Whether you're hiking in the backcountry or working in the yard, the great outdoors is rife with potential first aid problems. Prepare for the worst by understanding how to respond to some of the most common outdoor injuries. If one of the following happened, would you know what to do?
- Cuts, Scrapes, and Other Wounds: Although most cuts, scrapes, and wounds are minor, they can quickly become serious if unaddressed. Reduce the risk of infection by responding appropriately. First, apply direct pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. Use gloves or another barrier to protect yourself: never use your bare hands unless there is truly no other option. Press down for five to ten minutes. If the bleeding hasn't stopped, continue for another ten minutes. Clean out the wound with clean water, use an antiseptic spray to disinfect the area, and apply a bandage.
- Muscle Strain: It's easy to lose your footing while hiking or overdo it while playing an outdoor sport. If you have a fall that twists a knee or ankle, assess if you need urgent medical help. If the pain is minor, you don't have any excessive bleeding, and you are able to move, find a safe place where you can rest. Take ibuprofen to help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. If you have one in your first aid kit, use an elastic bandage to wrap the injured area.
Dehydration: Finding uncontaminated sources of water while on the trail is tougher than you might think. Combine this with the exertion that comes from hiking and it's easy to see why dehydration is a common issue while spending time outdoors. When it comes to dehydration, prevention is the best cure. Don't head out without at least two liters of water. Bring more than this amount if you anticipate a long or strenuous hike. If carrying enough water isn't practical, bring a filter to clear harmful pathogens from natural water sources. If all else fails, boil water before drinking. If you become severely dehydrated, hospitalization may be necessary, so make sure you have a way to contact help if you need it.
- Reactions to Insects and Plants: From mosquitoes to poison ivy, the great outdoors is full of irritating plants and insects. If you're working or playing in an area known for either, take pains to dress appropriately. If you find yourself bitten or stung, inspect the site. Use a credit card or another flat object to scrape away any stingers you find. Wash the area and apply calamine lotion to help reduce itching. Use a similar strategy for plant irritation. Wash the affected area well, then apply calamine lotion.
You never know what could happen while spending time outdoors. Approach your next adventure with first aid knowledge and a well-stocked kit to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable experience.
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Ouch! You’ve run too long in those new shoes without first breaking them in...
Ouch! You’ve practiced “Stairway to Heaven” just one too many times on your guitar...
Ouch! You’ve spent the afternoon raking the yard...
Ouch! You’ve hiked, rowed, lifted weights, played tennis, or run…
And now a blister is forming on your hand or foot. Not only is it painful, but it can keep you from dancing, playing, raking, hiking, rowing, lifting, running. You get the picture.
So what do you do? You learn all about blisters so that you can easily treat them when you or a family member is laid low by this small but insidiously painful ailment.
What is a blister?
A blister is a pocket of blood, plasma, serum or pus that forms between the upper layers of skin to help protect and cushion the layers below. There are a number of causes of and types of blisters. The main ones are blisters formed as a result of friction, burns, frostbite or certain medical conditions, such as contact dermatitis or the chickenpox. Blisters can appear as one circular bubble or as a cluster of bumps.
In this article we are going to focus on blisters caused by friction.
A friction blister is formed when the layers of skin rub against each other and separate. Then plasma fluid fills the pocket. This plasma protects the lower layers of skin and encourages the growth of new skin. As the new skin forms, the fluid slowly disappears and the old skin will dry and peel off.
How to treat a blister
It is generally not recommended to pop a blister because the wound will be open and could become infected.
Once a blister has formed, it is best to just cover it up with a band-aid, gauze or a donut-shaped piece of moleskin. You can also help it heal by putting on hydrogen peroxide and an antibiotic ointment. Popular home remedies include aloe vera gel, witch hazel, green tea, apple cider vinegar and castor oil.
If the blister does pop, leave on the dead skin because it will provide some protection until the new skin forms underneath. Allow the fluid to drain off, then wash the area with warm, soapy water and apply a sterile, dry dressing.
When to see a doctor
According to WebMd.com, you should see a doctor if you have these signs of a virus or infection while you have the blister: fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, pain, swelling, redness or warmth, red streaks leading away from the blister or pus oozing from it.
