About 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and about 250,000 die from the disease each year. There is an increasing trend of asthma incidence and people living in developed countries are affected most. It is a chronic inflammatory disease condition characterized by hyper-responsiveness of small airways in lungs to various allergenic substances present in inhaled air.
Most asthmatics have a genetic predisposition that they are sensitive to various allergens which normal people can tolerate. This hyper sensitivity triggers an overwhelming immune reaction against such allergens upon exposure to leading to widespread spasm, increased mucous secretion and swelling of small airways in lungs. As a result airways get narrower and it becomes more difficult to breath. Usually the expiration becomes more difficult than inspiration. Apart from difficulty in breathing, these changes can give rise to a persistent dry cough and a characteristic sound heard from patient’s chest on expiration called wheeze.
An attack of asthma can be precipitated by:
- Allergens – pollen, house dust mite, dust, smoke, animal fur
- Upper respiratory tract infection –e.g. common cold
- Cold air – winter season
- Cigarette smoke
- Some medications
While an attack of asthma can present as persisting dry cough at night or early morning, some wheeze and mild chest tightness; acute severe asthma can be very frightening and life threatening experience for the person. There is severe narrowing of airways leading to difficulty in breathing as well as difficulty in oxygen transfer to lungs. Initially the patient will try to breathe rapidly using all accessory chest muscles to compensate this, but with time this effort will cause fatigue and patient (especially children) may stop breathing, which can prove fatal unless urgently intervened. Asthma attack can occur within minutes of exposure to the allergen or it can be delayed hours depending on the type of immune mechanisms involved.
Signs and symptoms of acute severe asthma
- Difficulty in breathing with prolonged expiration phase.
- High rate of respiration. (>30 cycles/min in adults)
- Characteristic wheeze during expiration.
- Severe cough
- Difficulty in speaking, sleeping and feeding due to cough or rapid breathing.
- Anxiety and distress.
- Patient will be seated or leaning forwards with hands clenching on to some support (e.g. chair) and will breathe with very high effort.
- Features of hypoxia – bluish tinge in lips, tongue and nail beds (cyanosis)
Signs of life threatening asthma
If a patient having above features begins to show those stated below means that he/she is exhausted on effort to breathe and soon may stop breathing altogether.
- Low rate of respiration.
- Silent chest.
- Deep cyanosis
- Patient looks lethargic and exhausted
- Altered level of consciousness
First aid management for Asthma Attack
- Reassure the patient and calm him/her down.
- If the patient shows signs of acute severe or life threatening asthma call for medical help urgently.
- Encourage patient to take slow and deep breaths as much as possible. Take the patient away from a cold environment, loose tight clothing and ensure adequate ventilation.
- Help the patient to sit in a position that they find most comfortable to breathe; leaning forward with arms resting on a table or back of a chair helps most.
- Do not lie the patient down as it increases effort on breathing.
- If the patient has a blue colored reliever inhaler, help him/her to use it. Usually up to 5 consecutive puffs can be taken every 5 – 10 minutes during a severe attack depending on the type of inhaler and the response.
- When taking the inhaler, patient’s lips must cover and seal the mouthpiece of the device and must breathe in as much as possible while releasing the drug. Then the breath should be held as much as possible. If patient has a spacer device (specially children and elderly) connect it to the inhaler for better drug delivery to the lungs.
- A mild to moderate attack of asthma can be managed with inhalers alone.
- Check the patients breathing, pulse rate and level of consciousness regularly.
- If the patient loses consciousness attend to maintenance of airway.
- If patient stops breathing start CPR immediately and continue until medical help arrives.
Prevention of asthma exacerbations
- Keep the house clean, vacuum out dust regularly.
- Avoid carpets in house.
- Avoid pets with fur and feathers
- Use a bed made of synthetic materials.
- Change bed sheets and pillow cases regularly.
- Keep away from dust and smoke as much as possible.
