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Sat Dec 1, 2012, 01:15 PM

Parents, First Aid and Learning When to Go to the ER

There was a long thread yesterday about a kid whose father tried, unsuccessfully, to remove a BB from his 12-year-old son's scalp. It started a long, sometimes argumentative discussion. It got me thinking, too.

Times are different for a lot of people today who are parents, compared to when their parents or grandparents were raising their children. Parents used to do a lot of their own stuff when it came to minor injuries. Trips to the doctor's office were for things that were more serious and that couldn't be handled by Mom or Dad. Trips to a hospital emergency room were even more rare. Most households had a book on first aid somewhere, and it got consulted. Also, a lot of parents went through the Boy or Girl scouts and learned quite a bit of first aid stuff during that process. Even in the 60s, when I was in high school, I took a fairly extensive first aid course, which covered a lot of typical minor injuries and what to do about them. Some of the things I remember my parents doing for me when I was a kid in the 1950s included:

Removal of deeply-imbedded fish hooks.
Cleaning and debriding a badly skinned knee or elbow that had imbedded gravel, and then applying a gauze bandage and adhesive tape. That iodine stung like crazy. These were followed by a week or two of admonitions not to pick the scabs off.
Reducing a dislocated index finger while on a camping trip. "Here, let me see that," my father said. He pulled it straight out and it popped right back in place. I got the usual, "You should be more careful" lecture.
Homemade butterfly bandages cut from adhesive tape to close a nasty pocket knife cut that had a bit of a gape in it. Those had to stay on for a couple of days. My mom was good at that those, and they worked a treat.
Treatment of very bad sunburns with blistering. More "You should be more careful."
Blister draining. Lots of blister draining. Heat a needle in a match flame, insert at the edge of the blister and Bob's your uncle. Admonition: "Don't pull the skin off." We always did at some point.
Lancing of boils. Instant relief, and protected by a bandaid or gauze bandage.
They never did BB removal. We did that ourselves because we'd get in trouble.

I'm sure there were lots more things I don't remember.

Today, a lot parents take their kids to the ER or the Urgent Care for such things. At least parents with health insurance do. Other parents are still bandaging up and taking care of such minor things themselves. They can't afford to go to the Urgent Care or ER, unless a problem is a really serious one. The information is still out there on how to treat minor injuries, etc., and a lot of people, including grandma and the elder neighbors still know how to do that stuff.

On the other hand, when my wife recently got a boil on the back of her neck, I didn't drain it myself. I know how to do that, have done such things in the past, and could have done it, but we do have health insurance, and a general surgeon at our clinic did it for her. It's all healed now. It would have healed if I had done it, too, but I don't have to do that stuff, because we do have health insurance. The bill? $400. It took the Doctor five minutes, including injecting a local anesthetic.

We seek professional medical care much more often than our parents or grandparents did, in general. But, a lot of people are still treating their own minor stuff and can't afford to do it any other way. It still works, just like it used to. Those of us who are not fortunate enough to have health insurance coverage should probably not be too quick to judge people who are doing the same things our parents and grandparents did. Truly. Many minor injuries and such things can be safely treated at home, with no bad consequences. That hasn't changed.



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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply Parents, First Aid and Learning When to Go to the ER (Original post)
MineralMan Dec 2012 OP
Cirque du So-What Dec 2012 #1
MineralMan Dec 2012 #2
Cirque du So-What Dec 2012 #3
MineralMan Dec 2012 #5
TwilightGardener Dec 2012 #4
MineralMan Dec 2012 #6
gollygee Dec 2012 #7
MineralMan Dec 2012 #8
madinmaryland Dec 2012 #9
MineralMan Dec 2012 #11
madinmaryland Dec 2012 #13
intheflow Dec 2012 #10
grantcart Dec 2012 #12

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 01:30 PM

1. It depends on one's skill level

I keep some disposable scalpels on hand for minor things, and I would have attempted to remove that errant BB myself. Seeing that the father in question tried and failed, it leads me to believe that he was doing it wrong. Anyone attempting what may turn out to be 'meatball surgery' needs to know their skills and limitations.

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Response to Cirque du So-What (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 01:40 PM

2. Yes. Knowing what you're capable of doing and not capable

of doing is really important.

A friend of mine gave me a couple of oriental quail that he couldn't keep, because I had an aviary full of budgies. Problem was that one of them had jumped up in the small cage he was keeping them in and had split its scalp. The skull was exposed and the skin had retracted. The birds were worth maybe $5 each, so a trip to the vet wasn't in the cards. Because I had birds and cats, I had a couple of skin suture sets on hand. So, a little hydrogen peroxide and I stitched the little bird's scalp back together. It healed up just fine, and lived for a couple more years, eating seeds off the floor of the aviary and even mated with the female and made little chicks to deal with. My skills weren't perfect, though, and the little quail had a punk haircut look about it from that time on.

Over in that original thread about the BB, there's a link to a TV news story with an x-ray of the BB. It wasn't imbedded in the skull at all, but was in the scalp. I wouldn't try to remove that, because the scalp where it was is fairly thick, and the BB was about half the depth of the tissues there. It probably tunneled itself into the tissues and wasn't right at the entry point. It needed either a visit to the doctor or probably would have healed up OK if nothing had been done. The kid would have had a BB in his scalp, though. It didn't look like an amateur deal to me.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 01:56 PM

3. In that case, I wouldn't have touched it either

I didn't realize that the BB was embedded as you say. My only experience with a BB under the skin comes from an instance where the neighborhood bully shot at and hit my cousin in the back of the neck. It was at a distance of more than 250 feet, so it wasn't very deeply embedded.

