situation yourself that should be left to emergency responders. When in doubt, call the professionals!
Now that we're through all the law stuff, let's get to the reason this guide is here. Learning about first aid is important for anyone going into biohacking. Not only can most of these problems happen in the lab or during procedures, but they can also help you understand a lot of other important medical aspects that you can apply to your personal expertise.
- 1 Emergency Management
- 2 Body Substance Isolation
- 3 Evaluation
- 4 Tenderness/Bruising
- 5 Abrasions
- 6 Swelling
- 7 First Aid
- 8 Lacerations
- 9 First Aid
- 10 Penetrations/Punctures
- 11 First Aid
- 12 Contusions
- 13 First Aid
- 14 Burns
- 15 First Aid
- 16 Deformities
- 17 Internal Bleeding
- 18 Dislocations
- 19 Broken Joints
- 20 Short bones
- 21 Long bones
- 22 Avulsions
- 23 First Aid
Scene Size-up So you or someone around you is in a medical emergency. Don't panic, first of all. The first step of any emergency is to size up the situation. If someone is hurt, how many people are hurt? If they were injured by something, is that something still around? Remember, your safety should always be assured before you try to help anyone else. So make sure the scene is safe before you enter it.
If the scene is not safe, call for emergency services.
Body Substance Isolation
If the scene is safe, the next thing you need to do is protect yourself. In a real life situation, it'll be unlikely for you to have gloves, a mask, or eye protection, but think about protecting yourself at this point, whether it be with your mittens, a jacket and some sunglasses. These things will go a long way towards keeping the bodily fluids of the injured person out of your body. They can also go a long way towards keep yours out of theirs.
The next step is to determine the extent of the injuries. If the person is scraped up and cut, but not in serious danger, try to find your way to a first aid kit. If they're bleeding profusely, deformed, unconscious, or have any type of head injury, call emergency services immediately. Also call emergency services if multiple people are hurt.
From here on, we will be working under the assumption that you have either decided not to call emergency services or they are not available. If the pros are on the way, just sit tight and play it safe until they arrive or follow their instructions on the phone.
We're gonna start with the most basic of injuries. Tenderness is exactly what it sounds like: sensitivity to pressure caused by light bruising, friction, small burns, soreness, and a million other things, but the important thing is that it be left alone. Bruising is by definition very light internal bleeding. The blood in a bruise is what turns your skin funny colours. Tenderness will usually go away on its own and isn't serious enough to warrant emergency services without other symptoms. You can elevate the injured location and ice it if need be.
Abrasion means scrapes and cuts caused by friction. Abrasions don't generally bleed a lot, so the main issue with them is infection. Scrapes will tend to have bits of whatever scraped them inside, so it's important to clean them effectively. Antibacterial or alcohol wipes can be used to clean away dirt and debris. After that, scrapes can generally be covered in band-aids or gauze with bandage to keep bacteria and dirt out. These coverings should be changed at least once a day, but I'm not a cop.
When a bruise is serious enough to swell, that means the blood under it is pooling up and puffing up the skin. Another word for swelling is inflammation. The term inflammation is used more to describe internal swelling, but for our purposes they're the same. Swelling isn't usually serious enough to be a medical issue. This definition does not include swelling from allergic reactions. All allergic reactions with swelling should be considered life threatening.
Swelling can be reduced by being elevated and iced. The cold from the ice helps to constrict the blood vessels, keeping too much blood from pooling. Acetaminophen is a common anti-inflammatory drug and can be used to reduce swelling as well.
Lacerations are cuts caused by sharp objects that do not stay in the body. If a sharp object stays in the body, the injury is considered a penetration or puncture. Cuts can be treated relatively easily by everyday people and shouldn't be serious unless they're longer than a couple inches, deeper than a 5mm (or 3mm on a small body part), or on top of a serious artery or vein.
The first thing to do to a cut is apply direct pressure. By pushing on the cut, you allow blood to gather and coagulate and also allow the skin to close together. If the bleeding does not stop, try squeezing the cut closed and applying more pressure. In cases where the skin will not close, the cut is likely too deep or wide and may need stitches. Try to avoid Ibuprofen and Aspirin when treating pain from cuts, as they thin the blood and may increase bleeding.
A penetration or puncture is when an object is forced into or through a part of the body. Some examples of penetrations are shrapnel, stabbings, needles, spears, and arrows.
The majority of the time, penetrations are nearly instantaneous and therefore do all of the physical damage at once. Because of this, it is usually advisable to leave penetrations where they are to avoid causing more damage on the way out. Sometimes a penetration, such as one in the stomach or chest, must be left in because if removed, the wound would no longer have pressure on it, and the victim may start to bleed profusely.
The only case in which a penetration should be removed is one in which the penetration prevents the victim from getting to emergency services. In this case, it is advisable to keep pressure on the wound, even if that means packing it with sterile gauze. Don't be afraid to put gauze inside the wound if it will help quell bleeding. It can be removed later by emergency services.