- Use asthma controller medications (if prescribed) regularly.
Clothing is a basic part of our everyday lives. While our clothing provides warmth and protection against the elements, you may be surprised to know that clothing also pose dangers to young children. It is important to choose what your kids wear to ensure your safety. Some of the potential risks of clothing include:
- Drawstrings or hoods can get caught on items such as fences, playground equipment, or vehicle doors, which can strangulate children.
- Loose buttons or decorative items in the clothing can cause choking in children.
- Clothing can cause severe burns if they catch fire.
Hazard awareness, safe environment, proper supervision, and participating in age-appropriate activities can help prevent clothing-related injuries to children.
Managing Risks Related to Clothing
The risks with clothing are ever present. However, you can do something to manage these risks:
- Always keep matches, lighters, and open flames out of children’s reach.
- Wear snug-fitting sleepwear with tight wrists, ankles, and waists. Snug-fitting clothes are less likely to catch fire or other ignition sources.
- Do not allow your kids to wear loose or baggy T-shirts when sleeping.
- Make sure all children’s sleepwear meet current clothing standards.
- Teach children what to in case their clothing catches fire (Stop, Drop, and Roll).
- Make sure children are adequately supervised when around campfires, stoves, burning candles, and fireplaces.
- Some recommendations when choosing sleepwear for children:
- When selecting loose-fitting sleepwear (such as bathrobes or nightgowns), choose clothing that are made of fabrics that are slow to burn or difficult to ignite, such as nylon and polyester.
- Avoid sleepwear with very long trimmings (2 in at the most). Ruffles, frills, and loose edges should be at the neck area only.
- Avoid using clothing with draw-strings; instead choose clothes with safe closures such as buttons, elastic, snaps, and Velcro.
- Choose clothes with detachable hoods, usually with snap or Velcro attachments, rather than fixed hoods.
- Make sure that buttons and decorative items are properly fastened to the clothing.
- Instead of using scarf, have children wear a balaclava or neck warmer. If using scarf, make sure that the ends of the scarf are tucked beneath their jacket. Never allow children to play around or use the playground while the scarf is on.
- Before playing on playground equipment, make sure that children remove their bike helmets.
- If possible, remove drawstrings from the waists, hoods, and bottoms of jackets and other clothes, and replace it with other closures to secure the hood.
- Ensure that children are closely supervised while using playground equipment.
- Choose shoes that use Velcro fasteners, or keep shoelaces tied properly.
- Check the seams in mittens and sick of young children to see if there are no loose threads that can wrap up small fingers or toes, causing impairment in blood circulation.
- Prevent injuries due to improper use of backpacks:
- Teach children to wear the straps over both shoulders to distribute the weight evenly and to reduce strain on shoulder, back and neck muscles.
- Make sure the backpack weighs no more than 20% of the child’s body weight.
- Choose backpacks that have wide straps to help maintain adequate circulation and prevent numbness.
Ventilation-assist devices are used to increase effectiveness of rescue breathing as well as to protect the first aider from possible infections while providing first aid. The use of these devices is usually taught in advanced first aid training courses for certified first aiders and healthcare professionals.
Two of the most commonly used devices include the pocket face mask and the bag valve-mask. Ideally, these devices are used with oxygen supply but may also be used in emergency situations even without oxygen.
Pocket face mask
Pocket face mask or CPR mask is a device that is similar with the resuscitator facepiece. It is most commonly used in remote rescue missions where oxygen supply is not available.
This breathing aid is made of soft collapsible material thus can be easily carried in the pocket or stacked in a simple first aid kit. CPR masks are available with or without an oxygen inlet. This device allows the rescuer to provide oxygen through a chimney on the mask. If oxygen available the rescuer is able to ventilate the victim with air from the oxygen source and his own lung. Pocket face mask can deliver up to a maximum of 80% oxygen concentration when used simultaneously with an oxygen source. When used without oxygen, it is still way better than mouth-to-mouth technique which can only deliver up to 16% oxygen.