How to prevent a blister
To prevent a friction blister, the obvious thing to do is to remove the cause of friction. Here are some examples:
- Wear shoes that fit well and break them in before wearing them for an extended period of time. This prevents rubbing.
- Wear socks that wick away moisture and change them frequently. Especially when performing exercise and doing sports. This prevents slipping and rubbing.
- Wear gloves when using tools, doing manual work or playing a sport that involves holding a bat or stick. Again, this prevents the top layers of skin from rubbing against one another.
- Tape your feet or hands to prevent friction. Ideally you should apply the tape prior to any activity that may cause blisters. For example, tape your toes, heels or other parts of your feet that rub against shoes before running or hiking; tape up your hands before doing gymnastics, lifting weights, or raking the yard. At the very latest, apply a band-aid, moleskin or tape to the area when you feel the “hot spot” forming. The “hot spot” is the pre-blister stage when the skin feels warm and is starting to turn red.
Have an emergency kit to hand so that you have the supplies you need wherever you are to quickly treat your blister and reduce the amount of time it takes to heal. Use these tips to prevent and treat them and don’t let blisters slow you down!
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The swings! The seesaw! The slide! The jungle gym! The playground is a wonderful place for children to have fun and get exercise. They can build their social skills as well as meet and learn how to interact with other children.
Unfortunately these magical places can also be the sites for injuries. According to kidshealth.com, over 200,000 children are treated for playground-related injuries in the ER every year. Here is a short guide to help keep your children safe.
Actions you can take
- Inspect the playground’s surface area before allowing your children to play on it. Is the surface safe? If it is made out of non-impact absorbing surfaces such as dirt, grass, gravel, concrete or asphalt, avoid it. Find a playground that is surfaced with sand, pea gravel, wood chips, mulch or rubber (both in the form of shredded rubber or as mats). Ensure that there is no broken glass or other debris littering the area.
- Inspect the playground’s equipment to ensure there are no rusted or broken parts that could be a hazard. Report any damaged equipment to the proper authority.
- Ensure that your child is on an age-appropriate playground. The equipment for toddlers and younger children is built to their needs and skill sets. Having younger children play on equipment designed for older ones exposes them to risks for injury.
Teach your children basic rules for playing on the equipment. For detailed descriptions on how to play on the swings, the seesaw, climbing equipment, etc. read these.
- Teach your children other basic safety rules as described below.
- Teach your children how to interact with others and when to get help from an adult.
- Always watch your children while they are playing. This allows you to be aware of any potentially dangerous situation before it develops and to be on the spot in case of an emergency.
Bring along an emergency kit. There are compact and fully loaded kits available. By having one with you, you are prepared to handle any scrapes, splinters or other emergencies that may come up with speed and confidence.
Basic playground rules to teach your children
- Wear proper clothing and shoes. Do not wear anything that has drawstrings or cords because these can get caught and may be a strangulation hazard. Also, don’t wear purses, scarves or necklaces for the same reason.
- Do not leave backpacks, bags or bikes lying near the playground equipment. These could cause others to trip and fall.
- Wear sunscreen to help prevent sunburns.
- Wear helmets when biking, but take them off when playing on the playground.
- Do not push or roughhouse while near or on the playground equipment.
- On hot, sunny days, check the playground equipment before using it. If it is hot to the touch, it is not safe to play on.
- Do not go on equipment that is wet because it will be slippery and unsafe.
Following these simple guidelines will allow you and your children to get maximum enjoyment while swinging, sliding, climbing on the playground.
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Medical professionals need an accurate medical history to be able to provide the best-possible care for you or a loved one in an emergency situation. But it can be difficult to recall all important medical information in the stress of the moment. Or maybe the emergency happens to your child when she is away from home and you are not on hand to provide the information. Or you arrive at the hospital unconscious and can’t give the information.
Having an up-to-date medical history aids the medical professionals in two very important ways: first, it alerts them to medications they should avoid and, second, it saves the need for performing tests which may delay important treatments.
Be prepared by creating an emergency health record for everyone in your family.