Smaller penetrations, such as with a needle or the tip of a blade, can be treated as lacerations and may not require emergency care.
Contusion is the medical word for bruising. A contusion is when blood vessels within a body are crushed or broken, so they start to leak blood into the surrounding tissue. Minor bruises are an everyday occurrence, but larger bruises, especially when combined with other medical issues, can be life threatening.
Small bruises can be treated similarly to discomfort with ice, elevation and possibly some anti-inflammatory medicine (i.e. ibuprofen).
Larger bruises should be treated the same way, but should be done so while attempting to bring the victim to emergency services. The only exception to this rule is if the person has a bruise to the head. Any bruise to the head should be taken as a serious problem and the person should not be allowed to walk. They should still seek emergency help, but should be transported without walking if at all possible.
Burns are injuries caused by extreme temperatures. Minor burns can be caused by the sun, a campfire, hot steam, or any object that is heated to a high temperature. First degree burns are the least serious, generally exhibiting tenderness, pain, and redness. Second degree burns are more serious and usually look slightly bumped out, almost like a bruise. They are also red and hurt when touched. Third degree burns are very serious and range from red to black, depending on severity. These burns usually bubble up, filling with fluid or remove the skin entirely. These burns hurt immensely and may require surgery to replace the skin lost. Large burns can also expose the body to outside temperatures, causing hypo- or hyperthermia.
Minor burns will go away with time, but to decrease discomfort, they can be left alone, wrapped in gauze, cooled, moisturized (usually with aloe vera), and kept away from extreme temperatures. In the case of sun burns, it may be advisable to avoid the sun while healing. Serious burns are much harder to treat and will usually require emergency services. If a burn is large enough to potentially cause hypo- or hyperthermia, then it should be kept dry and covered at room temperature. Smaller burns may be wrapped in gauze soaked in saline to help cool and alleviate pain.
Deformity is the fancy word in medicine that refers to an unnatural bend, cavity, or location of any body part. For example, a broken ankle would be considered a deformity because the ankle is bent in a way that looks unnatural. A dislocated shoulder would also be considered a deformity. This section also includes broken bones if they are serious enough to appear unnatural to a bystander.
The primary concern with deformities isn't the surface damage, but what's happening inside the body. Bones aren't totally solid objects. They're filled with marrow and blood vessels, which break along with the bone on impact. So, if a bone is broken, the person is bleeding inside. But, this is not the type of bleeding we want to apply pressure to. If you apply pressure, not only will you cause serious pain, but you could push the bones even further out of place or even break them in another place.
First Aid Instead of applying direct pressure, follow this basic guide:
If the dislocation is in a place that does not inhibit walking, like the arm, do not try to replace it. Improperly replaced dislocations can push bones against muscles in friction causing ways, which will lead to more damage down the road. So if they can walk, your best bet is to create a sling. A sling is just a towel, blanket, or triangle bandage that hangs down and cradles the injury so it can stay in one place without gravity hurting it.
If the dislocation is in a place that does inhibit walking, like the leg, it may need to be replaced in order to get to safety. To do this, the joint will need to be extended fully and rotated through its full range of motion until it pops back into place. Some bigger joints like hips and shoulders require pressure on the joint while rotating to ensure they go in.
Broken joints should be secured in a splint to immobilize them. A splint is a stiff attachment similar to a cast that attaches above and below an injury to hold it in one place. Splints can be made from poles, branches, or anything long enough to extend about 15cm above and below the injury and then tied to the body with bandage or a rope-like tool. In the case of a broken joint, you would tie the splint to the two bones above and below the injury. After making a splint, you should usually make a sling to hold it up.
Broken bones should be secured in a splint to immobilize them also. Build a splint in the same manner you would for a joint, but instead attach it to the joints above and below the injury. Again, splints should usually be in slings if possible.
Instead of direct pressure or simple splinting, one of the best things to do for a fracture of a long bone is to get it back in place. When a long bone, like the femur in your thigh, is broken, a very high number of blood vessels are broken too. This can cause serious internal bleeding, which thanks to the deformity, has a big pocket to bleed into. What is done in these situations is called traction splinting. Basically, a splint is made that is attached above the break. Then, the limb needs to quickly be pulled down so it slides back into place. This realigns the bone pieces and closes the pocket, reducing the amount of bleeding. Once the limb has been pulled, the splint is attached at the other side below the break to hold it in that stretched position. This movement is extremely painful to the injured person, but once done will provide substantial relief.
Avulsions are anything that is ripped out or that comes from within the body to the outside. Examples include organs coming out, an eyeball out of its socket, or an amputated finger.
Sadly, basic first aid is not enough to deal with avulsions without the assistance of medically trained professionals. Any and all avulsions should be wrapped and kept from bleeding while emergency services are on the way. Do NOT attempt to reattach or reinsert any avulsions. If the body part is completely separated, wrap it in gauze and put it in a container of ice. Don't put it in ice water or let the ice melt.