First-aid basics: Knowing how to treat minor injuries

As the weather warms up and people become more active, keeping first aid in front of our minds is important. Whether you are enjoying a hike, playing sports, or working in the garden, accidents can happen when you least expect them. By knowing basic first aid, you can treat common injuries and prevent more serious complications.

One of the most common injuries during outdoor activities is falls. If you or someone you know experiences a fall, remember to stay calm. Check for any signs of injury such as head trauma, loss of consciousness, or severe pain. If the person is unable to move or has neck or back pain, do not attempt to move them. Call for emergency medical help immediately. For minor falls resulting in scrapes or bruises, clean the affected area with warm water and gentle soap, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a sterile bandage. If the scrape looks large or deep, it may need medical attention to prevent infection.

Burns can happen during warm weather activities like grilling or camping. If you experience a minor burn, run cool (not cold) water over the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. This helps to reduce pain and prevent further damage to the skin. Avoid applying ice, butter or ointments, as these can worsen the burn. Do not submerge the burn into water, let the water flow. Cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick gauze pad and secure it with a bandage, but leave the bandage loose. If the burn is severe, blistering, or larger than your palm, seek medical care.

Cuts and scrapes are often part of daily life, especially during outdoor pursuits. To treat a minor cut, first clean the wound with warm water and gentle soap. If bleeding persists, apply firm pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or gauze pad for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the bleeding has stopped, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover the wound with a sterile adhesive bandage or gauze pad. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge, and go to a doctor if these symptoms occur. For deep cuts or wounds that will not stop bleeding, visit the hospital or call an ambulance.

Insect bites and stings are another common concern during warm weather months. If a bee or wasp stings you, remove the stinger using a straight-edged object like a credit card. Wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain. Watch for signs of illness, such as fever or rash, in the following days. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, swollen tongue, or hives, call 9-1-1 or get to the closest emergency room.

Be prepared! Create a well-stocked first-aid kit for your home and outdoor activities. Your kit should include sterile gauze pads and adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, scissors and tweezers, instant cold packs, non-latex gloves, oral thermometer, insect sting relief pads, aloe vera gel for sunburns, and a first-aid manual.

Keep your first-aid kit in a designated spot and check it monthly to replace any expired or used items. When outside, have a more compact first-aid kit to put into your pocket or a bag.

Maintain a safe environment during your activities. Wear appropriate gear like properly fitted shoes. Stay hydrated, use sunscreen, and take breaks in shaded areas to prevent heat exhaustion. Be aware of your surroundings and potential hazards, such as uneven terrain or wildlife. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, consult with your doctor before embarking on new physical activities.

You can be safe with planning, and safer with equipment and supplies. The value of outside time cannot be overstated, and you need to do everything you can to maximize your summer. Let’s stay safe and healthy together.

Christian M. Hartley is a 40-year Alaska resident with over 25 years of public safety and public service experience. He is the City of Houston Fire Chief and serves on many local and state workgroups, boards and commissions related to safety. He lives in Big Lake with his wife of 20 years and their three teenage sons.