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 Injuries and Illnesses


                 In the Natural Disasters

and Health mission, you help

manage a disaster situation and

the injuries and illnesses it might

cause. Depending on your

assignment, you will help coordinate the emergency response or you will treat the fictional victims of the disaster.

   Every natural disaster causes a variety of injuries. The injuries vary depending on the type of disaster, but many are the same. For example, the ash thrown out from a volcano causes breathing problems that a flood may not cause, but people may fall and break a bone in either an earthquake or a flood. Many injuries happen during the clean-up phase of disasters.

   This lesson will take you through common injuries that occur during a natural disaster and what you can do to help someone who is injured before medical help arrives. Always remember to call 911 for medical help so help is on the way while you provide first aid.  


   Lots of injuries cause bleeding. Anytime the skin is broken, bleeding occurs. You have probably fallen and injured yourself enough to bleed.


   For bleeding injuries, it is important to stop the bleeding and clean the wound so that it does not get infected.

1)    Put on disposable gloves to help protect 

yourself and the victim from infections.


​              Image: Medical personnel apply direct pressure to a wound.

2) Apply a sterile gauze pad or clean cloth directly over the wound and apply direct pressure by pressing firmly over the wound with the palm of your hand.

Important! Don’t press directly over the wound if there is a large object still embedded in the wound.

3) Try to raise the injured body part above the level of the heart. This lessens flow blow to the injury.

   If blood soaks through the first layer of gauze,

cover it with another layer and apply pressure.

   If blood seeps through the layer of gauze or

cloth, do not remove the cloth. Apply another

layer over the first layer and apply pressure.


   Stay with the person until medical help arrives or until the person can be taken to medical help.


A Word About Puncture Wounds


   Puncture wounds occur when a sharp

object deeply pierces the skin. Sometimes,

puncture wounds do not produce much

bleeding, but they still must be treated to

stop any bleeding and protect the wound

from being infected.

                                                                                                             Image: A puncture wound to the foot.

   Do not remove an object sticking out of the wound. The object may be blocking blood from leaving blood vessels. Removing the object may increase blood flow.


   Try to apply sterile gauze or clean cloth

around the wound and use tape or your hand

to keep the bandage in place. Cover the entire

bandage with clean cloth to help prevent

infection. Stay with the victim until medical

help arrives or until the person can be taken

to medical help.                                                 Image: Puncture wound to the knee.                                                                  

Bone and Muscle Injuries

  Have you ever broken a bone? Natural disasters cause accidents that can result in broken bones and other injuries of bones and muscles. Sometimes, these accidents happen when people are trying to find shelter from the disaster or during the clean-up phase.


   Not all bone injuries are fractures (broken bones). Dislocations happen when a bone is separated from its normal position at a joint (where two bones meet). As you would expect, dislocations can be painful. Usually, dislocated bones will not “work” the way the bone is supposed to work. For example, if an arm is dislocated at the shoulder joint, movement of the arm is going to be difficult and painful. If an ankle is dislocated, the victim will not be able to walk on it without a great deal of pain.


   For any type of bone or muscle injury, it is important to limit movement of the body part which will could cause more injury at the site.

To immobilize an injured body part

   1) Gently wrap the site with gauze or strips of material. If you think the bone may be fractured, you can use a splint made of any stiff material to limit movement. Place the stiff material on either side of the injury and gently secure the splint in place by wrapping material around it.

   2) Do not let the patient use the limb or walk on it to avoid further injuring the bone or muscle.

   3)   Stay with the victim until medical help arrives or until the person can be taken to medical help.


Respiratory Problems

   Another type of illness caused by natural disasters is breathing (respiratory) problems. Any disaster that puts pollutants in the air can make it difficult to breathe. Volcano eruptions that spew ash, tornadoes that kick up large amounts of dust, and hurricanes and floods that cause molds to grow can cause breathing problems and infections.


   These problems are worse for people who may have chronic breathing problems, such as bronchitis or asthma.


   If you see someone having breathing problems, call 911 for medical help. Ask them if they have medication that can help them breathe.


   Remember! Being aware of the health risks that natural disasters cause can go a long way to preventing accidents and illness if you ever have to experience a disaster threat.


Check Your Understanding

1. Describe first aid measures to treat the following:

a. Wounds with bleeding


b. Bone and muscle injuries



c. Respiratory problems


2. Describe two types of injuries to a bone.



3. Why should you not remove an object sticking out of a wound?


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ambulance and helicopter in a field
Person with medical gloves on holds a bandage in place on another person
2 people with medical gloves hold bandage over a bleeding leg wound
person with medical glove on holds foot to show puncture wound
sharp object sticking out of a bent knee
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