HOW TO TREAT GUNSHOT WOUND TILL REACHING HOSPITAL
Before you begin treating the wound you need to assess the severity of the damage. You have to look for the bullet and even may have to remove it, so you can safely clean the wound. If the bullet remains in the wound an infection may progress and make the victim’s condition far worse.
In other cases, there may be small shards from the bullet that have remained around the wound, but it may cause more damage by trying to remove them, rather than if you just leave them there. If you’re in the surgery and medical personnel can do the operation, then they can also remove all pieces from the wound.
If you’re somewhere in the wild, and far from a hospital or the emergency, you should at least try to remove the larger pieces of the bullet, so you can clean and disinfect the wound. You have to bandage the wound and make sure you have stopped the bleeding, before you can find a hospital. You must change the bandage regularly and keep it clean all the time, so you can prevent infection. This may be your main concern. If you managed to control the bleeding, then the next threat to you is infection. In order to perform all these, you will have to have a well-equipped first-aid kit.
If you have antibiotics, by all means, take some. They will prevent the progress of any infection, which may have started as you got wounded. Also, don’t hesitate to take any painkillers (if you have any). They will subdue the pain and will keep you sane and focused to find your way to civilization so you can get adequate help. If you don’t know how to determine if a wound or cut is infected, take a look at our article on how to tell if infection occurred.
And here is another important thing, which may help you. Depending on where you got shot, you have to keep the wound higher in elevation from the heart. For example, if you got shot in the leg, the best thing to do is to prop the leg slightly elevated, above the heart level. This will prevent from blood surging into your leg and causing too much swelling.
If someone else (your camping/hiking companion, friend or relative) got shot you will have to treat them yourself, before you can get to a hospital. Your first 5 actions are the so-called ‘A, B, C, D, E’. Here is what they mean:
• Airway (A) – This is one of the most important things you must check first, meaning, can the person still breathe. If they are conscious and can speak, and don’t seem to struggle breathing, then they are fine, and the airway passage is clean. In the cases when the person is unconscious you have to assess if they can breathe or if the airway passage is obstructed somehow.
Check their throat by opening their mouth and see if there’s something blocking the airway passage. If the tongue is in the way, try to remove if from the way. It is often possible that the shock caused the person to literally swallow their tongue, which causes them to suffocate. If the tongue isn’t in the way, then maybe there’s blood accumulated in the throat (if for example the person was shot in the lungs, throat or other vital organs damaging the lungs).
Try to remove the accumulated blood, by either turning the person around so the blood seeps out of the mouth, or you can soak it up with a piece of cloth.
• Breathing (B) – If you successfully performed the above, then you probably have already determined if the person can breathe or not. If for example, there haven’t been any airway passage obstruction and yet the person in unconscious, there is a chance that maybe they don’t breathe. You may have to perform mouth-to-mouth to make the person breathe again.
Always check if the chest is rising or falling (a good indication for breathing). Also, don’t ignore factors like weird, rapid or in any way unnatural breathing the person has, even if they are conscious. There is a chance that something is going on and you must be alert of any changes in the victim’s behavior.
• Circulation (C) – This is related to the blood circulation and to what extend it may cause serious blood loss. You must apply pressure on the wound so you can minimize as much as you can any further blood loss, which may occur. Also, check regularly the victim’s pulse, either at the wrist, or the throat. If the person is unconscious, and they don’t have a pulse you may have to perform CPR (rescue breathing).
• Disability/Deformity (D) – This check is important before moving on to helping the victim. What this means is that if the person has an injury to the spinal cord (disability), and you try to move them, position them somehow different from how you found them, could potentially make their situation worse, to the extent that they remain permanently disabled.
By deformity we mean that the person may suffer an injury, which somehow deforms their body in an unnatural way (strangely broken limbs, joints, etc). These are closely related to the nervous system and any movement may cause even more damage. This is why it is so vital that you first assess these before you proceed to any action.
Usually the Red Cross advises that, if a person suffers from a spinal cord injury, they should not be moved until help comes, or if you have to move them to help them breathe for example, you have to be extra careful and move them very slowly. But this is only in extreme situations where a person doesn’t breathe. Helping them breathe is of top priority.
• Exposure (E) – It is also important that you find all the bullet wounds that you can, including any possible exit wound. You may have to look even the armpits and other such difficult to access areas. You are not advised though to completely undress the injured person, as this may cause shock for them.
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