The pocket face mask allows the rescuer to firmly hold the mask while ensuring proper head-tilt position. It may also be used without inserting oral airway when the airway is clear and there is no time to establish such oral airway device. To learn to use a pocket mask enrol in Red Cross CPR programs here.
Unlike the face mask, the bag-valve-mask (BVM) is bulky, with a detachable plastic bag and a mask. BVM is a hand-held device that is commonly used to ventilate nonbreathing victims. It may also be used to assist victims who have ineffective breathing pattern (shallow, labored and failing breathing) due to drug overdose. The bag-valve-mask comes in different sizes (newborn, pediatric, and adult sizes). It is important that the rescuer uses the right size of BVM to deliver the expected amount of oxygen.
It requires adequate training through advanced first aid course to properly and effectively use the bag-valve-mask. One problem with this device is that it is not easy establishing an effective seal. In fact, even healthcare providers need to go through training and practice to properly use this breathing-assist device. Without proper training, the use of BVM is futile.
When used for CPR, it is recommended that there are at least 2 rescuers: one secures and pumps the BVM while the other rescuer applies the chest pumps. If used properly, the BVM can be very effective; delivering up to 100% oxygen when connected with an oxygen source and 21% when there is no oxygen. To learn to use a bag-valve mask enrol in Red Cross CPR HCP courses here.
The Canadian Red Cross offers advanced training courses for healthcare workers to ensure the effective use of these breathing-assist devices.
Gout can occur in anybody; however, the likelihood of men getting gout is higher. Women are more prone to gout after menopause.
A sudden acute attack may wake you up while you are asleep in the middle of the night with a burning sensation in your big toe. The joint that is affected is often very hot, swollen and tender enough to make the weight of a bed sheet unbearable while sleeping.
Luckily, gout is treatable condition and you can follow many preventive techniques to reduce chances of recurrence.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms usually involve a sudden acute pain in the middle of the night, which may also include:
- Intense pain in the affected joint. Gout is most likely going to affect the large joint at the base of your big toe but it can also affect the joints of the feet, ankles, knees, wrists and hands. The pain often flares up within 12 to 24 hours of onset.
- Prolonged discomfort. Even if pain subsides, discomfort in the joint may linger for a few days to a few weeks. Attacks that occur later often ten to cause discomfort that lasts longer, affecting more joints.
- Redness and inflammation. The affected joint may become tender, swollen and red due to inflammation.
When to seek medical help
See your doctor if you experience a sudden and intense pain in any joint of your body. If left untreated, gout may progress causing pain that will be much worse along with damage to the joint.
Seek emergency medical help if your joint is hot, red and inflamed and if you have a fever as this may be a sign of an infection.
Gout occurs as a result of the accumulation of urate crystals in the joint that is affected causing acute pain and inflammation during an attack. Urate crystals form when the body contains a high amount of uric acid, which is produced by the breakdown of purines. Purines are derived naturally from food sources such as anchovies, mushrooms, asparagus and organ meats.
Uric acid dissolves in the blood, passes through the kidneys and gets drained out with your urine. However, sometimes, the body may produce excessive amounts of uric acid or your kidneys do not excrete urine adequately. This may result in uric acid buildup that forms into needle-like sharp crystals surrounding a tissue or joint causing extreme pain, swelling and inflammation.
Gout treatment usually involves the usage of certain medication prescribed by your doctor based on your current health state. Gout medications may treat acute attacks and also reduce future attacks in order to reduce complications that arise due to this condition.
Medication for gout attacks include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to control pain and inflammation
- Colchicines, if NSAIDs are ineffective
- Corticosteroid medication to reduce inflammation and pain
Be sure you ask your doctor about the possible side effects of prescribed medication.
