Tips and Tools: Household first aid

Accidents can happen anywhere, even in a "safe place" like your home. They're especially common during spring-cleaning, when people are doing more work at home and in the yard. Being prepared can help you stay calm and deal with the situation.

Many different injuries can happen at home, but having a general approach to first aid situations can help you stay calm and focused. When an accident happens:

  1. First, check the area to eliminate any further risks for injury. For example, if you have been burned by a hot stove element, be sure to check for things that might catch fire around the element.
  2. If someone else has been injured, check to see if they are breathing and have a pulse. If not, get emergency medical help right away.
  3. Give first aid appropriate to the injury.
  4. Get medical help if the injury is serious.

The appropriate first aid depends on the injuries. Here are some basic first aid tips for two common situations: cuts and scrapes and chemical burns.

Cuts and scrapes:

  1. Clean the wound with mild soap and water.
  2. Cover the wound with a clean dressing (cloth bandage). The best type of dressing to use is a sterile dressing, which can be found in pharmacies. If you are not sure what type of dressing to use, ask your pharmacist for a recommendation.
  3. If the wound is bleeding heavily:
    • Apply pressure to the wound by hand.
    • Elevate the injured area and get into a position where you can rest (this lowers your heart rate and slows the blood loss).
    • If blood soaks through the dressings, add more clean dressings on top. Don't remove dressings, as this can disturb the blood clots that are forming.
    • Get medical attention as soon as possible.
  4. If your cut or scrape is severe, or doesn't seem to be healing properly, get medical attention. If a cut has any of the following characteristics, it requires medical attention:
    • It is deep
    • It exposes any muscle tissue (red) or fat tissue (yellowish)
    • It stays open if you let go of the sides of the cut
    • It is on a joint or in an area where healing might be difficult (stitching might be needed to keep it closed)

Chemical burns:

Household cleaners contain powerful chemicals that can cause injury if they come in contact with your skin, nose, or eyes. If this happens:

  1. Flush the area with large amounts of cool water for at least 15 minutes.
  2. If the area is burned, cover it with a dressing (cloth bandage). The best type of dressing to use is a "sterile" dressing, which can be found in pharmacies.
  3. Don't use anything other than water to "neutralize" the burn unless you are instructed to do so by a medical professional.
  4. Get medical help right away if the cleaner splashed in your eyes, if you swallowed some of the cleaner, if you have burned a large area of skin, or if the burn is deep.

To prevent injuries from household cleaners:

  • Don't mix different cleaning products together - this can create poisonous gases.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Use rubber gloves and safety goggles when handling household cleaners. Check the label for special precautions.

It's a good idea to take a basic first aid course - you will learn lifesaving skills to help you deal with a variety of first aid situations.

Learn more about First Aid