Hand Injury: Types and First Aid

Hand injury can be caused by many domestic and industrial accidents. Proper first aid and timely treatment can prevent significant loss of hand function.

What first aid measures should be taken when the hand is injured?

At the place of injury before directing attention to the hand it is important to quickly check if the victim has sustained any other serious injury that may be life threatening. This can be done by

  • talking to him and asking specifically if he feels pain else where or any thing else he suspects is wrong
  • if the injured can stand and walk then he probably has no other major injury

After ruling out life threatening injuries, attention is directed to the hand injury.

Bleeding from the hand can be controlled by

  • making the patient lie down and elevating the hand
  • applying pressure directly with your hand or fingers over the wound

Applying a tourniquet to control bleeding is usually ineffective, because in order for a tourniquet to be effective it has to produce a pressure 100 to 150mm of mercury above the systolic (upper) blood pressure. This is nearly impossible unless you have blood pressure measuring instrument.

Poorly applied tourniquets block the veins (vessels that carry blood back to the heart) this increases the back pressure and causes more bleeding.

So it's best to avoid using tourniquets.

Once you reach a hospital you will be

  • quickly and gently examined
  • asked to narrate the exact way you were injured
  • given a painkiller along with tetanus vaccine and an antibiotic
  • your hand injury will be quickly examined and dressed with a sterile gauze
  • x ray of the hand will be done to detect fractures
hand injury

Hemostat forceps and ligatures are avoided in the emergency room when dealing with hand injuries as they can damage nerves and blood vessels. This can make later surgical repair difficult.

Further treatment will depend upon the type and severity of the hand injury as assessed by the treating doctor.

Now we will see what first aid measures can be used in different types of injuries, including what to do and what not to do.

Thermal Burns are caused by heat. They are divided into three types

  • First degree (superficial, no blisters, only redness)
  • Second degree (blister formation, loss of sensation)
  • Third degree (skin is leathery, black to brown in colour)

First Aid in thermal burns is directed at reducing the heat. This is best achieved by pouring tap water over the burned area. You can douse a fire by a blanket (cuts off the oxygen to the fire), but don't keep the victim covered with the blanket as this will only allow the heat to inflict more damage.

Further treatment will be decided by your doctor according to the degree and the extent of the burn.

Electrical burns are more dangerous than thermal burns as in electrical burns the current (along with heat) causes tissue damage. Thermal burns damage tissues from outside to the inside (skin, muscle then bone). In electrical burns a small amount of skin may be damaged but a large amount of muscle may be burned. First aid for electrical burns is same as thermal burns.

Chemical burns are caused by acids, alkali and other chemicals. First Aid is by irrigation by copious amount of water to wash off the chemical. Don't try to neutralise an acid by pouring an alkali over it or the vice versa. This can cause more damage.

In frostbite tissue damage is caused by loss of blood supply. Heating the fingers or toes suddenly can cause more damage and shouldn't be done. Warming should be gradually done, by placing the patient in a tub of water at 38 degrees centigrade and slowly increasing the temperature to 40 degrees.

Injection injuries are caused when fluids such as paint, turpentine, grease and other substances are injected into the tissues. These are very dangerous injuries and you should immediately report to a hospital (even if the quantity of injected material is small). As a first aid you can try to remove as much material as possibly by gently squeezing back (don't overdo it).

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 6th February 2009.

Other causes of hand pain...

Bennett Fracture

Rolando Fracture

Dupuytren's Contracture

Hand Infection

Compartment Syndrome

Hand Anatomy

Go back from Hand Injury to Hand Pain


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