Other medication may be taken to prevent complications due to gout such as:
- Medication that block the production of uric acid such as xanthine oxidase inhibitors
- Medication to improve removal of uric acid such as probenecid
Medication is the most effective treatment for gout; however, you may follow these lifestyle changes to reduce chances of gout from recurring:
- Drink 8-16 cup of fluids per day
- Avoid alcohol
- Limit daily consumption of meat, poultry and fish to 4-6 ounces
- Consume proteins moderately, preferably from low-fat sources, tofu, eggs, nut butters and fat-free dairy
The Achilles tendon is a tough fibrous band that connects the back of the calf of your lower leg to the heel bone. Over-stretching the Achilles tendon may cause it to tear or rupture. The tendon may tear partially or completely depending on how much the injury has progressed.
Upon the onset f the injury, you may feel a sudden snap or pop in your lower leg, which is usually followed by an excruciating sharp pain in the lower leg and the back of your ankle. The pain due to the rupture may also restrict you from walking or may not let you walk at all.
It is best to treat the injury through surgery in order to repair the ruptures tendon. However, for many people, often with mild tears, non-surgical treatment may work as well.
Important: This post on Achilles Tendon Rupture is for learning purposes only. To learn to manage these injuries, sprains and strains sign up for first aid and CPR training through the Canadian Red Cross.
Signs and symptoms
Sometimes Achilles tendon rupture may not cause any signs and symptoms, however, most people experience:
- Moderate to severe pain
- Swelling near the heel
- Inability to bend the affected foot downward
- Inability to push the injured leg while walking
- Inability to stand on your toes with the injure leg
- A sudden pop or snap when the injury takes place
When to seek medical help
See a doctor immediately if you hear an audible injury, such as in form of a pop or snap, in your heel – especially if you are unable to walk after hearing this sound.
Achilles tendon ruptures are usually caused from the following examples:
- Falling from a height
- Drastically increasing the intensity of sports activities
- Stepping into a hole
Treatment for Achilles tendon rupture usually depends on the age, activity and severity of the damage. Younger people usually choose surgical repair while older people may opt for non-surgical treatment.
This method of treatment involves wearing a cast for a required period of time followed by a walking boot with wedges that will keep your heel elevated. This will allow the tendon to heal. This is an effective treatment method, which avoids risks such as infection that may occur from surgery. However, with non-surgical treatment, the person may re-injure his tendon, in which case, the recovery period may be longer than last time. If the tendon gets re-injured, surgical repair may need to be sought.
This is a common treatment that involves making an incisions at the back of the lower leg followed by stretching the tendon together to repair the damage. Complications that occur as a result of surgery may include nerve damage and infection. The number of infections associated with surgeries is greatly reduced in surgeries that involve smaller incisions.
After treatment (surgical or nonsurgical), your doctor may instruct you to go through a rehabilitation regime which may involve physical therapy exercises that will strengthen the Achilles tendon and leg muscles. Most people can return to their normal physical activity after 4-6 months of rehabilitation.
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Whiplash refers to a neck injury which involves damage to any structure within a person’s neck. Common whiplash injuries include neck strain, neck sprain, neck contusion and neck fracture. Neck injury is typically caused due to motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries and falls. Neck injuries that involve damage to the soft tissues within the neck include lacerations, wounds, puncture wounds and abrasions.
A person with a whiplash such as a neck fracture may suffer from neck pain, neck swelling, neck tenderness, neck stiffness and neck muscle spasm. Severe injuries to the neck may cause leg weakness, arm weakness, leg numbness, arm numbness, loss of bowel control, loss of bladder control and difficulty walking.
If you report your condition to your doctor, he may treat whiplash with cold compresses, narcotic pain medication, NSAIDs for pain, a cervical collar and muscle relaxants. Severe neck injuries, especially those involving the spinal cord may require immediate surgery and treatment with corticosteroids.
