First Aid For the Do It Yourselfer
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First Aid For the Do It Yourselfer

First aid techniques for minor injuries that a do it yourselfer can use to treat cuts, bruises, and contusions.

Even the most experienced do it yourselfer gets injured from time to time. Working with power and hand tools, wood, glass, and metal can make for a dangerous weekend so it is best to keep first aid supplies on hand and a cheat sheet for the most common home project emergencies.

Hammered Thumb

Hitting your hand or thumb with a hammer happens more when working on a ladder or in cramped quarters that alter your swing. If you hit yourself with a hammer ice the area with an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day to reduce swelling. You may want to wrap the ice pack in a slightly damp cloth to reduce the sting from the ice. Take a painkiller containing ibuprofen, like Advil or Motrin, as needed. Ibuprofen helps reduce inflammation, unlike acetaminophen which is useful for general aches and pains. For any bruise or internal injury that swells, avoid taking aspirin, which thins blood and can worsen bleeding and increase swelling.


Don't pop the blister, which can slow healing and lead to infection. Cover small blisters with an adhesive bandage and larger ones with a plastic-coated gauze pad that will absorb moisture while letting the skin breathe. If the blister breaks on its own, apply antibiotic ointment before covering it. Most blisters will clear up in a few days.


Touching a hot drill bit or screw head will cause minor first-degree burns, while more serious burns can occur while using soldering guns or propane torches when soldering copper pipe. Cool the burn first - Hold the burned area under cool running water for 10 or 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cool water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn. Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Don't use fluffy cotton, or other material that may get lint in the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain, and protects blistered skin. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).


Most cuts occur on the hand or wrist so it is prudent to wear protective gloves when working with any sharp tools or material that can shatter or splinter. Apply pressure with a sterile cloth or bandage and elevate your hand above your heart until the bleeding stops. If the cut bleeds for longer than 10 minutes, or is deep enough that you can see fatty tissue, seek medical attention. Rinse out the wound with clear water. Soap can irritate the wound, so try to keep it out of the actual wound. If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles. If debris still remains, see your doctor. Thorough cleaning reduces the risk of infection and tetanus. To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a washcloth. There's no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or an iodine-containing cleanser. Apply an antibiotic such as Neosporin or Polysporin to help keep the surface moist. The products don't make the wound heal faster, but they can discourage infection and help your body's natural healing process. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.

Dress the wound with a nonstick bandage. Replace the dressing daily or whenever it gets wet or dirty. If the wound isn’t healing, increases in pain, appears red, swells, or there is drainage, see you doctor.

Note: Doctors recommend you get a tetanus shot every 10 years. If your wound is deep or dirty and your last shot was more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot booster. Get the booster as soon as possible after the injury.

Injured Toes

Dropping a heavy object on your toes can be excruciating, especially if you are wearing protective footwear. Always try to wear work boots when working outside with lumber, landscaping, or masonry and wear sneakers when doing other light work such as painting or electrical repairs. Elevate your food higher than your heart as often as possible for 24 hours after the injury to reduce swelling and pain. Ice your toe for 20 minutes at a time for the rest of the day. A broken toe should heal on its own within six weeks if you just splint it to the healthy toe next to it by placing cotton balls between the toes and taping them together snugly (but not tightly) with wide medical tape. See a doctor if your toe is misshapen or pointing in the wrong direction, or if walking is very painful.

Back Injuries

Ice the area for 5 to 10 minutes every hour during the first 24 to 48 hours. If pain persists after two days, switch to a heating pad and use it for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours for the next day or two to improve circulation to the area. Take an over-the-counter painkiller as needed. Avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting, but keep moving to prevent stiffness. See a doctor if the pain lasts longer than a month.

Puncture Wounds

A puncture wound doesn't usually cause excessive bleeding as the wound seems to close almost instantly but this doesn’t mean treatment isn't necessary. Depending on the cause of the puncture wound, there may be tetanus spores or bacteria present if the item has been in contact with the soil. Puncture wounds get infected easily, so treat your injury as quickly as possible. First, wash your hands and then hold your hand or foot under running water for 5 minutes. Next, clean and disinfect the area with iodine to kill bacteria, then dry the area with a sterile cloth and cover the wound with a clean bandage. Elevate you’re the wound above your heart as often as possible for several days to keep swelling down. Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date, and call your doctor so he or she can determine whether medical attention is necessary.

Deep wounds or wounds caused by contaminated objects should be treated by a medical professional

Bumped Head

Ice the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 to 4 hours for the first day, and take ibuprofen as needed to fight pain and inflammation. Minor bumps usually disappear in a few days. See a doctor if you have symptoms such as confusion, blurry vision, problems maintaining your balance, or slurred speech, which can signal a concussion or a more serious injury.

Sore Back or Shoulders

From lifting heavy items or working overhead, your shoulder and back can become stiff and sore. Rest and take an over-the-counter painkiller as needed.


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Comments (3)

A friend who is renovating his tiles floor got hit in the eyes by sand while grinding (he's not wearing any protection mask) luckily the damage is not that bad. Very important discussion Sir Daniel.

Well done info for the DIY. All of the aforementioned made me cringe with feeling for these injuries. You have cited them and the remedies well.

Useful tips to those who like to work with tools.