With Covid-19 lockdown easing, a lot more people are out and about after a long time indoors. Exploring the great outdoors is a massive boost for physical and mental health but there are risks. We take you through the potential risks and offer clear first aid advice for insect bites, break and sprains, asthma attacks and heat exhaustion.
Insect bites and stings
Summer weather heralds the arrival of all sorts of flying insects. It is extremely common for people to get stung by angry wasps or sleepy bees, particularly when eating outside or walking around in bare feet.
Bee stings – if someone is stung by a bee and the sting remains in the skin, quickly flick it out using your thumb nail or a credit card. Try not to squeeze the sting as this can increase the amount of allergen entering the body and therefore increase any possible allergic reaction.
Only bees leave their sting, wasps and other stinging insects do not leave the sting behind in the wound.
A wrapped ice pack can be extremely helpful to soothe the pain and reduce the inflammation following an insect bite or sting.
No matter how tempting it is, please don’t scratch the bite. Once you break the skin, the bite is far more likely to become infected.
The first sign your bite is becoming infected is likely to be that it gets redder, hot and itchier. If this is the case, get it seen by a health professional as soon as possible. If the redness tracks away from the bite and spreads across the skin, this could be a sign of cellulitis, which is serious, and you need urgent medical treatment and antibiotics.
First Aid for stings
If the person who has been stung experiences a local reaction, apply a wrapped ice pack to the affected area and this will help to reduce the swelling and can reduce pain as well. Antihistamines will also help reduce the reaction and will treat pain, itching and swelling.
If the casualty shows any signs of a systemic reaction or of anaphylactic shock, call an ambulance immediately and use their Adrenaline Auto-injector if they have one. Reassuring them and positioning them appropriately can make a major difference to their treatment.
If they are struggling to breathe, they should be encouraged to sit in an upright position, putting something under their knees to help increase their circulation can be helpful – into the lazy W position.
If they are not having trouble breathing, but are feeling dizzy, sick and thirsty – they are showing the signs of shock should lie down with their legs raised to help increase the circulation to their vital organs. They should stay lying down even if they appear to recover, as sitting or standing them up could cause their blood pressure to drop further and be dangerous. Encourage them to turn their head to one side if they are likely to vomit. If is is a cold day, they should be covered to keep them warm and kept in this position until the paramedics arrive.
It is highly recommended that you attend a practical or online First Aid course to learn how to help in a medical emergency
First Aid for Life covers stings and insect bites on their practical and online courses. Book your place here!
We also have released a free e-book guide to bites & stings that you can download here
Breaks and sprains
Breaks and sprains are extremely common, but how do you know whether you have broken a bone or just have a soft tissue injury?
The honest answer is, that unless the bone is sticking out, or the limb is at a very peculiar angle, the only way to know for sure that a bone is broken is to have an X-ray.
A fracture is another word for a broken bone.
Other possible signs:
Pain – it hurts
Loss of power, it can be hard to move a broken limb
Unnatural movement – the limb may be at an odd angle and have a wider range of movement than it should have
Swelling, bruising or a wound around the fracture site
Deformity- often limbs may be shortened, or the broken area could have lumps and bumps or stepping (with an injured spine it is uneven as you gently feel down their back)
Irregularity – lumps, bumps, depressions, or stretched skin
Crepitus – the grinding sound when the end of bones rub against each other
Tenderness – pain at the site of injury
Broken bones on their own, rarely cause fatalities. However, a severe break can cause the casualty to go into shock particularly if there is bleeding associated with the injury (either internal or external bleeding). Shock is life threatening.
Keep the casualty warm and dry and be aware that pain and stress will adversely affect their condition.
If you are at all worried about them, phone an ambulance.
If the bone is sticking out, the bone has to be broken! Your priority is to stop bleeding without pushing on the bone or moving the broken leg at all – then get emergency help.
Be very aware of the onset of shock – keep them warm and dry, if they show any signs of shock, lie them down, but do not elevate the injured limb.
With complicated fractures, muscles, nerves, tendons and blood vessels could be trapped and damaged. If you are aware that they have lost feeling in part of their limb, or if it has changed colour, they will need urgent medical treatment.
Keep them calm, warm and supported and phone for an ambulance.
With a closed fracture, the bone has not come through the skin. Children commonly have greenstick fractures, where the bone doesn’t snap, but half breaks like a spring stick.