Risk factors of whiplash
Risk factors associated with whiplash include:
- Alcohol intoxication
- Diving in shallow pools
- Drunk driving
- Contact sports
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of whiplash or neck injury include:
- Moderate to severe neck pain
- Swelling of the neck
- Tenderness of the neck – near the spine
- Neck stiffness
- Neck muscle spasm
Symptoms of severe whiplash include:
- Neck laceration
- Puncture wounds to the neck
- Severe swelling of the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Limb numbness
- Tingling of limbs
- Weakness of the limbs
- Urinary incontinence – loss of bladder control
- Bowel incontinence – loss of bowel control
- Difficulty walking
The doctor may prescribe the following treatment measures for mild neck injury:
- Rest brace
- Plenty of rest
- Avoid strenuous activity or any activity that may cause neck pain or neck discomfort
- Apply cold compresses frequently – continue applying for 3 days, 2-3 times per day for 20 minutes each
- Apply warm compresses for 72 hours after whiplash
- Perform neck stretching exercises
- Perform neck range of motion exercises
- Perform neck strengthening exercises as directed by your health care provider
- The doctor may prescribe massage therapy for the neck and physical therapy for the neck
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for pain – ibuprofen, naproxen or ketoprufen
- Take narcotic pain medication for short term use only in case of moderate to severe pain
- Take muscle relaxants as prescribed by your health care provider
- Ultrasound therapy may be performed by your doctor as a form of neck injury treatment
In order to prevent whiplash, follow these preventative steps for your own safety:
- Avoid contact sports if you are prone to injury
- Avoid driving after drinking
- Avoid drinking alcohol or consume in moderation – 2 glasses per day for men and 1 for women
- Always wear seatbelts while driving or travelling in a vehicle
- Avoid diving in shallow pools of water
- Perform neck exercises and stretched regularly to strengthen neck muscles
- Perform warm-up neck stretches before and after exercise
Complications associated with whiplash include:
- Herniated disk in the neck – slipped disc
- Chronic neck pain
- Nerve root entrapment
All snakebites should be considered a serious emergency. There are nearly 50,000 people who are bitten by snakes in the United States each year. Of this number, around 8,000 involve poisonous snakes, with about 12 deaths recorded each year. Usually, signs and symptoms of fatal snakebite develop within several hours after being bitten. Although fatalities due to snakebite are very few, it is best to be prepared for such an emergency. Normally, if snakebite leads to death, it proceeds gradually, unless severe anaphylactic reaction develops. Most deaths caused by snakebites occur at least one to two days after being bitten.
Important Disclaimer: the material posted on this blog is for information purposes only. Learn about poisonings and other emergency situations by enrolling in first aid courses (more information here).
Types of poisonous snakes
In North America, there are two types of predominant poisonous snakes: neurotoxic (nerve poisons) snakes and pit vipers. Coral snakes are the most common neurotoxic snakes and are considered the most lethal because of the strength and concentration of the venom. Meanwhile, pit vipers include cotton-mouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. There are also many Canadians who have a wide variety snakes as pets. These snakes can also cause snakebites.
Since people may react differently to snakebites, all snakebite cases should be considered very seriously and should be given immediate medical treatment. Keeping the victim calm and relaxed is critical. Normally, poisoning from venom occurs gradually, giving you enough time to transport the victim.
Unless the snake is positively identified as non-poisonous, all snakebites must be considered as potentially poisonous. Take note, the victim or bystanders could be mistaken so you have to make sure that the snakebite is positively identified by an expert. If the snake is captured or killed, it should be brought to the local poison control center for proper identification. However, never delay or postpone care of victim in order to capture the snake.
Signs and symptoms
Snakebites may result in the following signs and symptoms:
- Obvious bite on the skin (can be discolouration)
- Pain and swelling of bitten area
- Difficulty breathing and rapid pulse
- Progressive body weakness
- Dim or blurred vision
- Drowsiness or change in consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures or convulsions
- Ensure safety of victim. Keep the victim calm and warm.
