The latest in first aid
THERE are lots of ways you can get hurt in the Top End. Here are the latest tips on how to treat the most common and serious medical conditions so you’ll know exactly what to do if one strikes.
“The number-one solution for a burn is 20 minutes under cool running water,” Peter LeCornu, national training manager at St John Ambulance Australia, says. “After that, cover it with a loose, non-stick dressing. If the burn is bigger than a 20-cent piece, see your doctor or a pharmacist. If it’s bigger than the palm of your hand, head straight to hospital.” Do not use ice or apply lotions, ointment or fat to the burn. If the burn is deep, seek urgent medical advice.
“Give the person five sharp blows to the middle of their back using the heel of your hand. Failing that, give them five chest thrusts — stand next to them with the heel of one hand on the lower half of their sternum and one in the middle of their back and thrust,” LeCornu says. If a child is choking, use back blows. Don’t tip them upside down or put your fingers in their mouth or throat.
“Prevention is always the best cure,” associate professor Chris Baker, president of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, says. “But if you get caught out and are suffering from mild sunburn, use a simple moisturiser, such as sorbolene, and a cold compress on the area. Simple is best when it comes to after-sun lotions, and I’d avoid anything that’s highly perfumed or has an anaesthetic agent in it.”
“Mild heartburn can often settle with a glass of milk and rest,” GP Dr Elizabeth Sturgiss says. “For anything more severe, use over-thecounter tablets or liquids.” If that fails, seek urgent medical advice to rule out a more serious issue.
“A fever is considered temperatures above 38˚C,” Sturgiss explains. “If you have a fever for more than 48 hours or if paracetamol isn’t helping to bring it down, make an appointment to see your doctor. If, however, you have a fever as well as neck stiffness, difficulty with bright lights, a bruise-like rash, drowsiness or confusion, get to the hospital. Exercising to ‘sweat out a fever’ is a myth so don’t try it. Children with fevers should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.”
“Keep well hydrated by drinking a combination of water and electrolyte solutions frequently,” Sturgiss says. “It’s also important to rest. If you’ve had ongoing diarrhoea for 48 hours, it’s worthwhile visiting your GP. If you’re vomiting too, don’t leave it any longer than 12 hours before seeing a doctor.”
“It’s crucial you get the whole tick out, so only try to remove it if you’ve got tick-removal forceps,” LeCornu advises. “With normal tweezers, it’s really easy to get the body out but you often leave the head behind. If you don’t have the right forceps, get to a doctor.”
“The message is simple: R-I-C-E,” LeCornu says. “That is, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Sit down with an icepack on the area for 15 minutes every two hours for the first 24 hours. Also use a compression bandage on the area for at least 48 hours and elevate it for as long as you can.”
“If someone blacks out with no warning, they should see a doctor immediately,” Sturgiss says. “But if someone feels they’re about to faint and then does, it’s less serious. Put them flat on their back on the floor with their feet up at a right angle. If they don’t wake in a few minutes, call an ambulance. If they do wake, keep them lying flat for 5-10 minutes and then ease them up gently. Have them sip some fluids. If they’re acting oddly or feeling unwell, call an ambulance.”
“If the area is bleeding, stop it by applying pressure,” LeCornu says. “Then use water or saline and sterile gauze to clean the area and get any nasties out. After that, apply a soft, dry dressing. If the wound can’t be cleaned or if there’s something stuck in there, that’s when you should head to the doctor.”
“Increasing your fibre intake with more vegetables, whole fruit with the skin on and wholegrains, as well as upping water intake, should be the first step,” Sturgiss says. “Exercise also gets the bowels moving.”
“Chest pain that lasts for a few seconds is something that should be followed up with your doctor,” Sturgiss says. “But if chest pain lasts more than a few minutes or comes with difficulty breathing, racing heart or feeling unwell, call an ambulance quickly.”
We’ve all had that queasy feeling but Sturgiss says, “Severe or persistent tummy pains should be discussed with your doctor, who will do a comprehensive assessment of your medical history and a physical examination. There’s no common remedy for a stomach ache and they can be caused by so many different things so it’s really important to get to the bottom of the cause.”
“Even a mild toothache warrants a visit to your dentist,” Dr Gary Smith, president of the Australian Dental Association Queensland, says.
“The most likely cause of a toothache is sensitivity, decay or a cavity, all of which need treatment. Other causes include fractures, gum disease and even things unrelated to the teeth such as sinus infections and heart disease. Have regular check-ups.”
Don’t forget to lather up before you go outside, whether it’s the sunny dry season or the steamy build-up HEALTH AND LIFESTYLE