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We’ve all had it happen. A twisted ankle, an overused knee, even an elbow or shoulder that seems to hurt after strenuous exercise. While playing sports on the weekends, or even just playing with the kids, minor injuries happen and the basics in first aid are a “must know” if one is to recover quickly and correctly.

Now everyone should know that if symptoms persist or if a more serious injury is suspected, or if your injury does not improve in a short time, you should seek medical attention immediately. But even if medical attention is warranted, what you do immediately upon injury will be important.

There are many ointments, salves and creams you can buy or even make at home to help in the healing process. Store bought formulas are pretty well known. We’ve all smelled the wafting of these at one point or another and herbal remedies can also help in the long term healing process. But the first 48 hours have some basic rules that should be followed.

Everyone can remember them…its easy. Just remember R.I.C.E. Yes, that spells rice. Stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These are the first things that should be done when an injury occurs and should be done for the first 48 hours. Professional opinions vary but unless you are a trained athlete that has overcome injuries like these and indeed even strengthened and prepared your body for just such a situation, these rules are pretty straight forward.

The first rule is rest. This is pretty obvious, and not too complicated to understand. It is, however, especially important if your injury is a low back or leg injury. Your body needs recuperation time and moving around, trying to get things will only aggravate the injury. Take time out, rest and avoid stress to help your body repair itself.

The next rule is ice. Using ice wrapped in a towel or a commercial “cold pack" helps you control pain by numbing the nerve endings and may reduce swelling by slowing the blood flow to the area. It is important to not place cold packs or ice directly on the skin as it can be damaging. If using ice cubes, cover the ice with a towel.

The third rule is compression using an elastic bandage, which should be part of every first aid kit. This is especially helpful for a joint injury, as isolation will prevent inflammation. Be very careful not to wrap too tightly, however, to constrict circulation.

And the last rule is elevation. Keep the injury comfortably elevated. A pillow is best if you are seated or lying down or in a sling for an arm injury. Elevating an injury will isolate the injury and keep it from being aggravated and promotes rest. It also helps slow the build up of swelling in the tissue around the injury.

Remember, always consult a physician if the injury warrants or if symptoms persist more that 3 days.