What To Do If You Find That You Have Injured Yourself

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It happens when you least expect it: you're innocently cooking a pizza while Voguing to the bumper music on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me when suddenly, you graze your wrist against the piping hot oven tray. Or you're chasing your dog around and your foot meets an earring laying back-up on the floor. Or an errant slice with a knife chopping allium turns your white onions red. Whatever you did, you are now in searing pain. How are we going to fix this?


First, you should determine whether or not you need to go to the hospital. Don't call the hospital and ask if you should come in; I learned this the hard way. Uh, twice. If you call and ask if you should seek medical care, the hospital will almost certainly suggest you come in lest you sue the scrubs off them after not seeking necessary treatment. Since this column is called Lady MacGyver and not Dr. MacGyver, it would be irresponsible to provide advice about exactly how you can tell the difference between a bruise and a detached blood clot heading straight for your lungs, so use your judgement. For the love of Crayola crayon band aids, don't sit around tinkering with home remedies when your arteries are spurting. If you can see multiple layers of skin or there's some exposed bone occurring, you've got a puncture wound and haven't gotten a tetanus booster shot in more than 10 years, or if you've got a blister that's bigger than 3 inches across, go to the doctor. But if your injuries are minor, there's no reason to involve the authorities.

If you cut yourself, the first thing you should do is stop the bleeding. Gentle pressure with a clean bandage or cloth should do the trick. Next, wash the wound under cool, clear water. You can use soap carefully on the area around the injury, but don't wash the injury itself, as that could lead to irritation. Even though it looks really cool and feels kind of bad in a hurts-so-good way, there's no need for hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on a minor cut; all you need is a topical antibiotic ointment like Neosporin and a boring old Band Aid.

Puncture wounds are the humorless cousin of cuts. While they might not bleed as much (or at all), they're much trickier and run a higher risk of infection. This is partly due to the fact that much of the injury isn't exposed to air, but also due to the fact that puncture wounds often come from pretty unhygienic places, like cat mouths or nails you accidentally step on. The best you can do is wash the wound with clear water, apply a topical remedy, and monitor for signs of infection. Again, if you haven't gotten immunized in a dog's age, buckle down and see a doctor. Or die of tetanus, which is almost as embarrassing a thing to die of as tampon-induced Toxic Shock Syndrome. Up to you. It's your body.

There's no getting around the fact that pound for pound, burns suck more than just about every other minor injury combined, and unless you treat them right, they're going to continue to hurt for awhile. First, get thee to some cool (but not ice cold) running water to soothe and cleanse the injured area. If your burn happened as the result of a Ricky Martin hot wax concept scene video shoot accident, you may need to twist yourself around in a tub in order to get to the water you need, and I hope you learned your lesson. Next, cover the burn with a cool cloth, but don't press or rub. I've heard people swear by putting butter or ice on a burn, but that's not actually recommended by doctors. Butter or any oil put on a burn will trap heat near the damaged surface of your skin and subject you to burny pain for longer; ice will restrict blood flow to the area and slow healing (don't do what the burglars do in Home Alone, basically). Pop some ibuprofen if you must, and avoid rubbing the area. Keep in mind that the burned skin will be extra susceptible to scarring and injury over the course of the next year or so, so put sunscreen on it unless you think scars are awesome and you want one for added cred (they are; you do).

Even though burns hurt the worst, black eyes are clearly the King of Minor Wounds by virtue of their potential to humiliate the bearer. Thus, it's important to do everything you can to make sure you don't run around town looking like you just lost a boxing match after getting hit in the eye. As soon as you get bopped, get an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables and apply moderate pressure to the eye socket, but not the eye itself. If you've got a wide selection of vegetables in your freezer, go for frozen peas. Ice the eye for 15 minutes per hour every hour for an entire day or until you decide that it's not worth the effort to try to prevent swelling anymore. Keep your head elevated. Don't use raw steak on your face; that's just asking for infection.

So, what did we learn today? Injuries happen, especially if you're accident prone and undertrained in combat knife usage and trying to do battle with a samurai. Sometimes, you'll have to enlist the help of professionals to fix injuries, but other times, you can just rely on your own pluck to cure what ails. And you should be proud of your basic adult aptitude.
Even though you're not a real doctor, you play one in your house.



How long should I wait to go to the doctor for a knee injury? I hurt my knee two weeks ago, twisted it pretty bad. No longer swollen but hurts bad on the inner side of me knee. I'm not sure if it's th ligament/tendon and possibly torn or if it's just a sprain. I was thinking about waiting 1 more weeks since they typically won't do an MRI for the first few weeks.