The chances of getting injured, either during or after a disaster, are greater than they are at other times. Disasters themselves are dangerous, to the point where people are killed by them. But the aftermath can be worse, from an injury point of view, as we all end up doing things we aren’t accustomed to doing and working with tools we don’t use every day.
Dealing with these injuries requires more than just a band-aid. You need to have the right medical supplies on hand. But you also need to know what to do with those medical supplies, so that you can use them to best effect. Proper first-aid has saved the lives of lots of people.
While not every situation will be a gunshot wound, learning how to treat one provides you with the needed skills, so that you can take care of a variety of other dangerous wounds. The big difference between a gunshot wound and others, is that the damage under the skin is usually much worse than the hole in the skin caused by the bullet. That doesn’t happen with tools.
How to treat gunshot wounds
Before treating the wound, make sure that the patient is safe. Is anyone shooting at you? Are they likely to have something heavy fall on them? Another injury, while you are trying to treat them, isn’t going to do much good.
For wounds in the extremities:
- If the wound isn’t readily visible, the first thing you’re going to have to do is cut away the clothing, making it possible to see. Check to ensure that the bullet didn’t go all the way through their body. If it did, then the hole coming out the other side is probably larger than the entry wound.
- Clean out the wound with clean water to remove any debris that got into it. Then, clean it again with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Both will kill bacteria, helping to prevent infection.
- Apply a topical antibiotic cream to help prevent infection. It is not necessary to put on a heavy layer, but be sure to cover the entire wound.
- If there is a gash where the skin is separated, pull the skin together and secure in place, with the edges touching, using either SteriStrips or butterfly closures.
- Cover the wound with a bandage to soak up blood and help keep the wound clean. This can be done with gauze, sanitary napkins or clean cloth, depending on what is available. If an Israeli bandage is available, that is often a good option.
- Apply pressure to the wound, either with your hand or by applying a pressure bandage (the Israeli bandage is a pressure bandage).
Abdominal wounds are different, in that the same kinds of bandages can’t be used. If the shot was in the lower abdomen, the intestines were probably breached, spilling massive amounts of bacteria into the body cavity. Without proper medical attention, it is unlikely that the patient will survive the ensuing infection.
One of the best ways to bandage that abdominal wound is with clear plastic wrap used for food. Go ahead and clean the wound and place a cloth bandage on it, then wrap the food wrap around the patient’s body, much like an elastic bandage, to hold the cloth bandage in place.
If the bullet hit the chest, then there’s a good chance that it pierced a lung. In that case, it will be necessary to put in a chest wound seal. This is a rubber seal, which is taped to the patient’s chest. It allows air to pass out, but closes off when they inhale, so that the chest cavity doesn’t fill with air.
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It is easy to jury-rig a chest seal, using a normal plastic bag. Just cut a piece of the bag about four inches square and tape it to the patient’s chest on three sides, over the bullet hole, leaving the fourth side open.