Every season has its share of ouches and mishaps, but warmer weather seems to have the most. From grill burns to sunburns and bug bites to cuts, this first-aid primer covers the steps to take so you can get on with the fun.
EASY PATCH-UPS FOR EIGHT COMMON MISHAPS
The knife will slip, the bee will sting — and you’ll be ready to fly to the rescue. Here’s your guide to handling common setbacks (superhero cape not included).
USE THIS: Ibuprofen, cold compress, skin cream or petroleum jelly.
DO THIS: Take ibuprofen right away, says Lisa Garner, a professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. Apply cold compresses to relieve pain and a thick cream (such as Cetaphil) or petroleum jelly to hydrate.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: The burn is blistering or widespread.
USE THIS: Ibuprofen, cold compress, petroleum jelly, nonstick bandage or gauze.
DO THIS: Dermatologists recommend treating a first‐degree burn (red but not blistering) much like a sunburn, running cool water over it, but also covering it with a bandage. “The faster you can take the temperature down, the better,” says Garner.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: The burn is blistering or larger than a couple of inches.
BEE STING OR MYSTERY BITE
USE THIS: Credit card or tweezers, antihistamine or itch reliever.
DO THIS: Scrape or pull out the stinger with a credit card or tweezers, says Paul Auerbach, a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. An antihistamine (Benadryl) or itch reliever (After Bite) can keep you from scratching.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: Your throat swells or you can’t breathe (signs of severe allergic reaction); or the area gets dark or purple (possible infection or spreading toxin).
FAINTNESS FROM THE SUN
USE THIS: Juice or sports drink
DO THIS: Get out of the sun; rehydrate with a noncaffeinated, nonalcoholic beverage. “One with sugar, salt or electrolytes works better for rehydration than plain water,” says Lisa Dabby, an emergency‐room doctor at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, California.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: You have symptoms of heatstroke: fainting, nausea or vomiting, confusion, seizures, weak breathing or a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
USE THIS: Soap and water, 1% hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.
DO THIS: Wash the area with soap and water, ideally within 15 minutes, says New York City dermatologist Jessica Krant, and toss your clothes in the washer. After that, it’s just about managing the itch — hydrocortisone or calamine is usually enough.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: The rash is widespread or you can’t get relief.
USE THIS: Seawater, credit card, hot water, oral antihistamine or calamine lotion.
DO THIS: Rinse it with seawater (not fresh); brush off the stinging cells with a credit card. Then immerse the sting in hot water, which deactivates the toxin. If the spot remains painful, take an antihistamine or apply calamine for up to two weeks.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: You have any signs of an allergic reaction: trouble breathing, extreme swelling, low blood pressure or seizures.
USE THIS: Pain reliever (such as acetaminophen), elastic bandage, ice pack
DO THIS: Take a pain reliever, then wrap the area and keep it elevated while applying an ice pack. “Non-weight‐bearing movements speed up recovery,” says Thomas Kaminski, director of athletic‐training education at the University of Delaware.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: You can’t walk, the area is swelling or the pain is severe.
USE THIS: Soap and water, gauze, bandage
DO THIS: Clean it with soap and water. Then apply pressure with a clean towel or gauze for 10 minutes to stop the bleeding before bandaging it, says Dabby.
CALL THE DOCTOR IF: The bleeding won’t stop in 10 minutes or the wound is deep and gushing.
KNOW YOUR H2O
Every day, about 10 people in the U.S. die from drowning. Many accidents are the result of people “underestimating the water or overestimating their own skills,” says Linda Quan, an emergency‐room doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Quan’s advice: Always learn beforehand the strength, temperature and depth of the water; keep up your CPR training (register for classes at redcross.org); stay hypervigilant with kids; and never swim alone. And if you or someone else who’s had a drowning experience has difficulty breathing within the following five to six hours, get medical attention immediately.
(Questions may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit www.marthastewart.com.)