Chest injuries are life-threatening and the extent of damage must be assessed right away. An individual can suffer a chest injury in various ways that can range from blunt trauma, puncture or compression injury. A chest injury can be closed in which the skin is still intact or open in which the skin is broken. An open chest injury is considered life-threatening but even a close chest wound can be serious as well.
Always safety first
The first rule when it comes to emergencies is to stay safe. Once you have determined that the scene is safe to enter, you have to wear gloves, mask and protective goggles from your first aid kit. With these protective gear, you are protected from blood-borne pathogens particularly hepatitis and AIDS.
Determine the cause of injury
You have to determine if the individual was involved in a fight, vehicular accident, and falls or sustained a direct blow with an object. In doing so, this will help you assess the seriousness of the chest injury as well as the suitable first aid measures and treatment to provide.
In case the skin is broken from a penetrating object or a cut, you have to listen for a sucking sound once the individual breathes. This indicates that air is being pulled into the cavity of the chest through the injury and he/she will experience difficulty breathing. You have to listen for gurgling or gasping noises. Make sure that you will prevent air from going into the chest.
Seal the open wound
The open wound must be sealed right away by using your gloved hand. In case you have occlusive dressing available, you have to use this to cover the wound. You have to leave a corner of the dressing unsealed so that it will allow the individual to exhale through the dressing.
If the individual has been impaled by an object, you have to leave it in place. Bandage the object gently in place and secure with a dressing from your first aid kit. This is why it is important to have a well-stocked kit so that you are prepared in case of emergencies.
First aid for a closed chest injury
If the injury is closed in which the skin is not broken, check for swelling, bruising or deformity. There is a possibility that there is damage to the lungs or heart. Observe his/her breathing if both side of the chest rise and fall equally. Take note that he/she is at risk for shock which is a life-threatening condition.
In case the individual has breathing difficulties, it is important to call for emergency assistance right away. While waiting for the medical team to arrive, you have to assist the individual to a comfortable position so that breathing will be easier. If head or neck injuries are suspected, do not move the head.