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What to Do if You Cut Off Your Finger (and 9 Other Important Injury Tips)

Accidental injuries are a major concern in the United States, as 106,742 people died in 2002 from an unintentional injury. And, according to the National Security Council, Americans had one in 2,698 odds of dying from such an injury that year.

In-home injuries are also occurring at high rates. Between 1992 and 1999, an average of 18,048 people died each year from unintentional home injuries, according to research from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Injury Prevention Research Center.


Accidents do happen, and knowing what to do in an emergency will ensure that your family remains safe and sound.

Knowing what to do when an injury occurs -- for yourself, your child or another family member or friend -- can mean the difference between recovery or permanent injury and even life or death. So take a look through the tips below, and print them out if you like, so you have an idea of what to do if, and when, an unexpected injury occurs.

What to Do If …

1. Your Finger is Cut Off

If a finger is severed you have a six- to 12-hour window to attach it. The first thing to do is call 911, then gather all parts of the severed finger (even small parts), put them on ice and wrap it in plastic wrap. You can put the package into a jar or cup with a lid, but do not put the finger in water -- this will cause it to shrivel. Then get to the emergency room as soon as possible.

2. You're Bit by a Snake

One of the most important things to do, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent, is to remain calm, as this helps keep the venom localized in one place. Meanwhile, move away from the snake so that it can't bite you again.

As best as you can, don't move the area that was struck (this means, if you're hiking and are bit in the ankle, your friends should carry you out). This minimizes blood flow so that any poisonous venom does not spread, particularly to your heart. You should also take off any jewelry or clothing near the area, as they could become constricting when swelling occurs, and get to an emergency room as quickly as possible.

3. You Puncture/Cut an Artery

You can usually identify if you've cut an artery because bright red blood will squirt from the wound with each heartbeat, as opposed to freely bleeding. Do not attempt to care for this type of wound by yourself, as serious blood loss can occur. You should apply pressure to the wound to control the bleeding and call 911 and/or get to the emergency room immediately.

Poison Control Centers
National Hotline

Poison Control Centers

For any type of poisoning emergency, or non-emergency questions, call the Poison Control Centers National Hotline, 24/7, at: 1-800-222-1222.

4. You Get Poked in the Eye

Any number of things can be dangerous to the eyes: a finger, scissors, a friend's elbow, champagne corks, fireworks, toothpicks, forks, etc. In the event that you are poked in the eye, hard, do not rub it or try to remove any debris or a contact lens (unless there's rapid swelling and you can't get medical attention quickly).

You need to call 911 and get to the emergency room, as even seemingly minor injuries can cause serious injuries to the eye. You can try placing a loose bandage or patch over the eye in the interim to help keep it closed and alleviate pain.

5. You're Seriously Burned

First, call 911, and then make sure that any hot material is no longer in contact with the skin -- but do not remove any burnt clothing stuck to the burn. (A serious burn can also cause a person to stop breathing. In this case, clear their airway and administer CPR if necessary.)

Use a dry, sterile bandage or clean cloth to cover the burn, being careful not to break any blisters. If fingers or toes are burned, separate them with clean dressings. Next, elevate the burned area above the level of the heart and, as long as it is not uncomfortable, to prevent shock lay the person flat, elevate their feet about 12 inches and cover them with a blanket.

You should not apply ointment or creams or immerse the burn in water. This can cause further damage to the skin, or shock. Also, don't blow on the burn or try to give the person anything by mouth. Get medical attention as quickly as possible.

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6. You Get a Fishhook Caught in You

If the point of a fishhook is stuck in your skin, you can simply pull it out and wash the area with soap and water. However, if it's stuck in past the barb, pulling it out can cause more damage. Instead, push the hook through the skin until the barb comes out. Then, use pliers or wire cutters to cut off the barb, then pull out the rest of the hook and wash with soap and water.

You should seek medical attention immediately if a fishhook is caught in your eye or face, or embedded deeply into your skin. It is also a good idea to see a doctor even if you're able to remove the hook, as a tetanus booster shot may be needed.

7. You Splash Chemicals in Your Eyes

If bleach, ammonia, cleaning agents or any other chemical gets into your eyes, flush them with cool tap water immediately. Hold the eyelid open and allow running water from the faucet to flush the eye for 15 minutes (if both eyes are affected, water from the shower can be used).

If you're wearing contact lenses, and they don't fall out during the flush, you can try to remove them after flushing. You should then seek medical help immediately, and continue flushing the eye in the meantime.

8. You Get Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac

First wash the areas thoroughly with soap and water to remove any remaining irritants on the skin. In some cases, the best treatment may then be leaving the area alone. However, topical corticosteroid medications can be used to reduce inflammation (these do carry a risk of an irritating skin condition, even with over-the-counter varieties). Other options to help reduce itching and other symptoms include wet dressings, anti-itch creams (we like Quret Drawing Salve) and drying lotions.

9. You're Stung by a Bee

In a severe case when a person is allergic, use the Epi-pen or emergency kit if available and call 911 immediately.

For most stings, however, the following steps can be used: Remove the stinger by scraping it with a credit card or other flat-edged object (don't use tweezers, as these can increase the amount of venom released). Wash the area with soap and water and place an ice pack, wrapped in a cloth, on the site for 10 minutes. Wait 10 minutes more without the pack, then reapply the ice for another 10 minutes. An anti-itch cream may be used.

Watch for any signs of infection of swelling over the next few days and, if necessary, seek medical attention.

10. You Get a Concussion

A concussion can result if your head is hit with an object, such as a ball, you fall or are in another accident. Anytime you lose consciousness, blackout, feel confused, or have a persistent headache after hitting your head, you may have a concussion.

You should seek medical help right away, as a health care worker can give you a neurological evaluation and recommend proper treatment.

Recommended Reading

Serious Injury Toll in the Supposed Safest of Places Now Tops 12 Million: What You Need to Know to Be Safe

The Top 5 Causes of Head Injuries and How to Avoid Them


National Security Council

BBC News: How to Reattach Severed Fingers

Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia

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