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Temporary Treatment for Sprains and Breaks

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Broken Bones: The Four Fs

A broken bone is called a fracture. There are four types of fractures:


Never give a person with a broken bone anything to eat or drink or any medication to swallow. It can cause nausea and blockage, which can further damage the injured area or cause breathing problems.

  • A simple fracture (also called a closed fracture) is when the bone breaks cleanly in two. The skin remains intact and unbroken, and all the damage is internal.
  • A compound (or open) fracture is a fracture in which the skin is most definitely broken, either from an object that pierces the skin and breaks the bone within, or from a part of the broken bone itself that pushes out through the skin. Treat any bleeding from the open wound by gently wiping it away with a clean cloth.
  • A comminuted fracture has multiple breaks in one bone. These breaks can be simple or compound (they may or may not pierce the skin).
  • A green stick fracture is a “young” break that doesn't go straight through the bone (similar to a young green tree branch that doesn't break completely in two). This type of fracture usually occurs in children because their bones are not yet mature and firm.

The Joys of Ace Bandages


Using an Ace bandage on an arm, leg, or shoulder can inhibit circulation and cause the same heart and circulation problems that a tourniquet can.

These versatile elastic strips of flesh-colored cloth are best for problems in small places: ankles, wrists, feet, and hands. As a matter of fact, they are perfect for keeping small areas immobile, aligned, and comfortable.

To use an Ace bandage, simply place one end of the bandage on, say, the ankle. Holding that end in place with one hand, use your other hand to wrap the bandage around the ankle and around the foot, turning and turning, until it is secure. (You can remove your first hand when the wrap becomes stable.)

You secure the bandage in place with the two clips that come with it. These clips have tiny hooks that slip into the bandage itself wherever you want to place them. They are much more convenient and safe than safety pins and much more secure than tape.

Ace bandages are ideal for wrapping ankles.
Ace bandages are ideal for
wrapping ankles.

Treating Sprains and Breaks

There are four basic rules when it comes to “dem bones” first aid:

  • Get the injured person to an emergency treatment location as soon as possible.
  • Keep the injured area immobile to prevent further injury and excessive pain.
  • While you are waiting, watch the person's vital signs (those ABCs: Airways clear, Breathing regular, Circulation steady). You do not want the injured person to go into shock (see Performing Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation).
  • Remember: There is very little you can do to repair broken bones or tissue damage. You can only make waiting a little easier.

Bandaging sprains and breaks to keep injured arms, legs, shoulders, feet, and hands immobile is an important part of the waiting game. Using Ace bandages, splints, and slings, you can do a very competent job of keeping the injury status quo. Bandaging Wounds contains step-by-step instructions for bandaging different parts of the body.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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