First Aid for Fractures

A fracture consists of a break or crack in the bone. There are two types of fractures. The first is a "simple fracture." This term refers to a fracture in which the skin is intact and no wound is present anywhere near the fractured area.

The second type of fracture is known as a "compound fracture." This term is used when the underlying skin has been broken or damaged. This type of injury may result in the bone rotruding through the victim's skin or as a result of a direct blow that cuts the skin at the time of impact. The bone itself may or may not be visible in the wounded area.

It is not always possible to tell with the naked eye if a bone has been fractured. In case of doubt, it is best to assume the victim has received a fracture and treat it accordingly.

Here are a few signs and symptoms to assist you when you suspect a person has suffered a fracture and a few rules of administering the proper first aid to the victim until emergency medical assistance can be provided.

Your first step in identifying a broken bone would be to check for deformity by comparing the injured counterpart on the opposite side of the victim's body.

Second, look for an open wound, which may indicate an underlying fracture.

Third, check for pain, which usually accompanies a fracture. The injured person will most likely be able to point to the area of pain. To assist in diagnosing a broken bone, gently feel along the bone. The victim will most certainly complain of tenderness or pain at the exact point of the fracture.

Fourth, notice if the injured area is swollen. Swelling in a fractured area happens rapidly, so look for this significant sign as well.

In some cases a victim of a fracture is able to move the fractured limb with little or no pain. In other cases, motion will produce pain and the victim will refuse to move the injured limb.

Listen to the victim for additional clues by asking appropriate questions. An accident victim may have heard a bone snap at the time of injury.

Taking a CPR and First Aid training course in your community is highly recommended to be properly prepared in this type of emergency situation. The best method of first aid to implement for a person with a suspected fracture is as follows:

  • Though fractures are rarely life threatening it is recommended to check and monitor the victim’s airway, breathing, circulation and to check for disabilities using your CPR and First Aid training skills.
  • Treat the victim for shock if necessary.
  • Ask questions to determine how the accident occurred and the location of the injury. This information will be valuable to trained medical personnel upon their arrival.
  • Examine the injured area for swelling and/or deformities, lacerations and puncture wounds. Gently feel along the length of the bone for tenderness, swelling and deformities.
  • Check the injured extremity for pulse. A pulseless arm or leg indicates an emergency requiring immediate surgical care. If this is the case, seek emergency medical help immediately.
  • Lightly squeeze the victim’s fingers or toes of the injured part (unless you suspect a fracture or other injury in these areas) asking the victim what they feel. Loss of sensation is a sign of nerve or spinal damage. In this case, do not move the victim and call for immediate emergency medical assistance. Stay with the victim reassuring them and encouraging them not to attempt movement until medical emergency professionals arrive.
  • You can also check for nerve damage by asking the victim to wiggle his or her fingers or toes connected to the injured extremity. Unless they are injured in these areas the victim should be able to produce some type of movement. Of course if the fingers or toes are injured, do not have the victim move them.

If you have not completed a First Aid and CPR training course, be sure to seek emergency medical attention for the injured person as not to mistreat them causing further damage.

These basic courses mentioned are neither time consuming or costly. Local groups all across the country provide this type of training, in many cases at no charge. The training courses only require a few hours of your time. Trained medical professionals such as nurses and other emergency medical personnel normally teach these courses.

Receiving training in these areas of administering proper emergency procedures may very well provide the immediate care needed by a loved one in an emergency situation.

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