Information to include in an emergency health record
According to mayoclinic.org, the following information should be included in your emergency health record:
- Your name, age and sex
- Your address
- Your medication names, doses and schedules
- Your medical equipment
- Your chronic medical conditions, such as epilepsy
- Medical consent form
- Aspects of your health history that could be helpful to emergency medical responders, including allergies and immunization record
- Phone numbers for professional emergency contacts, such as your family doctor, local emergency services, emergency road service providers, and the regional poison control center
- Phone numbers for a personal emergency contact, such as a friend or family member who you’ve asked to serve in this role
You can also provide health insurance information and personal wishes with regards to end-of-life decisions.
Where to store an emergency health record
In print. Keep a one-page-summary or a medical information card in your wallet or purse. Even older children and teens can carry a copy in their backpacks or wallets. Ensure that all caregivers have a copy of this form. For extra measure, keep a copy in any emergency kits you keep in your home, car, boat, camper, etc.
- Portable digital devices such as a cell phone, thumb drive or other device you carry.
- Online. There are many online apps and services that allow you to store personal health information online. Research which tool fits your needs. Just be sure that the information can be easily accessed in an emergency or when you are unconscious.
Accurate, up-to-date medical information is critical to have to hand in an emergency. But it is also a good idea to keep a full medical history including a running record of all of your medical procedures and medications, family history of illness, etc. stored either as a paper file or online. That way you have the information readily available when going to see a new doctor. Putting together the emergency health record and the full personal health record can take some time. But it will give you peace of mind knowing that your vital medical data is readily available when needed.
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You are preparing vegetables for dinner and the knife slips and cuts into your finger. Your child is using scissors and accidentally cuts into her hand. Your brother-in-law is moving furniture and gashes open his shins.
Cuts bleed. And this can be disconcerting, depending upon the amount of blood. But you can learn how to treat both minor and larger cuts by following these basic guidelines:
Call 9-1-1 immediately if:
- The bleeding is severe.
- The wound is on the face, neck, chest or abdomen.
- You suspect internal bleeding.
- Blood spurts out of the wound.
- The bleeding can’t be stopped after applying pressure for 10 minutes.
How to treat minor cuts:
Dry the wound by patting it gently with a clean cloth or gauze pad.
Wash your hands. Use soap and water to help prevent getting bacteria into the cut and causing an infection. If you’re on the go, use hand sanitizer. If you have them, put on latex-free gloves to further discourage the spread of bacteria.
Stop the bleeding. Apply pressure to the area with a clean cloth or a gauze pad. Keep it on for several minutes.
Clean the wound. Wash the area around the wound with soap and water. Avoid getting soap into the wound because it could irritate it. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or iodine; these also could be irritating. If there is any dirt or debris, remove it with tweezers that were cleaned with alcohol.
Apply antibiotic ointment. This reduces the chance of infection.
Apply a sterile gauze or adhesive bandage, depending on the size of the cut. Change the bandage every day or whenever it gets wet or dirty.
How to treat large or deep cuts:
Dry the wound by patting it gently with a clean cloth or gauze pad.
Wash your hands. If they are available, wear clean latex-free gloves.
Stop the bleeding by covering the entire wound with a clean cloth or gauze pad. Apply steady, direct pressure on the wound for 5 minutes. If blood soaks through the material, put another cloth or gauze pad on top of it and continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops. If the wound in on the arm or leg, raise the limb above the heart to help slow bleeding.
Clean the wound. Wash the area around the wound with soap. Avoid getting soap into the wound because it could irritate it. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or iodine; these also could be irritating. If there is any dirt or debris, remove it with tweezers that were cleaned with alcohol.
Apply antibiotic ointment. This reduces the chance of infection.
Apply a sterile gauze bandage. Change the bandage every day or whenever it gets wet or dirty.
When to get medical care:
- The cut is very deep.
- The edges of the cut are jagged or gaping open.
- The cut is over a joint.
- You cannot remove all of the debris or something is stuck in the wound. It is important to remove all debris to prevent infection.
- There are signs of infection: the person runs a fever or the wound is red, tender, swollen or discharging pus.
- The area around the cut feels numb.
- The wound has red streaks around it.
- The skin got punctured as a result of a human or animal bite.
- The injury is deep puncture and the person hasn’t had a tetanus shot in the last 5-10 years.
