Farm and ranch owners and managers, as well as family members working on a farm or ranch, should receive first aid training. Having personnel trained in first aid who can respond appropriately to an accident can improve the outcome for a victim of an agricultural accident.
To obtain first aid training, check local hospitals, schools, emergency medical services (EMS), and similar resources for upcoming first aid classes. Sign up for a first aid or first responder class or organize a class for workers or local agricultural organizations. Several state and national organizations, including those listed below, may have courses or trainers available in your area:
Note that many institutions also offer online training courses.
Agricultural incidents can result in a wide variety of injuries. Below are some basic first aid instructions for common injuries and emergency situations that occur on farms and ranches.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause shock, breathing difficulties, and a drop in blood pressure. Triggers of anaphylaxis include medications (such as penicillin), foods (such as peanuts or shellfish), and stings from insects (such as bees, fire ants, and so on). Anaphylactic reactions can include the following symptoms:
Take the following actions to assist a person experiencing anaphylaxis:
Note that a person experiencing an anaphylactic reaction should not try to drink. Do not give water to a person suffering anaphylaxis.
For a short video by EpiPen on anaphylactic shock and the use of an epinephrine injector, click the image below.
A person experiencing anaphylaxis should be treated with an epinephrine injector only if he or she has been prescribed one by a physician or if the injection is administered by a licensed EMS provider. Complications can arise if epinephrine is used on some patients, especially patients with a history of cardiac problems. EMS responders should be called to manage a person having symptoms of anaphylaxis if the person does not have his or her own injector.
The most common animal bites are from domestic animals such as dogs and cats. Bites that result in puncture wounds have the greatest chance of becoming infected. Anyone who receives an animal bite that punctures the skin should be seen by a physician or go to the local emergency room.
Take the following actions to assist a person who receives an animal bite:
Depending on the bite, a physician may recommend that the person bitten get an updated tetanus shot (if his or her last injection was more than five years ago).
Take the following actions when a body part is cut or torn from a person's body in an agricultural accident:
Do not freeze the body part.
The three burn classifications are first-, second-, and third-degree.
Take the following steps to treat a minor burn:
Never use ice, butter, or ointment on a burn, and do not break blisters.
Treatment for a third-degree or major burn includes the following steps:
Never remove burned clothing that is stuck to a burned area; rather, cool the material and cut or tear around the area. Do not immerse large, severely burned areas in cold water. You may pour cool water on large burns if you can do so within 20 minutes of the victim receiving the burn. A doctor may recommend a tetanus shot for individuals who sustain third-degree burns.
Watch the following video by the Health and Safety Institute to learn more about first aid for a major burn:
A chemical burn occurs when living tissue comes in contact with a corrosive substance such as an acid, a base, an oxidizer, a solvent, a reducing agent, or an alkali. In agriculture, such substances are found in pesticides, lime and fertilizers, fuels, detergents, and sanitizers.
Take the following actions to assist a person who has sustained a liquid chemical burn:
When a person sustains a dry chemical burn, brush away the excess chemical with a gloved hand or a towel. Then follow the directions for threating a liquid chemical burn.
Contact 911 or local EMS if any of the following conditions apply:
An updated tetanus shot may be recommended by the attending physician if the injury requires a visit to the emergency room.
A person can receive a chemical burn to the eye when a chemical liquid is splashed in his or her eye or when the person rubs his or her eye after touching a chemical. Products at work and in the home that can cause chemical burns to the eye include cleaners, solvents, disinfectants, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Take the following steps to treat a chemical burn to the eye:
Never allow the victim to rub his or her eyes. Note that chemical burns to the eye may cause light sensitivity, so the victim may need to wear sunglasses when going for emergency care.
An electrical burn burns from the inside of the body outward. Although an electrical burn may appear to be minor and may not even be visible on the skin, damage can occur deep in tissue. Strong electrical currents going through a person’s body can cause internal damage (such as heart-rhythm disturbance or cardiac arrest) or burn a person’s nerves, blood vessels, tissues, or organs.
