Advice from the Red Cross and others

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The Red Cross have issued some First Aid and Safety Advice for the weather conditions that are affected most of the country. Cork City saw snow last night for the first time and the weather is not set to get better. In fact it is set to worsen at the weekend, with snow and icey weather forecasted for the entire country!

Here is the Red Cross advice:

Snow and Ice: First Aid Tips

Treating strains and sprains

The initial treatment for both injuries is the same – the RICE procedure:

  • Rest the injured part
  • Ice – apply ice or a cold pad to the injured area
  • Comfortably support the injury using a bandage or soft padding
  • Elevate the injured part

Treating Fractures / Broken Bones

It can be difficult to distinguish between a bone, joint or muscle injury – so if in doubt, treat the injury as a broken bone. Your main aim is to prevent further injury by keeping the casualty still and then ensuring they get safely to hospital.

If you suspect a broken bone

  • Support the limb
  • Leave the casualty in the position found. Secure and support the injured part. You can use rolled up blankets, cushions, clothes or whatever you have handy.
  • Get the casualty to hospital
  • Assess the severity of the injury and decide how to get them to hospital. For example if they have an arm injury, you may be able to drive them yourself. If you suspect a broken leg or a spine or neck injury, call 999.
  • Treat for shock if required. Look for signs of shock including pale, cold and clammy skin, rapid then weak pulse, fast and shallow breathing ,sweating and complaints of nausea and thirst. If you suspect shock, lie the casualty down and raise their legs above the level of their heart. Make sure you keep the casualty warm.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to the cold or sudden immersion in cold water and develops when the body temperature falls below 35 C (95 F). Although the risk of hypothermia is greater outdoors it can also develop indoors in poorly heated homes. Elderly people infants and those who are thin and frail are particularly vulnerable.

Hypothermia symptoms

  • Shivering; cold, pale skin
  • Apathy and disorientation
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Slow and weakening pulse

Treatment for hypothermia when indoors

  • The casualty should be re-warmed slowly. Cover the person with blankets – and a hat, if possible – and warm the room.
  • Give the casualty a warm drink and/or highenergy foods, such as chocolate.
  • Call 999/112 for emergency help. Remember, in elderly people, hypothermia may also be disguising the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.
  • Monitor the person’s vital signs – breathing, temperature and response levels – while waiting for an ambulance.

Frostbite

With this condition, the tissues of the extremities – usually the fingers and toes – freeze due to low temperatures. In severe cases, this freezing can lead to permanent loss of sensation and, eventually, tissue death and gangrene as the blood vessels and soft tissues become permanently damaged.
Frostbite usually occurs in freezing or cold and windy conditions. People who cannot move around to increase their circulation are particularly susceptible. In many cases frostbite is accompanied by hypothermia and this should be treated accordingly.

Symptoms may include

  • Shivering
  • Cold, pale, dry skin
  • Slurred speech and clumsiness
  • Possible loss of consciousness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Casualties may experience a colour change to the skin of the affected area: first white, then mottled and blue. On recovery, the skin may be red, hot, painful and blistered. Where gangrene occurs, the tissue may become black due to loss of blood supply.

How to treat frostbite

1. Advise the casualty to put their hands in their armpits. Move the casualty into warmth before you thaw the affected part further.
2. Once inside, gently remove gloves, rings and any other constrictions, such as boots. Warm the affected part with your hands, in your lap or continue to warm them in the casualty’s armpits. Avoid rubbing the affected area because this can damage skin and other tissues.
3. Place the affected parts in warm water at around 40 C (104 F) Dry carefully, and apply a light dressing of dry gauze bandage. Monitor and record the casualty’s vital signs – level of response, breathing, pulse and temperature while waiting for help to arrive. Give them a warm not hot drink such as soup and/or highenergy foods such as chocolate to help re-warm them.
4. Raise the affected limb to reduce swelling. An adult may take the recommended dose of paracetamol or her own painkillers. A child may have the recommended dose of paracetamol syrup (not aspirin).
5 Take or send the casualty to hospital.

