Surprisingly, us DIYers are a bit of an accident prone bunch. I guess between the glue guns, drills, electric saws, knitting needles, paint brushes and countless other tools we all use throughout our DIY adventures, we are bound to hurt ourselves at some point. Fortunately, for me (and for you), we have our resident “DIY Doctor” on call to answer all of our first aid questions.
After the amount of feedback we got from his first posting (plus all the positive accolades y’all heaped on him), The Partner
got a big head was excited to dive into writing a second posting answering all the questions you sent in. In this posting, our DIY Doctor will be addressing how to handle eye injuries and protecting your back…….
Who would have thought that cooking and crafting could be so hazardous to your health? Thanks for your follow-up questions from my last post. Based on that, I’ll answer a few more health-related dilemmas you might run across getting ready for that perfect holiday party.
I’ve gotten a little too glitter-happy when I was making my holiday centerpiece and a piece has flown in my eye and now it’s painful and red…
When a foreign object enters the eye, it can cause quite a bit of irritation. If there is significant trauma, it can also cause injury to the cornea, also known as a corneal abrasion. Now, glitter is one thing, but if something hard hits your eye at high velocity, make sure to seek medical attention immediately to be evaluated for a penetrating eye injury. One can’t always tell if an object has penetrated into the eyeball, so if something hard has hit the eyeball quickly, don’t wait and go to the ER. This is an emergency.
For all other injuries, check to see if the foreign object may be still in the eye. You can inspect the eye in a mirror, or better yet, have someone else take a look. Many objects can get caught underneath the eyelid, which can be difficult to see. You can actually take a cotton tip swap and roll the eyelid over (invert the eyelid). I know it sounds gross, but it’s totally safe to do and allows you to take a good look.
If there is an object in the eye, rinse it out with lukewarm water. DON’T rub the eye – it’ll only cause more irritation and might damage the cornea. If there isn’t an object that you can see, rinse anyway…there still might be something there and you should make sure you get it all.
If there’s only irritation, removing the foreign body should do the trick and the irritation should pass within minutes to a few hours. If there is a corneal abrasion, the pain will persist, and typically last for 3-5 days. Generally, no therapy is needed and the abrasion will heal itself over that time. There has been a great deal of controversy about different therapies for corneal abrasions, including patching, antibiotic drops, etc. None has really been shown to improve healing. In addition, steroid drops should NEVER be used, as they can slow healing. Also, rubbing the eye can make things worse and slow healing, so don’t touch the injury.
Two last things…first, if an eye injury occurs with a soiled substance (i.e.dirt) or an organic substance (i.e. a vegetable), there is a higher risk of infection of the corneal abrasion becoming infected or ulcerating. If you see an ulcer in the eye, or the pain doesn’t get better, see an ophthalmologist immediately. These infections are rare, but if they do occur, can spread rapidly and compromise your eyesight.
Second, if your eye comes into a contact with a noxious chemical, please verify what went into your eye before you rinse. If you come into contact with lime (the chemical, not the fruit), hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid, DO NOT expose the eye to water! It will cause a heat reaction and make things worse. Go to the ER immediately then. For all other contact, rinse your eye thoroughly for a good 15 minutes and if pain persists, see a MD.
I’ve gotten that splinter out of the Douglas Fir that I was carrying, but man, it was heavy and I think I threw out my back.
The best way to treat a back injury is to avoid them altogether. Many back injuries occur because of improper lifting technique. First, never try to lift something that you don’t think you can handle…you can always look for that hunky dude down the street to help you out. Second, a little planning before you lift something heavy can go a long way. First, make sure that you can get a decent grip on the object and that you can keep your hands close to the core of your body. That way, you’ll be able to use as much leverage as possible. Second, do a good squat and lift with your legs; they’re far stronger than your back. Bending from your waist is a recipe for an injury. Also, it’s helpful to tighten your abs right before you lift – a tight core will help to stabilize your back muscles.
Unfortunately, back injuries still occur commonly. If this happens to you, here are a few tips. First, to reassure you, over 90% of all back injuries will heal themselves over time, even those that may involve the sciatic nerve (aka sciatica, which is back pain, coupled with shooting nerve pain to the buttocks and down the legs).
Second, stay modestly active. Bed rest actually impedes healing and can lead to worsening muscle spasm and rigidity. You should focus on doing gentle stretching exercises (emphasize gentle…none of those Jane Fonda bouncing stretches) and walking daily. Avoid lifting heavy objects (duh) and also avoid high-impact exercises.
Third, heat is your friend, as it helps to loosen muscles. A warm shower or bath, coupled with intermittent warm compresses, can be helpful. I’m not a huge fan of medication use, but if you need more help with pain, a NSAID (such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen) has both pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. I think they are superior to Tylenol, which has no anti-inflammatory properties and Aspirin, which is fraught with bleeding/ulcer complications at doses needed to provide pain relief. If the pain is really severe, seek medical attention, as short bursts of stronger narcotic pain medications and/or muscle relaxants may be helpful, although they tend to be quite sedating and can interfere with work and driving.
If you back pain lasts for greater than 6 weeks or they are associated with neurologic signs other than sciatica, such as numbness in the groin or bowel/bladder incontinence/retention, please don’t tough it out and go see an MD.
The one good thing about a back injury during the holidays is that you can get sympathy points from your friends and make them do stuff for you, so all is not lost. Happy Holidays!
Big thanks to the resident DIY Doctor for his medical expertise! If you like this section, keep the questions rolling in at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.