- Observe for signs of shock; be ready to provide treatment for shock.
- Call 911 or local emergency service and local poison control centre. Be ready to listen and carry out instructions.
- Check for other injuries and provide first aid.
- Look for the fang marks and clean with soap and water. Usually, poisonous snakes only have one to two fang marks.
- Remove any constricting items (such as rings, bracelets, anklets) on the bitten extremity.
- Keep the bitten extremity immobilized by using splints. Try to keep the bitten area at the heart level or below the heart level.
- Use a light constricting band above and below the bitten area to limit flow of lymph, not the flow of blood.
- Transport the victim to the nearest healthcare facility for proper treatment.
- Continuously monitor the victim; provide reassurance.
Here are some important things to remember:
- Do not apply cold pack or ice bag on the wound unless instructed to do so.
- Do not cut the wound and squeeze or suction unless instructed to do so.
- Never try to suck the venom from the wound using your mouth.
The collarbone is the bone that links the shoulder blade to the upper region of the breastbone. Collarbone injuries are often caused due to sports injuries, falls, assaults, traffic accidents etc.
Signs and symptoms
- Pain—increases due to movement
- Tenderness in the affected region
- A bulge on the shoulder
- A crackling or bulging sound while moving the shoulder
- Inability to move the affected region
When to seek medical attention
If you suspect that you or anyone around you has experienced a broken collarbone, or if the pain in the shoulder is causing discomfort or the stiffness of the shoulder is not allowing you to move it properly, seek medical help promptly. A delay in treatment may lead to a poor healing process.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Take the person to the emergency room or the nearest health care provider for prompt treatment.
- On the way, immobilize the arm, if possible. It is important that you do not try to move the arm that is affected. Hold the affected arm near the body using the other arm. You may also sling the arm with the hand elevated above elbow level.
- Ease out the symptoms of the broken collarbone. This includes pain and swelling. For swelling, apply an ice pack–this will reduce pain as well. Additionally, you may give the casualty over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain. Avoid taking pain medication if there is a break in the skin–they may in turn require surgery to treat. Avoid giving aspirin to young children and teenagers under 18 years of age.
When the casualty reaches the hospital, the doctor may examine the broken collarbone through X-rays to see the condition of the chest and shoulder. Additionally, he may also sling the arm in order to immobilize it and also place a figure eight strap to maintain position.
For broken collarbones, surgery is not often required.
For more information about broken bones and how to manage, recognize and help enrol in the following Red Cross programs:
- Standard First Aid (click here to find a course)
- Emergency First Aid (click here to find a course)
- Standard Childcare First Aid (click here to find a course)
Lead poisoning has been dubbed as the silent epidemic because of its increased prevalence worldwide. According to recent statistics, about three to four million young children suffer from lead poisoning. This type of poisoning is more common among children under six years old, affecting 1 in every 6 children.
One major problem is that most parents are unaware that their child has lead poisoning. Often, it is too late when they have their child tested. High levels of lead in the child’s blood can cause major health problems that include:
- Mental retardation
- Brain damage
- Behavioral and cognitive problems
- Hearing loss
- Kidney and liver damage
- Delayed development
Extreme cases of lead poisoning can also cause death, especially when not treated immediately.
What is Lead?
Lead is a toxic metal that is commonly found in the earth’s crust. Because of its abundance, physical properties and cheap cost, the compound has been used as an aggregate for a wide variety of products including ceramics, paint, solders, pipes, batteries, gasoline, and even cosmetics.
Today, lead can be found in contaminated soil, dust, air and the paint of some buildings and homes built before the 80’s. Lead can also be found in small amounts in drinking water, lead-glazed pottery and lead crystal.
Is your child suffering from lead poisoning?
The only way to diagnose lead poisoning is through a blood test. Parents are highly encouraged to have their child tested for presence of lead in blood starting at 6 months until 24 of age, especially for children who are at risk of lead exposure. For example, if you live in a house built before 1960 and has chipping or peeling paint. Further tests may be conducted depending on the result of blood-lead test.