When a person may have an electrical burn, first evaluate the scene to determine whether the person is still in contact with the electrical source. Do not touch the person until you have first turned off the source of electricity. Then take the following actions:
Choking occurs when a foreign object becomes lodged in a person’s throat or windpipe, hindering air flow as the person tries to breathe. If the choking victim is conscious, ask him or her whether he or she is choking and whether you can help him or her. If the victim cannot cough, speak, or breathe, contact 911 or local EMS. Then begin administering abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver:
Do not administer abdominal thrusts if the person is coughing, but rather encourage him or her to continue coughing to dislodge the object.
If you encounter a person with an object embedded in his or her skin, do not remove the item. Removal of the impaled object could cause uncontrollable bleeding or damage to nerves and blood vessels near the injury site. Make sure that the object remains in place by putting clean dressings or gauze around the object. Once the object is immobilized, wrap the area with gauze and get emergency medical treatment for the injury.
A fracture is a complete break, chip, or crack in a bone. All bone fractures require medical attention. Contact 911 or local EMS if any of the following conditions apply:
While you are waiting for EMS responders, attempt to stop any bleeding, immobilize the area, apply ice packs to decrease swelling and relieve pain, and treat the victim for shock (if applicable).
If you need to transport the victim, you should first immobilize the injured body part with a soft, rigid, or anatomical splint.
If fractures occur between two joints, a splint should extend to cover both joints. Likewise, if a fracture occurs on a joint, the splint should extend to cover the bones above and below the joint. Once the splint is complete, apply ice and elevate the injured body part. Do not put ice directly on the skin; place a towel between the ice and the person’s body.
Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissue freeze due to exposure to cold. The severity of frostbite depends on temperature, exposure time, and wind. Areas typically affected by frostbite include the hands, feet, arms, legs, nose, and ears. Common frostbite symptoms include skin discoloration (white or grayish-yellow); cold skin temperature; skin that feels hard or waxy; and skin that is itchy, burned, or numb. Frostbite is categorized by degree of severity: frost nip, superficial frostbite, and deep frostbite. Skin may be red and painful when the area thaws.
If you experience frostbite, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Take the following actions while awaiting treatment:
If a person sustains a moderate or severe head injury, contact 911 or EMS immediately. Symptoms of head injury include the following:
In the event of a severe head trauma, keep the injured person still and calm while you are waiting for EMS responders. Do not move the injured person unless absolutely necessary. Try to stop any bleeding by applying firm pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage. Do not, however, apply direct pressure to a severe head wound. If the bandage becomes soaked with blood, do not remove the bandage, but rather place an additional bandage on top. If there is any debris in the wound, leave it in place for medical professionals to remove. Begin CPR if the person exhibits no signs of breathing or circulation.
An adult has approximately 12 pints of blood in his or her body, so loss of even a pint of blood can be serious. Bleeding can be internal or external. When a person has internal bleeding, others may not be able to see or do anything to treat the source of the bleeding.
Follow the instructions below to provide first aid to a person who has external bleeding:
Shock occurs when a person is not getting adequate blood or oxygen to his or her organs. In such a situation, the body responds by entering a survival state with the purpose of counteracting such life threatening conditions as excessive loss of blood. A person can experience shock as a result of an injury, heatstroke, severe burn, and so on. Symptoms of shock vary, but common signs include the following:
If you think a person is in shock, call 911 or your local EMS. While waiting for EMS, have the person lie down, and check for signs of circulation, keep the person comfortable and warm (but not overheated), and raise the person's legs 10 to 12 inches (as long as doing so will not cause the injured person discomfort or pain). Do not give the injured person food or liquids even if the person asks for something to eat or drink; shock can shut down blood flow to the stomach, hampering digestion.
For more information about preparing your farm or ranch personnel for an agricultural incident, here to be linked to the article "Basic CPR" and here to be linked to "First Aid Kits for Production Agriculture."
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