Top Festive Emergencies and How to Handle Them
The Christmas period brings the joy of getting together with family and friends at festive parties and gatherings.
Just as the celebrations bring much in the way of fun and excitement, they also lead to an increase in accidents during what is already a busy time of year for the emergency services.
Here are the most common festive emergencies and how to handle them…
Cooking a Christmas dinner can be stressful, especially if you have a group of hungry family and friends eagerly waiting. It’s easy for your concentration to lapse with so much going on around you.
All of this makes the risk of sustaining burns from hot surfaces and cuts from chopping food that much higher. If you or a loved one receives a (minor) burn when cooking, hold the affected area under cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Apply a sterile burns dressing where possible, or wrap the area in cling film once it has cooled.
Carving the turkey or chopping raw vegetables puts you at risk of cuts. If you are unfortunate enough to cut your finger, clean the wound by placing it under cool running water or use an alcohol-free wipe. Apply gentle pressure to the area and keep it elevated in order to minimise the bleeding, then dress with a sterile plaster or larger dressing. If the bleeding persists or is heavy, call 999.
Choking can occur at any time, especially when those festive party treats are in abundance. If someone does start to choke suddenly, you need to first assess the severity of the obstruction.
If they cannot cough or speak, the obstruction is severe and you need to deliver up to five firm back blows using the heel of your hand between their shoulder blades.
Keep checking to see if the object has cleared.
If the back blows don’t work, try giving them up to five abdominal thrusts by standing behind them, link your hands between their belly button and the bottom of their breastbone, your lower hand must be clenched in a fist. Pull inwards and upwards sharply.
Call 999 for an ambulance if they are still choking and keep repeating the back blows and abdominal thrusts until the emergency services arrive.
Dehydration is extremely common around the festive season as we fill our bodies full of food and drink that we would not normally have in excess. Alcohol, of course, is the prime suspect, but many Christmas treats and snacks are full of salt or sugar, which tends to throw the metabolism completely out of balance.
Try to drink water more frequently and especially alongside any alcohol intake. Never drink on an empty stomach.
Sports drinks (isotonic drinks) or rehydration tablets can be helpful to speed up your rehydration process if needed.
Many of the things we enjoy over the Christmas period, such as fairy lights, candles, trees and decorations, can all be fire hazards when proper care is not taken and fires are unfortunately more common around Christmas.
Keep candles away from Christmas trees, curtains or anything else that could catch fire and never leave them unattended. Make sure your sockets aren’t overloaded. Check your Christmas tree lights conform with safety standards and always switch them off before going to bed.
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops to below 35°C. As this is more common during the temperatures of winter, some basic first aid knowledge can go a long way during the Christmas season.
If the casualty can’t be moved, cover them. If the injury allows, place something under them for insulation. First aid kits often have foil blankets, but you need to make a sandwich of heat with the foil – a layer of coats or blankets, the foil and then another layer. Always remember that 30% of heat loss is through the head.
Don’t leave the casualty alone and if they are fully alert, give them a warm drink. If you can get them to a place of warmth, take off any wet clothes and replace with dry ones.
Have a happy and safe festive period from all of us at St Andrew’s First Aid!