First Aid Tips for a Hand Injury

hand injury

In 2015, 143,000 hand-related injuries were reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These hand injuries resulted in workers losing an average of five work days. 

And those were just the hand injuries that happened while at work. A hand injury can be anything from a minor scratch to severe lacerations such as a deep cut on the hand. 

The more quickly an injury to the hand is addressed and cared for, the easier it is to ensure a positive outcome. But that only happens if you know what steps to take. 

We’re committed to making sure you keep all 10 of your fingers safe and intact. With that in mind, keep reading. We’re sharing with you everything you need to know to treat a hand injury. 

Hand Injury Causes

There are different types of hand injuries. They can be divided into six different general causes:

  1. Burns
  2. High-pressure injuries (grease or paint guns)
  3. Infections
  4. Fractures and dislocations
  5. Lacerations (cuts)
  6. Soft tissue injuries and amputations

Other types of common hand injuries are:

  • Broken hand
  • Finger injuries
  • Finger infections
  • Nail injuries
  • Wrist injuries

Some injuries are minor, such as a paper cut, and can be handled by yourself. Other injuries, such as amputations, require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of Hand Injuries

It’s important to make note of what type of symptoms you experience so you can get the right type of help. 

Burns

There are four different levels of burns. First degree burns are the least severe and result in red, unblistered skin. 

Second degree burns blister and you may notice some thickening of the skin around the injured area.

Third-degree burns are very severe. You’ll notice a widespread thickness that has a white, leathery appearance.

Fourth-degree burns are the most severe. They not only have the same symptoms as a third-degree burn, but this type of burn also extends past the skin into bones and tendons. 

Symptoms of Burns

Typical symptoms for burns include:

  • Black areas of tissue
  • Blistering
  • Change in texture of the skin
  • Deformity
  • Discoloration
  • Tenderness or complete numbness
  • Loss of tissue
  • Redness
  • Tenderness or complete numbness

High-Pressure Injuries

High-pressure injuries, usually caused by grease or paint guns can result in the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling

On occasion, a high-pressure injury may cause discoloration. 

Infections

Sometimes a cut or burn ends up getting infected. Common symptoms for infections include:

  • Decrease range in motion
  • Deformity
  • Localized warmth
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

While not common, it is possible for a fever to develop as a result of an infection to the hand. 

Fractures and Dislocations

Not only are fractures and dislocations to the hand, wrist or fingers painful, they can also include the following symptoms:

In extreme cases, the bone may protrude through the skin. 

Lacerations

A laceration can be anything from a cat scratch to a deep cut on hand. Common symptoms include:

  • Bleeding
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Weakness

You may also notice that your skin loses its color and looks either pale or bloodless. 

Soft tissue injuries and amputations

These types of injuries should always be considered serious. Typical symptoms include:

  • Bleeding
  • Numbness
  • Swelling and discoloration
  • Weakness

You may also experience a deformity that may or may not include tissue and/or bone loss. 

Treating Hand Injuries at Home

While hand injuries can be painful and scary, it’s important for you to remain calm so you can think clearly and help yourself. Take a few deep breaths if you feel faint or panicked. 

If in doubt, contact your physician to inquire about the injury. If it looks minor and you feel you can treat it at home, here are some suggestions based on what type of injury you have. 

Treating Burns at Home

Most of the time, a first-degree burn can be addressed at home. However, if you see signs of oozing or the pain won’t go away after a few hours, contact your physician. 

How you treat a burn often depends on what type of burn you receive. 

Thermal

For thermal burns caused by heat, run cool or cold water over the burn. Do not use ice. Then cover the injury. 

Chemical Burns

Irrigate the wound using lots of water to help you remove the chemicals and stop the burn from getting worse. Next, cover the injured area. 

Frostbite

Frostbite isn’t a joke. If not treated properly, it could result in permanent damage. 

If you’re outside, seek shelter immediately. Then, rewarm the injured area using a warm water bath or soak. Cover the injury afterward. 

Treating Infections at Home

For infections, you’ll need antibiotics to kill the bacteria and prevent it from spreading. Treat this type of injury at home by keeping the area dry and clean and immediately seek medical attention. 

Treating Fractures and Dislocations at Home

If you think you’ve fractured, broken or dislocated your hand, wrist or finger(s), begin by immobilizing the area. Try to splint the hand if you can. 

Next, if the bone is exposed, cover the injury with a clean towel. You can also use a cloth or gauze. 

While ice will help with pain, remember to only apply ice for 20 minutes at a time. And again, never apply ice directly to the skin to avoid further injury to your hand. 

Then seek out professional medical attention.

Treating Lacerations at Home

A cut finger can become a serious problem. Do not ever let a cut go unattended immediately after injuring it. Otherwise, you’re at risk for developing an infection.

Begin by looking at the wound to determine how severe the injury is. Inspect the wound to see if it’s a jagged tear or a clean cut. 

Look to see if it’s a superficial or deep cut. Then find the source of the bleeding and proceed from there. 

How to Clean a Cut Properly

It’s best to use water to clean your wound. If you choose to use soap, use the mildest soap you can find.

And while you may be tempted to use iodine, alcohol, Mercurochrome or even hydrogen peroxide, don’t. Iodine, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide can cause tissue damage.

And Mercurochrome contains mercury, which is a heavy metal. 

