This weekend, I was on a trip to Binghamton. In the midst of unpacking my toiletries at the hotel, I found that my brand new razor blade had lost its cap. How did I find that out? Well, when I pulled my hand out of the bag, I found that my right pointer finger was missing a bit of its tip and dripping blood on everything. Thankfully, Nathan G. H. Shlivovitz was with me and knew what to do, but the experience helped me to realize that everyone needs a little first aid knowledge in life. Here are some tips for basic first aid for cuts, based on my experience and with a little advice from the Mayo Clinic.
Before we start talking about caring for fingers, we should talk about covering my ass. Here's the disclaimy language they have on the Mayo Clinic website, which also applies here only more for real because I'm not even a clinic!
Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, emergency treatment or formal first-aid training. Don't use this information to diagnose or develop a treatment plan for a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider. If you're in a life-threatening or emergency medical situation, seek medical assistance immediately.
Here are some steps you can follow if you find that you've cut yourself:
1.) Be prepared. It's a good idea to keep a first aid kit around, especially if you live and travel alone a lot. Mom the Homemaker got me one to keep in my trunk when I got my car - they're pretty cheap and can be found in almost any store that sells essentials (grocery store, drug store, big discount store, etc.). Oh, and if you get one of these kit things, it's important to remember that you have one. Nathan and I went through all the treatments described below while my awesome first aid kit went unused in my trunk. (Surprised? I didn't think so) It's also good to keep up with your immuniations - if you have your tetanus boosters on time, you won't have to go running for a shot at the sight of blood!
2.) Take a deep breath. I thought I was a pretty tough cookie, but cut my finger a little bit and I started tweaking out! I was dizzy, I got sweaty and nauseated-feeling, it was weird. Shock is a bizarre collection of mental and physical reactions - I cut myself, I panicked, my body reacted, and it didn't matter how much I told myself it was fine, my body kept reacting! It's WEIRD. If you don't have somebody right there helping you like I did, you're going to need your wits about you, and you won't have that if you go into shocky crap like that. So pull it together kiddo, you've got this one!
3.) Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes will stop bleeding on their own. If the cut is worse than minor, it might require some pressure to help it stop. I grabbed a hotel towel and held it down on my finger, which helped a lot. And let me tell you, all that blood looks awesome on those pristine white hotel towels! If it helps, you can elevate the injury to slow blood flow to the affected area. I totally walked through Wegman's looking for first aid supplies with my toweled arm over my head, which elicited a bunch of awesome looks from innocent passers-by.
4.) Decide whether or not you're going to the emergency room. There you are, staving off the bleeding, wondering if you need medical attention. Minor cuts will be okay with home treatment, but if there's any doubt about the matter, get thee to an hospital, with haste! Way better safe than sorry on this one, especially since infections can lose you some important extremities, and you don't want to be making up stories about sharks or ninjas when you really just stepped on a nail and thought you were too cool for the doctor. Since I was losing a surprising amount for a finger, but not all that much blood overall (we're talking WAY less than a pint here folks) we decided we could handle this one ourselves.
5.) Clean the wound. You don't want your cut to get infected, so you need to clean it out. The Mayo Clinic website recommends water, we picked up some alcohol and poured it over my finger in the Wegman's parking lot. Note: THIS PART HURTS LIKE OH MY GOD, but is totally worth it because I still have a finger now. You can apply an antibiotic like Neosporin after you've cleaned your cut.
6.) Bandage the hole you've cut in your skin organ. You'll need something to sop up your lifeblood-ooze and protect your cut while it gets ready to heal. Since we wanted to continue applying pressure, and a Band-Aid wouldn't do for this job, we picked up some gauze and wrapped it on tight with medical tape. Actually, I wrapped it, kind of a lot, so it would look way more impressive than it actually was. Also it's hard to get anything to stick to your fingertip, so you have to tape down your finger to anchor the bandage - nature didn't have this one under control when it was planning, apparently.
7.) When your wound has healed a bit, give it some air. You should be changing the bandages on your cut at least once a day, and when it looks like the bandages are suffocating your cut, you can take them off and air it out, which will help it heal. I've been bandaging mine up when I do messy things (gymming, showering, eating oatmeal with my bare hands) and leaving it out the rest of the time.
8.) Watch the healing process! This has been the coolest part of cutting myself up - watching my finger build itself again. Most of the time we don't think about the fact that our body is a machine that makes it possible for us to do everything, we just…go and do everything. But over the pat 48 hours, what was once a palpable hole in my finger has bled, stopped bleeding, scabbed over, oozed clear fluid, and filled itself in. Now my finger is starting to grow my fingerprints back! Not that you should just sit there and stare at your wound heal - that's weird, and a lot like watching grass grow. It is cool to see the changes over time, though!
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of getting hurt? Do you have a ridiculous injury story? Tell me in the comments below!