Snow and Ice: Safety and Accident Prevention Advice

Boots: Boots with rubber soles and solid ankle support that are preferably waterproof are essential to preventing slips and falls on the ice. These slips and falls are among the most common cause of injuries needing emergency hospital attention so men, women and of course children are all advised to wear boots. Even people who ordinarily drive door-to-door and therefore do not have to walk any great distance on a normal day, should bear in mind that their car/bus/taxi could get stuck and should therefore carry boots with them just in case. Be particularly careful when crossing roads or getting into or out of cars/buses/taxis. A pair of old socks worn over shoes can help to give grip in icy conditions.

Body Heat: Layers of clothes are advisable rather than one or two heavy garments while gloves and scarves are essential. Rugs and flasks of hot drinks are well advised for any journey that may take place later today and particularly after nightfall when the temperatures are likely to drop so too are flashlights (check that the batteries are working and bring spare batteries if possible) and a shovel.

Ambient Heat: Take care about heating around you. Do not leave open fires (both real and electric) unattended. Ensure that any gas appliances that are switched on are actually lighting and pay particular attention when dealing with electrical appliances. Pay particular attention to the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning if switching on old heating systems that have not been used for some time and in general ensure proper ventilation.

Hats & Hoods: “If you want to keep your feet warm – wear a hat” goes the old saying and again it is true; approximately 60% of your body heat leaves through your head so any hat is better than none. Best of all are the hats that cover your ears and waterproof hoods are also advised.

Skin: Men – as well as women – should bear in mind that conditions like this dry out the skin leading to cuts and cracks and therefore exposure to infection. A small tube of any basic moisturiser or skin barrier cream can be easily carried in your pocket and should be applied regularly to the hands and the face and any other area of the body that is exposed to extreme cold.

Sunburn and Sun glare: Alpine conditions such as these should be treated accordingly; Sunlight reflected off the ice is strengthened so sunglasses and even sun protection cream could come in handy.

Changeable weather: Above all people should bear in mind that extreme changes to temperature, light and road surfaces are likely in any given 8-hour period and they should therefore be prepared for such.

During severe weather: Elderly people are especially prone to hypothermia and pneumonia. Unfortunately, they are also the most likely to be living in older houses without adequate heating, so call in regularly on elderly friends, neighbours and relatives to see if they need help staying warm or getting provisions.

Motorists: Stop and offer roadside assistance if you see someone’s car has broken down during severe weather; you could be saving someone’s life.

In areas where heavy snow is likely to fall, always carry a blanket in your car. Also, carry a torch, a brightly-coloured headscarf, matches some chocolate bars, a flask of hot soup, a mobile phone and a sign that says HELP in big bright letters. If you break down or get stuck in snow dont leave your car it will get noticed before you will Put the HELP sign in your window, tie the headscarf to your car’s aerial, turn off the engine and curl up in the blanket. Don’t run your car’s engine for more than a few minutes at a time and make sure its exhaust isn’t blocked with snow. Be careful of leaving headlights/radios/hazard lights on for too long when the engine is not running, as it can drain the battery.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has said that blood supplies are running low. The ITBS is appealing for more donations due to the adverse weather. The helpline number for the IBTS is 1850 731 137. Donate Blood if you can!

Cavan County Council have started to leave grit for residents to spread themselves!

As grit supplies are running out, take heed of the conditions on the roads. Make sure you follow the advice of the RSA

RTÉ have a handy list of useful telephone numbers for the current weather conditions.

Also keep an eye on their live updating of the situation through out the country!

Keep an eye on the Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus websites if you are due to travel by bus anywhere

Also for those in Cork, PLEASE DO NOT WALK ON THE LOUGH! Yes, it is frozen, but its very thin ice and very, very slippy! It is dangerous.

Take care out there.

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Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

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