With closed fractures (and also with soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains) – you should initially do the following:
Protect the injury (stop using the injured limb, pad to protect)
Rest the injury
Ice – apply a wrapped ice pack
Comfortable support – apply a supportive bandage
Elevate – to reduce swelling
Call an ambulance if:
- They start to show signs of shock
- There is a possibility that they have injured their spine or head
- They have any difficulty breathing or begin to lose consciousness
- It is an open fracture, with the bone through the skin
- If they lose feeling in the limb, or if it dramatically changes colour
- You are unable to safely transport the child to hospital yourself keeping the limb stable and supported
- There is a suspected pelvic or hip fracture
- You are worried about them in any way
Asthma attacks when outdoors
We all know people who have asthma. However, very few of us would know what to do if someone close by started to have a serious asthma attack and was struggling to breathe.
When someone has Asthma; their airways go into spasm which causes tightness of the chest; the linings of the airways become inflamed and produce phlegm leading to extreme difficulty in breathing.
What are the triggers?
There are many different triggers for asthma attacks. Many asthmatics are well aware of their trigger points, although they may not always be able to avoid them.
Pollen and pollution are increasingly responsible for triggering asthma. Many people find a worsening of their symptoms in Spring, combined with the onset of hay fever. There are many species of grasses, trees and weeds in the UK. Some people are particularly sensitive to some and do not react at all to others. There is also huge variation around the country as to when pollen is released. People can begin to suffer from hay fever as early as January. About 20% of people with hay fever are allergic to birch tree pollen and this, as well as oak and plane trees, is responsible for many unpleasant symptoms and can exacerbate asthma.
Grass pollens are the most common cause of hay fever and usually affect people in May, June and July.
Weed pollens (such as nettles and docks) usually release pollen from early spring to early autumn.
If you know pollen is a trigger for your asthma, speak to your GP or asthma nurse.
The Met Office issues really useful pollen advice.
What are some of the symptoms of asthma?
- shortness of breath
- tightness in the chest
- often people find it particularly difficult to breathe out and have an increase in sticky mucus and phlegm
Not everyone will get all of these symptoms.
How to help in an asthma attack?
If someone is having an asthma attack, always follow the instructions outlined on their medication. However, if they do not have them to hand, these are the steps to follow (these guidelines are suitable for both children and adults):
Be calm and reassuring as reducing the stress and keeping the casualty calm really helps them to control their symptoms and panic can increase the severity of an attack. Take one to two puffs of the reliever inhaler (usually blue), immediately – using a spacer device if available.
Hot summers can be lovely, providing you have the opportunity to enjoy them and are able to cool down and remain well hydrated.
Don’t burn outdoors!
The sun’s UV rays can quickly damage children’s skin, even on a cloudy day.
To avoid sunburn:
- Always ensure children are wearing appropriate sunscreen, apply liberally over face and body and re-apply every 2-3 hours.
- Take particular care if swimming or boating as water intensifies the sun’s rays
- Dress the children in tightly woven opaque clothes ideally with a sun factor rating
- Regularly go indoors or move into shade.
- Avoid being in the sun between 11:00 am and 3:00pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Wear a hat, ideally with an SPF factor, wide brim and ear cover.
- Wear sunglasses
- Protect little ones in the car and buggy too and invest in sunshades
If a child is sunburnt they will need medical attention:
- Cool under a tepid shower for at least 20 minutes, or apply repeated cool wet towels for 15 minutes. When completely cooled, apply neat Aloe Vera gel to the affected area, this will soothe, reduce swelling and promote healing. Give the child plenty to drink and Calpol for the pain. Seek Medical advice.
- Keep drinking
- Continually encourage little ones to drink lots of water as dehydration can quickly lead to heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion can come on suddenly following exposure to the sun, the child may have a raised temperature, feel sick, dizzy, headachy, or have stomach ache and it can result in them collapsing. They need to re-hydrate fast, ideally with Dioralyte, water or an isotonic sports drink. Seek medical advice.
Key advice: Combine sufficient sunscreen, appropriate clothing and shade with lots of drinks, and enjoy the summer!
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It is important that you can look after yourself and your family while out and about. We offer tailored first aid courses covering the above topics to empower you with the skills to keep you safe outside.
First Aid for Life provide award-winning first aid training tailored to your needs – Please visit our site and learn more about our practical and online courses. It is vital to keep your skills current and refreshed. We are currently providing essential training for individuals and groups across the UK. In addition, we have a great range of online courses. These are ideal as refreshers for regulated qualifications or as Appointed Person qualifications.
You can attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit https://firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.
First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken on this information.