Smart Driving: Rendering aid

Knowing how to perform a few basic procedures will help you and your fellow drivers lead healthier lives

When Rick Hunter visits companies to lead trucking safety meetings, one of his favorite door prizes is a 16-item first-aid kit. While the focus has been on preventing “slips, trips and falls,” the director of loss control and safety for the Alabama Trucking Association Workers Compensation Fund wants to prevent all kinds of injuries.

“Truckers are always going to get skinned knuckles, cut fingers, splinters — so we try to work with them to make their jobs more comfortable,” Hunter says.

Hunter acknowledges that, among truckers, basic first aid often gets overshadowed by broken bones, knee sprains, pulled ligaments and other injuries suffered on the job. But it’s the burns, cuts, insect bites and sunburns that can make life miserable behind the wheel.

Hunter says the key injuries or medical problems truckers need to be able to treat on the road include hand cuts and scrapes, burns, sun exposure and insect bites. “It’s important to recognize you have a cut that requires a bandage and antibiotic cream or that it may require stitches,” he says.

Hunter adds that personal hygiene, including hand washing, may help prevent minor wounds from getting infected if left untreated.

Hunter says first-aid training such as a CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) course would be important for truckers, but lack of time and opportunity makes it difficult for most. A procedure such as the abdominal thrust, formerly known as the Heimlich maneuver, for dislodging food from a victim’s throat (see sidebar, this page), though, can be demonstrated in a company safety meeting.

A basic first-aid kit costs $25 or less at a drug store or online and has items to help treat several common ailments or injuries.


Kit components

This 85-piece trucker first aid kit includes bandages, gauze pads, tape, ointment, a first-aid guide and eye-care products in a plastic case with gasket. It costs about $25 online at (click “Trucker First Aid Kits”).

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You also can buy first aid kits in drug stores or assemble one yourself.

Included in the CPR kit are:

• (1) 2-in. x 4.1-yd. gauze roll bandage

• (1) 4-in. x 5-in. instant cold compress

• (2) Sterile eye pads

• (6) 2-in. x 2-in. gauze dressing pads

• (4) 3-in. x 3-in. gauze dressing pads

• (1) 4.5-in. scissors, nickel plated

• (1) 0.5-in. x 10-yd. first aid tape roll

• (1) Eye wash, 4 oz.

• (1) Alcohol cleansing pads, 10 in box

• (1) Antiseptic cleansing wipes (sting free), 18 in box

• (1) 1-in. x 3-in. fabric bandages, 16 in box

• (1) 5 knuckle, 5 large fingertip fabric bandages

• (1) Exam gloves, 1 pair in box

• (1) Triple antibiotic ointment packs, 10 in box

• (1) Rescue Breather CPR one-way valve faceshield, 1 in box

• (1) 96 page AMA First Aid Guide booklet

Kit dimensions: 9-1/16 in. x 6-5/16-in. x 2-3/8-in.

Beyond the essentials, you might want to add non-prescription drugs such as aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, laxative, antacid and petroleum jelly or other lubricant. Items such as tweezers, sterile gloves, eyewash solution and thermometer might be helpful.

Also, don’t forget to pack your prescription medicines. Check your kit every three months to replace supplies that have expired.

Days Lost to Injury and Illness

According to a 2009 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck drivers required an average of 17 days off work to recover from injuries and illnesses in 2008. That compares with 15 days in 2007.

Also, the rate of nonfatal job-related injuries and illnesses requiring days off increased 7 percent in 2008 for truck drivers, BLS said.

The survey reported 57,700 cases of truckers missing work, with the rate per 10,000 full-time truckers rising 4 percent from 2007.

If Someone Is Choking

It happens. You’re in a truckstop restaurant and another diner begins choking. What do you do? Here a few tips from the Mayo Clinic for taking control of the situation and providing aid.

While the universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat, it’s unlikely the victim will be giving the signal. Instead look for these indications:

• Inability to talk

• Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing

• Inability to cough forcefully

• Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky

• Loss of consciousness

The American Red Cross recommends a “five-and-five” approach to giving first aid. First, deliver five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. Next, perform five abdominal thrusts — also known as the Heimlich maneuver. Alternate between five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.

To perform abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) on someone else:

• Stand behind the person, wrap your arms around the waist and lean the person forward slightly.

• Make a fist with one hand and position it just above the person’s navel.

• Grab the fist with your other hand. Push hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust like you’re trying to lift the person.

• Perform five abdominal thrusts, as needed. If the blockage remains, repeat the five-and-five cycle.

If you’re the only rescuer, perform back blows and abdominal thrusts before calling 911. If another person is available, have that person call for help while you perform first aid.

Basic First Aid

Knowing some first aid basics may help prevent you or a colleague from suffering more serious health problems. Here are tips from the Mayo Clinic for treating minor ailments.

BLISTERS If the blister isn’t painful, avoid popping it and cutting it away. If it’s painful or prevents you from walking or using your hand, drain the fluid while leaving the overlying skin intact.

To treat the blister, wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water. Swab the blister with iodine or rubbing alcohol. Sterilize a clean, sharp needle with rubbing alcohol and puncture the blister on the edges. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage or gauze pad. After several days use tweezers and scissors sterilized with alcohol to cut away the dead skin. Apply more ointment and a bandage.

Cover a small blister with an adhesive bandage and a large one with a plastic-coated gauze pad that absorbs moisture and allows the wound to breathe.

HEAT EXHAUSTION Signs and symptoms include faintness or dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, low blood pressure, headache, fatigue, rapid heartbeat or dark-colored urine. Get yourself or the victim out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned place. Lay the person down, elevate the legs and feet slightly and loosen or remove the person’s clothing. Have the person drink cool water or other non-alcoholic drink without caffeine. Cool the person by spraying or sponging with cool water and fanning. If fever exceeds 102 degrees F and fainting, confusion or seizures occur, call 911 or emergency medical help.

INSECT BITES Reactions can vary from itching or stinging to mild swelling. A delayed reaction may cause fever, hives, painful joints or swollen glands. For mild reactions, remove the stinger if applicable and wash area with soap and water. Apply a cold pack or cloth filled with ice to reduce pain and swelling. Apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or baking soda paste to the bite or sting for several days. Take an antihistamine.

For more serious reactions such as difficulty breathing, faintness or dizziness, rapid heartbeat, confusion, nausea or swelling of the lips or throat, call 911 or emergency medical assistance.

MINOR CUTS AND SCRAPES If bleeding hasn’t stopped on its own, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage and hold for at least 20 minutes, or elevate the wound. Rinse the wound with clear water as soap may irritate the wound. Apply antibiotic cream or ointment to keep the surface moist and discourage infection. Cover the wound with a bandage to keep it clean. After the threat of infection passes, you can expose the wound to the air to hasten healing.

SUNBURN If you experience pain, redness, swelling or blistering, get out of the sun and take a cool shower or apply a clean towel dampened with cool water. Apply aloe vera or moisturizing lotion often. Leave blisters intact to speed healing and prevent infection. To relieve pain take aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Don’t use petroleum jelly or butter, as they can delay or prevent healing.