Cuts happen. They come in all sizes and degrees, from the slight paper cut that penetrates only the top layer of skin to the deep gash that exposes bone. You now have the basic information on how to treat cuts. The next step is to make sure that you are prepared to do so because it’s never ideal to have to be searching for gauze, tweezers and antibiotic cream in the middle of an emergency. So keep a well-stocked first aid kit close by so that you have quick access to the tools and materials to help you put this information into practice.
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One way to keep cool during the summer is in the pool! Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe while you enjoy splashing and swimming:
Tips for Adults
- Prevent unauthorized access to the pool by installing the proper safety fencing. This fence should be at least 5 feet high and have self-closing and self-latching gates.
- Put alarms on windows or doors that exit to the pool area to alert you in the event someone goes out there.
- Arrange outdoor furniture so that it doesn’t allow anyone to use it to climb over the fence into the pool area.
- Maintain the pool and and covers in good working order.
- When not in use, put away pool toys so that children are not attracted to the pool area.
- If you are using a portable pool (including inflatable pools or baby pools), empty it after use. A child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.
- Always supervise your children. This is especially true at a home pool. But even if you are at a pool with lifeguards, keep an eye on your children. The lifeguard is not a baby sitter.
- Always go into the pool with a young child.
- Teach your child basic water safety tips. Enroll your child in swim lessons as soon as he is water-ready. It could be as young as 6 months.
- Inform anyone using the pool (family, friends, neighbors) of the safety rules at your house.
- Do not drink alcohol. While relaxing with a drink around the pool might seem to be a nice way to enjoy the time, alcohol impairs judgement, balance, coordination and the body’s ability to stay warm. You need to remain alert not only to prevent any accidents for yourself, but to be able to handle anything that may come up with your children.
- Appoint a designated monitor to watch the children in the pool during a social gathering.
- If a child goes missing, check the pool first. Every second counts to prevent injury or death.
- Have a phone handy to be able to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
- Keep reaching or throwing equipment next to the pool to help get a struggling swimmer out of the water.
- Learn CPR. Your efforts can keep someone who stops breathing alive until medical help arrives.
Keep a fully stocked Emergency Kit near the pool. That way you have everything you need to treat scrapes, stings, and other emergencies immediately.
Tips for All
- Be sure you know how to swim. While this does not make you “drown-proof” (you might panic and forget your swimming skills), it does raise your ability to handle yourself in water. Enquire at your local YMCA or Red Cross for the appropriate swim lessons.
- If you don’t know how to swim, wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. Water wings or floating toys are not designed to keep the swimmer safe.
- If you are a beginning swimmer don’t go deeper than where you can touch the bottom of the pool.
- Always swim with a buddy. That way there is someone who can help in the event of an emergency.
- Dive only in designated areas. It is safest to enter the water feet first. This prevents head injuries in case the water is shallow.
- Don’t dunk others in the pool or have breath-holding contests.
- If you start to feel cold or tired, get out of the pool.
- Stay away from pool drains and suction fittings. Hair, clothing and even limbs can get tangled up if these are not working properly.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunlight reflected off the water is more intense, which can cause sunburns that are not felt in the cool water.
- Drink plenty of water or other healthy fluids to prevent dehydration.
The pool is a great place to beat the summer heat. There are so many opportunities to have fun learning new skills (swimming and diving), hanging out or playing with your friends and just relaxing on a float. Following the guidelines listed above will allow you to enjoy all of these and more because you will have ensured the safety of all and be prepared to handle a emergency if it does come up.
For more pool safety tips, please visit these sites: Kidshealth.org, RedCross.org, NationalWaterSafetyMonth.org.
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Summer vacation! I have fond memories of family trips up and down the East Coast of the United States. We would pack up the car and hit the road, singing songs and playing “Punch Buggy”, “I Spy” and the license plate game. But I also remember that my father had very specific safety rules (Bottoms on the seat, seat belts on and no hands out the windows) and always kept an emergency kit close by so that he could remove splinters, bandage cuts and even splint a sprained finger no matter where we were. So in the spirit of fun and family, here are some tips you can use to safely travel by car, whether it be to the grocery store or on long weekend drives to the country.
