Holiday First Aid: A Primer in Three Acts…..

Now that the blog is gaining traction, The Partner couldn’t stand to sit on the sidelines.  He practically begged to write a post for the blog and who am I to deny the guy?  Honestly, I asked The Partner, who is also a licensed doctor, to give some helpful tips on some common first aid scenarios that arise during the holiday season.  In case you were wondering, yes The Partner is a real doctor –  medical degree from a fancy school and gainfully employed at a hospital in San Francisco.   So without further waiting, here are some helpful tips from Courtney Out Loud’s resident physician:

Happy Holidays to everyone. This is CourtneyOutLoud’s partner (AKA “The Partner”) writing to you today. Unlike Courtney, I have not an iota of talent with cooking or with home décor. In fact, I’m more liable to injure myself trying to do a home project than anything else! That’s why I’ve decided to contribute to this blog by providing some handy advice about what to do if you suffer a little physical indignity while attempting to make your home a special place for the holidays.  Here are three scenarios that you might run across…

1)      While I’m carrying my gorgeous 7 foot Douglas Fir into the house, it slipped from my hands and now I’ve got a splinter!

Photo: eHow.com


Splinters are generally harmless and many will work their way out on their own over time, but those that consist of organic matter are more likely to lead to skin infections, so it’s best to try to remove them. I recommend that they be removed immediately, as there won’t be as much inflammation around the splinter and it’ll be easier to get out. To remove a splinter, first wash the affected area well with soap and water. Then, try to squeeze the sides of the splinter or squeeze the base of the splinter to see if you can remove it.

If this doesn’t work, usually because the splinter is nearly entirely embedded in the skin, you’ll need some tools.  I use both a needle and a set of tweezers. In order to prevent infections, the needle and tweezers should be sterilized. Povidone iodine is best, but if you’re in a pinch, isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is generally okay.

Use the needle to create a little crater in the skin around the site where the splinter has inserted into the skin. Don’t stab yourself with the needle, rather, angle it and slowly push  the very top layer of skin away from the splinter circumferentially. When you have about 1-2 millimeters of exposed splinter, take your tweezers and grab the end of the splinter with the corner of the tweezer, grip firmly and pull. This may take a few attempts and it’s important to use the sharp corner of the tweezer. If unsuccessful, dig a little more with the needle.

Once you’ve removed the splinter, don’t forget to wash the affected area again with soap and water and then place a band-aid over the wound. Superficial splinters will heal in 2-3 days, but if it becomes inflamed, more painful, or starts to drain pus, seek medical attention as this could be the signs of a developing cellulitis or abscess.

2)      Ouch! I’ve burned myself…a) taking my Christmas ham out of the oven, b) accidentally touching the end of my glue gun trying to replicate Courtney’s coffee filter wreath, c) lighting the Menorah.

Graphic: http://www.purdue.edu


Burns are classified by the thickness of skin that’s injured. Generally, with household exposures, burns are mild and involve only the surface of the skin. The degree of injury is related both to the temperature of the contact and the time of contact. So, the first and foremost thing to do if you get a burn is to get the offending agent off your skin! This means wiping hot glue off your hands, rinsing off hot oil ASAP.  The longer the contact, the greater the damage!

Before I go on, if the burn happens in any of these areas – your face, eyes, groin (don’t ask, but I’ve seen it happen) – stop reading and go to the nearest ER. Burns on these areas can cause permanent scarring and affect bodily functions, so go get checked out right away.

Continuing on, after you’ve gotten the offending agent off, it’s best to rinse the burned area under cold water for 5 minutes or so. This will decrease the temperature of the skin and further limit the amount of thermal damage.  The key thing after rinsing is to see if the area is painful or not. Feeling pain is a good thing, as it signals only a superficial or partial thickness burn that will likely heal without scarring. If you don’t feel any pain or discomfort in the area and the area looks burned, you should be concerned about a full-thickness burn and should seek medical attention urgently. Fortunately, full thickness burns are uncommon with household activities.

It’s best to put on an antimicrobial agent on the wound, as it will help to accelerate healing of the wound. Common over the counter agents like Neosporin or Bacitracin work well.  Also, in a pinch, honey or aloe vera have natural antimicrobial properties and have been used as homeopathic remedies too.

Finally, for cosmetic reasons, I try to keep burns, scrapes or cuts out of direct sunlight exposure because all wounds will become hyperpigmented (darker) than the surrounding skin when exposed to sunlight. For the first 5 days or so after these injuries, cover them up with a band-aid. After the wounds have healed, put some sunscreen on those areas before you go out for a few weeks to keep them from darkening.

3) I’ve just had the best meal making some of Courtney’s treats, but now I’ve got an upset stomach. What’s the best remedy?


First, some foods are notorious triggers for an upset stomach. These include highly acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits. Caffeine, alcohol and strawberries are also common triggers. If you know these cause you problems, try to limit your intake of these foods.

An upset stomach can be caused by a variety of things, but probably the most common is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where acid that’s produced in the stomach refluxes, or regurgitates in the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort. I generally find calcium containing medicines, such as Tums, which are supposed to neutralize the acid, mildly helpful, but not particularly effective.  Far more effective are medications that actually suppress acid production in the stomach. The first class of medication are the H2 blockers  (Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet). These are all over the counter and provide quick relief. However, if GERD is a chronic problem for you, these medications are generally not potent enough and wane in effectiveness over time. If you do have chronic upset stomach or GERD symptoms, then a proton pump inhibitor (Prilosec, Nexium, Aciphex, Prevacid, Protonix) is much more potent and doesn’t lose effectiveness over time. Prilosec is the only one available over the counter and it’s pricey, so I would only use this class of medication if your symptoms are more chronic.

Hope this helps with those unfortunate accidents!  The Partner had a hoot writing this posting and is eagerly awaiting your feedback and follow-up questions.  Don’t disappoint him – leave a comment or shoot him an email at LifeOutLoudMail@gmail.com.  Until then, be careful, avoid spicy food and force your significant others to do the heavy lifting!  Check back next week for another set of holiday medical scenarios and answers from The Partner.

4 thoughts on “Holiday First Aid: A Primer in Three Acts…..

  1. Wish you’d posted this 2 days ago when I burned the mofo out of my hand and wrist on hot olive oil! Guess that’s what I get for ‘cooking.’ It blistered within 5 minutes and I thought my hand would have to be amputated…but it’s amazing how quickly it’s healing now?!? I think I must be a Cullen or something, I heal automatically. (let’s see if you get this reference…it will let me know if you’re in the ‘club.’)

    Also, my kids get splinters all the time…but they’ve learned to not even tell Mr. Sugarplum as he terrorizes and traumatizes them by sitting on them to trap and attack with needle and tweezers. They’re also prone to dramatic.

  2. Thank you for the first aid tips! Going to make the hubby read this – he is most likely to get a splinter and then either gouge the crap out of himself or ignore it until it is a festering wound.

    Here’s my burn question, I’m a high-yellow chick – mom pink, dad milk/cinnamon chocolate – and my minor household burns and scratches last freakin’ forever. I have a minor oven burn on my arm that is light, but its been there for three years! Do those scar-be-gone patches work or is there something I can do about these things? I’m covered in minor abrasion scars that I really don’t want to take to the grave but aren’t serious enough for me to invest in plastic surgery (with my maaaaagic money).

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