Apply Pressure and Dress the Wound

Begin by applying pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. Try to wash any dirt or debris off the wound. 

Using gauze, a Band-Aid or even a clean towel, cover the wound to prevent further injuries or contamination. If there is anything lodged in the hand, such as a knife or nail, do not remove it. 

If the wound begins bleeding through the gauze or towel, do not remove the bandage and replace it with a new one. Instead, just add more bandage to what you’re already using. 

Cover the Wound With a Plastic Bag

Use a watertight plastic bag to cover the wound and seal it to prevent further problems. 

Then seek medical attention so they can properly clean the wound and remove any foreign bodies. 

Treating Soft Tissue Injuries and Amputations at Home

Begin by applying pressure to stop any bleeding. Next, cover the injury using a damp bandage. 

Try to elevate your hand above your heart. This will help to reduce the bleeding. 

If an amputation occurred, retrieve the amputated body part, if you can. The recovered body part should be kept damp and near ice to it remains cool. 

However, do not place the body part directly on the ice. You don’t want it to freeze.

Next, immediately seek medical attention. 

High-Pressured Injuries

Any high-pressure injuries need swift medical attention. Cover the wound and head immediately to the ER. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

If in doubt, contact your doctor or seek immediate medical attention. Do not delay getting help because it can result in your injuries become much worse. 

If you have the following symptoms, you should head straight to your local emergency room to seek out medical attention:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe pain
  • Numbness
  • Loss of motion or strength
  • Amputation
  • Deformities

If you can see any underlying structures such as your bones, joints, arteries, veins, nerves or tendons, it’s an emergency. Also, if you see the following signs of infection, you need to head to the ER. 

  • Tenderness
  • Local warmth
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus
  • Fever

Any dirty or deep, open wounds require immediate medical attention. Any wounds caused by an animal or human should be looked at. Coming into contact with teeth often leads to infections. 

What to Expect While Seeking Medical Care 

If you seek out care at your doctor’s office, there’s a good chance they already have your medical history. However, here are common questions you may be asked no matter where you seek out care. 

The physician and their staff need to know your past medical history. If you smoke, have diabetes or arthritis, you need to let them know. 

Common Questions Asked During the Injury Assessment

They’ll also want to know if you’re left or right-handed. Common follow-up questions include how asking how you use your hands for work, activities, and hobbies. 

And, of course, the medical team assisting you will want to know exactly how your injury occurred. Share as much information with them as possible. The more information they have at their disposal, the easier it is to treat you properly. 

What a Typical Physical Examination Looks Like

Next comes the physical examination. Typically the medical staff will visually look at your injury to assess the damage.

The medical team will also give you a sensory nerve exam to see if you’ve lost any feeling. Vascular exams help them determine how well your blood circulation is and how much blood you’ve already lost if you’re bleeding.

A muscular and tendon exam helps them ascertain how well you can move the injured area and whether you’ve lost any strength. And, they’ll also perform a bone exam to check for any broken bones or dislocated joints. 

Medical Treatment for Lacerations, Dislocations, and Fractures 

Once the medical team has thoroughly examined you, they’ll begin to treat the wound. How they treat the wound depends on the type of wound and the severity of it.  

Lacerations 

For lacerations, they’ll evaluate whether any arteries, muscles, nerves or tends are involved. They’ll then numb the area using local anesthesia. 

Next, they’ll clean your wound by cleansing and irrigating the wound to get a better look at the damage. They’ll remove any dead tissue and then repair or close the wound. 

Then they’ll dress and possibly splint your wound. 

Often, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics and told to use (or prescribe) pain medication. You may also need a tetanus shot at this point. 

Some wounds may require stitches.

Dislocations and Fractures

When you seek medical attention for a dislocation, they’ll provide you with pain relief and then have you take an x-ray to evaluate the injury. 

If no fractures or lacerations are found, the medical team will put the bone back in place. You may need additional pain meds during this procedure as it’s usually fairly painful. 

Next, they’ll re-examine your injury, then immobilize it using a splint or budding tape. You may require another x-ray to confirm everything is back where it should be. 

You’ll then be referred to a hand surgeon or orthopedist to help you with the rest of your care. It’s recommended you make an appointment with one of them within 24-48 hours.

Soft Tissue Injuries and Amputations

These types of injuries are often devastating to both the hand and the patient. The medical team will start by stabilizing you while trying to preserve the amputated body part. 

Next, they’ll evaluate your injuries and provide you with pain medication. They’ll take an x-ray to rule out other injuries and assess the damage. 

You’ll then be referred to a hand surgeon to repair the damage.

Infections, High-Pressure Injuries, and Burns

For infections, they’ll check for gangrene. Then they’ll put you on antibiotics.  

For high-pressured injuries, you’ll need x-rays, a tetanus shot, and antibiotics. You may also need a splint.

For burns, treatment depends on the severity of the burn. Les severe burns require cleaning and dressing. 

More severe burns such as electrical burns may require IV fluids and cardiac monitoring. 

We Can Help Repair Your Hand Injury

Our team of medical professionals is here to help you with your hand injury. Whether you injure it at home, work, or while playing sports, your recovery is important to us. 

We can also help if you are experiencing pain due to arthritis. But we can’t help until you contact us. Click here to get started

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