The test detects and measures the amount of lead present in the blood. You can consult your pediatrician to make necessary arrangements for the test.
How to keep your child safe from lead poisoning?
Here are some safety tips on how you can reduce a child’s exposure to lead:
- Make sure children have no access to peeling or chipping surfaces or chewable surfaces with lead-based paint.
- Vacuuming hard surfaces can cause dust to scatter. Wet mop or wipe hard surfaces instead.
- Wash children’s faces and hands before eating.
- Keep toys and pacifiers always clean by frequently washing it.
- Consult your local health department about lead-testing dust and paint in your home.
- Children should not stay in houses built before 1980’s that is undergoing repair or renovation.
- Create barriers in between lead sources and living or play areas.
- Keep your environment clean and eliminate all possible sources of lead.
- Regularly wet wipe window and wet mop floors.
- Remind children not to play in bare soil. If possible, have them play in sandboxes.
- Make sure children eat nutritious meals, especially calcium and iron, as they help clean the body off these wastes.
- If the soil in your home is likely to be contaminated with lead, put ground cover such as planting grass or adding a layer of sand or gravel.
To learn more about household poisons and preventing your child from coming into contact with harmful chemicals enrol in a first aid course with a Red Cross training provider near you. Candidates enrolled in standard first aid and childcare first aid programs will learn the skills to recognize and manage persons that may have succumb to poisons.
Related Video Lead Poisonings
The vertebral column is made of bones, ligaments, muscles, discs and nerves that protect the spinal cord while allowing the body to move smoothly. Damage or injury to any of its parts can lead to unpleasant sensation. Back injury is defined as damage to any part of the spine or vertebral column and its supporting structures resulting in discomfort and/or pain. The intensity, characteristic and amount of pain may vary depending on the type of injury sustained (e.g. sharp, dull or stabbing).
Back injuries can happen to anyone, anywhere. According to available studies, four out of five adults in the US will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Studies from The Cornell University Back Injury Prevention Program reveal that majority of back injuries in people under age 45 are work-related. Furthermore, these studies show that back injuries account for at least 20 percent of all reported occupational illnesses and injuries. The estimated annual loss due to such injuries ranges between $20 to 50 billion each year. Even minor back injuries can be costly and can greatly impact family and work operations.
Good posture is the key to preventing back injury. To maintain a good posture, you should stand or sit straight with your shoulders centered over your hips, making sure that your spine is fully supported and body weight is well distributed. By practicing good posture, you can avoid injuries and strengthen your back muscles.
Here are few more tips on how you can avoid work-related back injuries.
Tips on Preventing Back Injury
- Avoid overreaching and modify work habits that lead to sudden,
unnecessary movements. Keep objects you often used within arm’s reach.
- Make sure your workstation is well suited to your height. Avoid repetitive bending on your hips.
- When using the telephone for long time, use headset, speakerphone or shoulder rest. Never cradle the telephone between your shoulder and ear as it can strain your neck and upper back.
- When carrying heavy loads, such as briefcases, shoulder bags or luggage, use a luggage carrier, or balance or shift the weight equally to each side.
- Try to lighten your load by bringing only important items. Heavy briefcases and shoulder bags can throw you off balance.
- Ask for help if you are carrying heavy load or if the baggage is too awkward to carry. Use tools for moving goods such as trolley, handtruck, dolly or cart.
- Avoid unbalanced or awkward postures, such as sitting or standing with body weight shifted to one side, carrying wallet in back pocket, or crossing legs while sitting. Never slouch.
- Exercise regularly and get enough rest.
The Red Cross offers workplace safety training that includes modules for prevention of back injury. These first aid and CPR training courses contain essential information that aims to help minimize, if not, eradicate work-related back injuries. However, these modules are not intended to substitute health and safety training, programs and policies provided by the company.