From car accidents to cooking mishaps, when you’re faced with an accident, do you know what to do? Here, Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) emergency doctors at the region’s only verified Level I and Level II trauma centers offer their advice to manage some common scenarios.
You’re renovating your home and step on a nail. Should you remove it yourself?
According to Ivan Miller, MD, Director of Emergency Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of WMCHealth, “Puncture wounds are high risk for infection because they tend to seal in whatever contamination occurred with the puncture. In all cases, these wounds should be washed as much as possible and observed carefully for evidence of infection.” Dr. Miller offers these guidelines to help assess whether you should wait or seek immediate medical attention:
- A nail in the foot should be pulled out unless there is severe resistance. If the nail can’t be easily pulled out, head to the Emergency Department (ED).
- If there is active bleeding, apply direct pressure and elevate the foot for 5 to 10 minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, go to the ED.
- If you are able to remove the nail, wash the wound thoroughly. Pour warm water from a sink or shower faucet directly onto (and into) the puncture wound.
- After washing and patting dry, dress with an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage.
- If you suspect that a piece of nail broke off under the skin, or if there is any other foreign body, head to the ED for assessment.
Your car has been totaled, but you feel okay. Should you go to the ED?
When it comes to car accidents, a cautious approach is always best, according to Dr. Miller. Although serious injuries usually cause significant pain, there are various factors that may lead to a dangerous “hidden” injury. Patients on pain medication or under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not feel the pain. Patients taking blood thinners may have significant internal bleeding, which may not cause symptoms immediately, even with fairly minor trauma. “In the Emergency Department, when assessing injury, we consider numerous factors, such as car speed, whether the car rolled over, etc. Extremes of age also make us more suspicious.” Bottom line: When in doubt, it’s best to make a trip to the ED to let an expert check you out.
Your loved one just took a big fall and can’t get up. Should you help them or wait until help arrives?
According to Mark Papish, MD, Associate Director of Emergency Medicine at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), when you witness someone fall from any height, resist the urge to get them up right away; instead, take a moment to fully assess the situation. “Are they awake and alert? Did they have a loss of consciousness? Are they in a safe place? Are they are injured?” Dr. Papish says. If nothing hurts, and they are awake and alert, give them a hand getting up. “But, if they are confused, have significant pain in their neck, back or lower extremities, stop and seek medical help before you move them,” says Dr. Papish.
You’re chopping vegetables and you cut your finger. Now what?
If you cut your finger while cooking, Dr. Papish recommends a thorough rinse for your damaged digit. “By quickly rinsing the wound, you can assess the damage while washing away any bacteria on the surface of the wound, which decreases your chance of infection later on,” Dr. Papish says. If there is a lot of bleeding, apply direct pressure with a paper towel or sterile bandage. If your wound continues to gush after 10 minutes, Dr. Papish recommends seeking immediate medical attention.
Your child ate a detergent pod. Do you induce vomiting?
According to Darshan Patel, MD, Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), inducing vomiting is no longer recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It could be more harmful, especially if the contents of the highly concentrated chemical ingested go into the lungs. If your child ingests a laundry pod, try to immediately wash off their face and mouth, then seek medical attention.”
It’s safest to not use laundry pods if you have small children in the house, counsels Dr. Patel. If you do, store them — and use them — away from your child’s reach.
Your neighbor’s dog bit your child. What should you do?
Even if does not cause bleeding, always seek medical attention, says Dr. Patel, as the pressure from a dog bite may cause fractures. “Remove the child from the dog’s proximity, wash the injury under running water for at least five minutes, then seek medical attention,” he says. Furthermore, though uncommon, emergency medical staff can also screen for rabies.