How to Handle Common Injuries When You Are Far From Medical Care

Picture of a first aid kit and a compass sitting on a boulder.Oftentimes, when someone sustains an injury, their first inclination is to head to the nearest hospital or urgent care center. But what if you don’t have easy access to any medical providers at the moment? Maybe you live in a rural area, or perhaps you’re on a hike or a camping trip. Whatever the case may be, you need to know how to care for your injury until you can receive additional treatment from a professional. Below, we discuss how to handle some of the most common injuries when you’re far from medical care.

Cuts

If you’ve been cut, the first thing you’ll need to do is wash your hands (if you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol). Next, determine whether your wound is still actively bleeding. If it is, cover the wound with gauze or a clean piece of fabric and gently apply pressure. If possible, also try to raise the wounded area above your heart.

Once the bleeding stops, rinse out the cut with clean water, wash the area around it using soap, and then rinse it again. If you can see any dirt or other debris within the wound, carefully try to remove it using clean tweezers. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment (if you don’t have any available, possible alternatives include petroleum jelly or aloe), then cover it with a bandage.

Be sure to consult with a medical provider as soon as possible so that they can remove any additional debris from the wound, check for signs of infection, and determine whether you need stitches, a tetanus shot, or any other form of treatment. In the meantime, continue changing the bandage at least once per day (as well as anytime the area becomes dirty or wet).

Sprains

If you suspect that you’ve sprained a joint, you should follow the R.I.C.E. method, which consists of:

  • Rest – Avoid using the sprained joint for at least 48 to 72 hours to give it time to start healing.
  • Ice – Apply a cold pack to the sprained joint as soon as possible after injuring it, then continue icing it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times each day. Keep doing this until swelling goes down or until 48 hours have passed since the injury.
  • Compression – If you have one available, apply an elastic wrap or bandage to the sprained joint.
  • Elevation – Keep the sprained joint raised above your heart whenever you can.

If you’re in pain, you may also want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever. As soon as you’re able to, consult with a medical professional so that they can rule out more serious injuries (for example, a fracture) and recommend additional treatment measures.

Fractures

If you think you may have broken a bone, one of the most important things you can do is immobilize the adjacent joints. Stabilizing the area helps prevent the broken pieces of bone from becoming displaced, and it can also help relieve pain. If you happen to have a first aid kit handy, check to see whether it contains a splint. If not, find something rigid (for example, a stick or a rolled-up newspaper) and at least two things that can be wrapped around the splint (for example, strips of fabric, ropes, neckties, belts, shoelaces, or medical tape).

Place the splint along the fractured bone, running from the joint above to the joint below. Then, firmly attach the splint to the outer side of each joint (for example, for a forearm splint, you should secure the split above the elbow joint and below the wrist joint). Be sure not to tie the splint so tightly that it cuts off circulation, and continue checking it every few minutes, since swelling may make it tighter over time. Take pain medication, periodically apply ice packs, and seek professional care as soon as possible.

The Provider to Choose for Follow-Up Medical Care

If your injury is life- or limb-threatening, call 911 or get to an emergency room as soon as possible. Otherwise, you can count on PhysicianOne Urgent Care to provide you with the follow-up care you need. We treat a wide array of illnesses and injuries at our various locations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, and patients can visit us every day during extended hours without having to make an appointment. Stop in, book a 24/7 telemedicine visit, or call us at 860-650-3848.

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