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Response to Cirque du So-What (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 02:12 PM

5. That's the problem with these discussions on DU.

We rarely have enough information or have wrong information when the discussion starts. So, the discussion often doesn't go in the right direction.

One thing about BB's, though. They're made of copper-coated steel. These days, there are very powerful permanent magnets in use in lots of stuff. I have a couple from a hard drive that is amazing. I picked up the head of a 10lb. sledge hammer with it. I'm betting that it could be used to extract a shallow BB without much trouble. I'd probably give that a try in this kid's case, before taking him to the ER. Just ease it back, right out of the hole it went into. I'm pretty sure it would work in that situation. Actually, I suspect that they use strong magnets in the ER to do just that in some cases.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 01:57 PM

4. My son once had a MASSIVE fluid-filled blister on the juncture

of the top of his foot and his ankle after a full day of kayaking on a river, speaking of blisters. He had not put sunscreen there (despite my warnings--he was 12 and applied his own sunscreen by then) and it was a pretty serious sunburn. It was at least two inches long and and inch wide. We got back to our camper, and I sterilized a steak knife and drained it and dressed it with our little first aid kit. It healed in a few days. It never occurred to me to take him for medical attention, but then it wasn't his head, either. My same son's friend had a nasty burn on his leg from the exhaust pipe of a little motor-bike thingie, his mom (a very nice lady, no one would ever think of her as a "bad mom") waited a week and finally took him in when it still looked pretty bad and didn't seem to be healing well. I don't think any of that rises to the level of child abuse--UNTIL it's obviously serious, or extremely painful and/or disfiguring, and the parent still refuses to seek medical care.

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Response to TwilightGardener (Reply #4)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 02:14 PM

6. Yes. The wait and see approach is often the best approach.

If something isn't looking better in a couple of days, a visit to the doc is in order. A lot of minor injuries heal just fine, though, with just a little attention to cleanliness and a bandage.

A visit to the first aid aisle in Walgreens or CVS shows just how much stuff is available for home treatment of many things. People are still taking care of their own minor stuff.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 03:42 PM

7. That's definitely true

My parents almost never took me to the doctor. They had insurance but they just weren't used to the idea of going to the doctor for anything that wasn't really super serious. I take my kids to the doctor for things they would never dream of taking a child to the doctor for.

The best balance is probably somewhere between where I am and my parents were.

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Response to gollygee (Reply #7)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 03:50 PM

8. Things have definitely changed. I'm older, so

I probably have a different viewpoint than young parents have. I had all the childhood diseases, because I grew up before all the vaccines were available. Chickenpox, measles, mumps...all that stuff. I never got taken to the doctor with any of it. Mom knew what I had, and knew that I'd get better soon enough. She had those childhood diseases, too.

Unless your fever was really high, or you had symptoms Mom didn't know about, you didn't go to the doctor. I remember once, when my sister had something or another, and the doctor actually came to the house on a house call. Weird.

Now, I have lots of nieces and nephews with kids of their own. They take the kids to the doctor for colds. Colds. I can guarantee that parents without health insurance aren't doing that. It's a little out of hand, I think. We're not learning some of the basic common sense survival skills previous generations learned. At least some of us aren't. It's not a good thing.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #8)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 04:49 PM

9. I remember our doctor making house visits when I was a kid in the 60's. He stopped that in the

70's. He was also a pediatrician and the county coroner.

He really was a cradle to grave doctor!!

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Response to madinmaryland (Reply #9)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 08:29 PM

11. Those days are long gone.

Never to return.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #11)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 11:07 PM

13. Yeah. Now it's lawyers making home visits.


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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 08:27 PM

10. I rarely took my son to the doctor 10-20 years ago.

We lived in the middle of nowhere and I didn't have insurance. I had taken a first aid class in high school and I think this should be required in every public school. Here are things I "rescued" my son from:

A very bad, deep cut in his hand from tripping on a toy while carrying a glass of water. That was in the middle of a blizzard. Luckily, the glass broke cleanly and I was able to get it all out. Then elevated the limb and applied direct pressure until the bleeding clogged. Still, he lost a lot of blood and ever began to get a bit loopy. I was scared but I think what got us both through was my not showing how scared I was and us singing stupid songs together.

A dog knocked him into a pool when he was a toddler. In November. In Massachusetts. I jumped in, pulled him out, gave him a couple thwacks on the back to get any water out of his lungs, changed his (and my) clothes and wrapped us both up warmly in blankets, next to the radiator. Read him stories until he stopped shivering.

And of course we had many adventures with less threatening scrapes, cuts, bloody noses, poison ivy run-ins, the flu and fevers.

The times I took him to the doctor were honest-to-god emergencies:

When he fell out of a tree and broke both arms.

When he got the chicken pox and needed a doctor's note to miss school.

He also played sports so had to have a yearly physical, but if not for that, he probably wouldn't have gone to the doctor much at all.

Really, I do very much believe that everyone should have a first aid class in high school. I also used that training to stop someone from choking, splint a broken leg while hiking, and keep a concussion victim still and warm until an ambulance arrived. It's been invaluable, and sparked a life-long interest in keeping up with the latest in first aid trends - like the new way to perform CPR.



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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 08:34 PM

12. General rule at our house was if it looked like the bone was broken we went to the doctors


If it was not broken then you had to sustain symptoms for 3 weeks to get a trip to the doctor.

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