Good health: What to do before the doctor comes

IT is not uncommon to suffer mild or major health problems at homes that require urgent attention prior to proper medical attention at hospitals.

From slight headache to deadly bites, what can a layman do to treat victims or preserve their lives before a doctor is brought in? Medical problems are quickly attended to by applying First aid treatment and Dr Victor Adeyefa, a Belgium-trained medical practitioner, defines First Aid as the assistance or care given to any person suffering a sudden illness or injury to preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening, and/or promote recovery.

First aid does not necessarily require any particular equipment or prior knowledge, and can involve improvisation with materials available at the time, often by untrained persons.

Some of the common ailments that may require emergency treatments are diarrhoea, burn and snake bites, among others.

  • Diarrhoea, if not quickly dealt with, can result in cholera. Generally, cholera breaks out in unclean environments and can be epidemic in nature. The victim passes watery stool, accompanied by vomitting, which eventually results in weight loss. “Most times,” said Dr Ajeigbe Bolaji of Prospect Hospital, Molete, Ibadan, “the victim can also have fever.” He described cholera as a deadly disease that can kill within 24 hours, especially when the victim stools four or five times within an hour.

“One starts to feel faint, get weak and collapse or die. That is because victims would have lost much body fluid via stool. Saline water solution should be carried out at once. Get a cup of very clean water, add salt to it and give the victim to sip so that he or she can regain salinity and little strength. To avoid cholera outbreak, however, a clean surrounding is the best thing to keep.

“Though diarrhoea and vomit go together, it’s not the same thing,” he added.

“ORC solution, or oral technology, is simply salt and sugar solution and together with zinc tablet, it’s the best way to curtail vomitting before a doctor comes. Zinc tablet is important, especially for children, and should be applied within the first 24 hours. After the application, one should take the victim to a hospital,” Dr Ajeigbe said.

  • Another ailment that scares most mothers especially is convulsion, which is common among children under age of five years. “Victim should be mopped with very wet towel and put under a fan for air. If it happens to an old person, it is not convulsion. It’s as a result of brain damage or epilepsy,” warned Dr Adeyefa.
  • “Most people confuse dysentery with food poisoning because both come with irritable bowel movement, but dysentery is more common than food poisoning. Food poisoning starts with abdominal pain and is followed by vomitting or even diarrh0ea. If the victim is not taken to hospital, a lot could be damaged inside the person’s body,” Dr Adeyefa added, just as Dr Abejide corroborated his statement that food poisoning is caused by mishandling of food and food items.
  • “Burns are in ordinary or first degree, second and third degree. If the burn is from not too hot liquid such as palm or vegetable oil or even water, one can use warm water to balance the skin pain. Cold pap (Ogi) can also be gently applied on the affected spot so that blisters won’t break out nor squeezed skin. Soak the burn in cool water for few minutes. This helps to reduce swelling by pulling heat away from the burned skin. Treat the burn with a skin care product that protects and heals skin, such as aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment. Victim can wrap gauze bandage around the burn. You can also rub egg white on the skin for same effect and take the person to the hospital.

“As regards second and third degree burns, which could be from very hot vegetable oil, water, kerosene explosion, etc, there is no home medication, the victim must be taken to a hospital quickly,” Dr Agejide said.

  • For tooth ache, the victim should normally have been feeling the ache for some time. If the ache is ignored, things can get worse. Be that as it may, mild analgesic such as paracetamol will stem the ache. The aching spot especially should be rinsed with warm salt water to dislodge any trapped food. Applying a cold compress may help to relieve pain and control swelling, while drugs should not be placed on gums as this will cause a chemical burn. Victim can also gaggle salt and water to reduce ache. NCP solution, what many know as TCP, is antiseptic and can be used till a doctor is called upon,” he added.
  • “For nose bleeding,” Dr Adeyefa advised that the “victim’s head should be tilted on a chair to minimise the blood outflow and quickly insert cotton in the nose that is bleeding. Thereafter, take the victim to a hospital,” he said.
  • “First aid steps that can be taken after a snake bite occurs include cleaning the wound, being calm, and the affected spot be torneyqayed. Also, anything that will increase the heart beat should be avoided. But prevention is better because anti venoms are not easily available in the country.
  • “Dog bite follows same process. Dogs mostly have rabies. Because anti-rabies are expensive, most victims die if the bite is not treated. To confirm if truly one has rabies, however, the dog should be kept in a safe place for few days. If the dog has rabies, it will die within 10 days. That way, one can know for sure that it is rabies. If the dog does not die, then it is not rabies. If the bite barely breaks the skin and there’s no danger of rabies, treat it as a minor wound. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic cream to prevent infection and cover the bite with a clean bandage.