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Handy Helps

Emergency Aid for “Bloody” Injuries

By Amy Morgan


Spring sunshine and warmer weather inspire us to return to projects and use tools we might not have seen since last year. Injuries with power saws or drill bits can cause lacerations, puncture wounds, or even an amputation. There are a multitude of opportunities for accidents.


Lonnie Schwirtlich, M.D., an emergency physician with 42 years of experience, and founder of Physicians Premier free-standing emergency room, located west of Highway 281 on Highway 46, explained how to help an injured person before they get to professional care. 


Breaks in the skin will bleed, sometimes abundantly, Dr. Schwirtlich said. The number one rule for any laceration: find a sterile dressing, or even a clean towel, sock or t-shirt, and hold pressure to reduce the bleeding.


Dr. Schwirtlich said duct tape over the dressing (and not on the skin) works well to pull and keep the wound edges together. There are some commercially available compounds to stop bleeding often included in a first aid kit that can be helpful but refrain from following home remedies. He’s seen patients arrive with coffee grounds or spider webs in their wounds — both of which contaminate the area and make treatment more difficult. If your laceration might require stitches, the procedure must be completed within 12 hours before the risk of infection precludes stitching, potentially increases scarring and delays the healing process. 

If you have not had a tetanus booster in the past five years, you have 72 hours to update, either at the emergency room, the pharmacy, or through your own doctor’s office, he added. 


Unless a laceration is actually a complete amputation, a tourniquet causes more problems than it helps. Cutting off circulation can cause the tissue to die and damage muscles and nerves, Dr. Schwirtlich said. 


If you have amputated something put the body part in a moist cloth or cup of milk, keep it cool, and bring it with you to the emergency room as quickly as possible. Dr. Schwirtlich has seen many cases where extremities have been re-attached, and “they work really well.” 


Head lacerations bleed an alarmingly large amount because of the number of blood vessels in the area. After pressure, apply ice to reduce swelling. Pain from an injury is actually caused by the swelling, not from the injury itself, Dr. Schwirtlich said. You can give Tylenol for pain relief, but never Aspirin, Motrin or Advil for a head injury, because those medications inhibit clotting and will exacerbate the blood flow. You can use a person’s hair to tie the skin together to close the wound, but do not use superglue — it’s not the same as liquid bandage — and can be absorbed into your blood stream.


Nosebleeds can occur spontaneously or due to accident. Use a vasoconstriction nose spray like Afrin or Neo-synephrine, he added. The ingredient that works to decongest the nose also causes blood vessels to constrict and will slow the bleeding. Once again, apply ice. If the nose seems deformed or the person is experiencing pain in the face after a blow, get checked immediately to rule out broken bones. 


While home accidents involving blood can look scary, a calm attitude and a few timely first aid steps can contribute to a positive outcome until emergency help can be obtained. 

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