Basic First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit via Flickr, by DLG Photo

Do you know basic first aid? If you are a cyclist, you should. Cycling can be a dangerous hobby, and knowing first aid can help in an accident or crash. A study by St. John Ambulance determined that cyclists are 9 times more likely than others on the road to help fellow cyclists in an accident. Being prepared with your first aid knowledge can save more than just your own life.

In case of an accident, first aid skills can help stabilize a victim until an ambulance arrives. Also, it may be helpful to download this app for a quick first aid reference, and keep a small first aid kit with you when you bike. Check out the basic first aid tips (catered to cyclists) below to brush up on these skills.

CAB and Other Priorities

When you first reach the scene of an accident, you need to assess the situation and treat the most critical injuries first. Oftentimes if the victim is conscious, this can be done very easily by asking him what happened and where he is hurt.

If the victim is unconscious, however, this is far more difficult. You’ll have to assess his injuries and first aid needs on your own. Be sure to start with the most critical, life-threatening injuries or conditions, and always call 911 if you find someone unconscious. They can help walk you through these steps.

Remember CAB. The first things you will need to check are:

  1. Circulation–check to see if you can feel a pulse. If not, roll the victim until he is flat on his back and perform 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. Be sure to keep your elbows straight and use your whole body to compress the chest 2 inches.
  2. Airway–gently tilt the victim’s head back and check to see if he is breathing. (If you are untrained in CPR or uncomfortable giving CPR, the Mayo Clinic advises you to just continue with chest compressions and not worry about giving rescue breaths.)
  3. Breath–if they are not breathing, give the victim 2 rescue breaths, watching the chest to make sure it rises and falls. Be sure to put your mouth over the victim’s nose and mouth so air will not escape.

Continue giving 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths until help arrives.

Other Critical Injuries

If the victim has both a pulse and he is breathing on his own, you can begin treating his other injuries. If it looks like the victim may have hurt his neck or back in the accident, be sure not to move him unless he is in immediate danger. After you remember CAB (or, as some sites will tell you, after checking your ABC’s), then you can remember BBB. Check for:

  1. Blood
  2. Broken bones
  3. Bruises, sprains, and minor injuries

Remember to check them in this order, since losing blood is far more dangerous to the victim’s life than a few bumps and bruises. We’ll go into more detail of how to treat each of these injuries below.

Cuts, Bruises, and Scratches

Cycling accidents often result in minor (and sometimes more severe) injuries that break the skin.  If you arrive at the scene and the victim is bleeding heavily, apply pressure to the wound and try to elevate it above the heart.

DO NOT use a tourniquet on someone unless they are in danger of losing their life due to loss of blood. Tourniquets usually do more damage than good. Call an ambulance for further assistance, but be sure to maintain pressure until paramedics arrive.

Small cuts need attention too. If the wound appears to be dirty, clean it with clean water or with an alcohol-free wipe.  Be sure to clean the area surrounding the cut before pouring water or wiping to keep from spreading dirt and grime. Q-tips can also help clean out a wound. There may be a risk of infection with these types of injuries, so to be sure, seek medical advice if you think the wound has become infected.

If there is something embedded in the leg (like a piece of metal), DO NOT pull out the object. Instead, immobilize the object and the part of the body it is embedded in. Have the person lie down and try not to move. Try to keep them calm and comfortable until help can arrive.

If there is bruising, apply a cold compress and apply firm pressure with the victim in a comfortable position. Bruising is merely an outward sign of inward bleeding–and sometimes, this can be more serious than you realize, especially if the cyclist has been hit with considerable force. If the victim begins losing too much blood internally, his health could deteriorate quickly. Be sure to keep an eye on whether the victim is getting paler or beginning to slur his speech, get confused, or lose consciousness since these are all signs of deeper problems.

Dislocations, Sprains, and Fractures

Cycling accidents run the risk of you dislocating your shoulder, as well as spraining or straining other joints.  If this happens, there are things you can do until help arrives. If the victim has a dislocated shoulder, try to keep them still and try to immobilize the arm and shoulder using a sling or by tying the arm against the body. Try to secure the arm against the chest and wait until an ambulance reaches the scene.

If you think there has been a sprain or strain, help the victim get comfortable and try to create a cushion or padding underneath/around the injured area. If possible, try to raise the injury and apply pressure (preferably with a cold compress) to reduce swelling.

Pay attention to the pain level the victim is experiencing–instead of a sprain, it may be a break or fracture. If this is the case, only move the injured cyclist if they are in immediate danger (i.e. in the way of traffic). If the victim has strained or broken his arm, you can drive him to the hospital yourself after immobilizing the injury. If the leg or foot is fractured, however, it would be best to call an ambulance.

It’s important to remember that sometimes broken bones can cut through arteries, causing the victim to bleed internally. That’s why it is so important to limit bone movement–to keep from causing more damage. Remember, though an injury might look stable or small at first, things can change very quickly. Be sure to watch the victim closely for any sudden changes in coloring, coherence, pain, etc.

Head Injuries

Head injuries can be very serious. If the victim has lost consciousness for any period of time, they should be examined by a doctor. If the injured cyclist starts to doze off, complains of a headache, vomits, or is experiencing double vision, call 911. These may be symptoms of a severe concussion. Don’t let them eat or drink anything. Until help arrives, try to get the victim in a comfortable position and apply a cold compress to the injured area.

First-Aid Kit

It’s a great idea to create a small first-aid kit that you can carry with you whenever you bike. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy or expensive to be helpful. In fact, most of the supplies you need can be found around your house. Here’s a list of some things you would want to include in your kit:

  • Q-tips
  • bandaids
  • antibiotic ointment
  • gauze
  • aspirin
  • antiseptic wipes
  • cold pack
  • plastic gloves
  • scissors
  • ace bandage and triangular bandage
  • tweezers

If You’ve Been In An Accident

Even when there is someone to help you immediately after an accident, you may need legal help to navigate the claims process for your injuries. As avid cyclists ourselves, we understand the risks of the sport but also how we can help you get back on your bike and back to normal as soon as possible.  Contact us by phone at (801) 506-0800 or to come in for a free consultation.