Preparing the Car
- When planning a trip, be sure to schedule in extra time for traffic or rest stops to get food, use the bathroom or make phone calls.
- Keep your car in good working order. Have a mechanic check the following basics: fluids (washer fluids, antifreeze, oil, etc.), battery and ignition system, brakes, exhaust system, fuel and air filters, heater and defroster, lights, thermostat. This is especially important before a trip to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
- Keep your gas tank full at all times. Fill it up before a long trip.
- If you are driving in snowy or icy conditions, install good winter tires.
- Ensure that there are no loose hard objects that could turn into projectiles during a sudden stop.
- Keep your attention on driving at all times.
- Be aware of the drivers around you and be prepared to avoid other motorists.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. A general recommendation is 2 seconds - or 4 seconds in bad weather.
Secure infants and small children in a child safety seat. These significantly reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident. But to be effective, you must have the appropriate seat properly installed and used. See The Ultimate Car Seat Guide for guidelines and practical advice.
- Children must wear a seat belt. Instruct your child how to properly fasten the seat belt in your car. This includes not tucking the shoulder strap under the armpit. Never allow two children to share a seatbelt.
- Children under the age of 13 should sit in the back seat. This helps prevent injury in case the passenger-side airbag deploys. The airbag is engineered to inflate at about chest level on an adult. Young children are smaller and the airbag will hit them in the face.
- Teach your children to stay calm and relaxed in the back seat. Fighting or demanding the driver’s attention is distracting and could cause him to drive unsafely and have an accident. Work with them to come up with quiet activities or games. Ensure that they bring soft toys or books that won’t cause harm during a sudden stop.
Be Prepared For An Emergency
Accidents are unforeseen and could could happen any time you are on the road, either in the car or at your destination. Be prepared to handle injuries by having a well-stocked emergency kit in your car. Also keep the following items stored in your car: a working spare tire, jumper cables, flares or a reflective triangle, flashlight, windshield washer fluid and motor oil, bungee cord, road maps if you don’t have a GPS, car cell phone charger, emergency food and water and extra clothing and shoes. If you are in snowy conditions, also include winter supplies such as an ice scraper and antifreeze, as well as cat litter or sand to provide traction in icy conditions.
Being prepared gives you peace of mind so that you can enjoy the trip as well as the destination.
For more car safety tips, please visit these sites: Nationwide.com, Ready.gov, Kidshealth.org.
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Most of us are not first responders, those heroes who come on the scene of an emergency and handle it with just the right action to save lives. But there are some critical skills that we all can learn to apply in life-threatening situations. These will help keep the victim alive until the first responders arrive.
How to help someone who is not breathing and unconscious
When someone stops breathing, the brain and cells are deprived of oxygen. The brain, in particular, is dependent on oxygen to perform its basic functions. When it doesn’t receive oxygen, damage begins to set in. According to SpinalCord.com, the following occurs:
- Between 30-180 seconds of oxygen deprivation, you may lose consciousness.
- At the one-minute mark, brain cells begin dying.
- At three minutes, neurons suffer more extensive damage, and lasting brain damage becomes more likely.
- At five minutes, death becomes imminent.
- At 10 minutes, even if the brain remains alive, a coma and lasting brain damage are almost inevitable.
- At 15 minutes, survival becomes nearly impossible.
So it is of the utmost importance to help an unconscious person who is not breathing with CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). CPR can be done two ways, depending on the circumstance and the person involved: chest compressions with rescue breath and just chest compressions by themselves. There are also different procedures depending on whether the person is an infant, a child or an adult.
How to help someone who is choking
It can happen that a particle of food or other small item accidentally gets lodged in a person’s respiratory tract and blocks the air flow into the lungs. The person cannot breathe, and if the particle isn’t quickly removed, he will go into respiratory arrest, which means he will stop breathing. The main symptom for someone who is choking is an inability to breathe or talk. He may also cough, or, in very severe cases, start turning blue from lack of oxygen.
When you observe these symptoms, you can help dislodge the particle by alternating between 5 blows between the shoulder blades and 5 thrusts of the Heimlich Maneuver, which is strong pressure applied to the person’s abdomen to help dislodge the particle from his windpipe.
How to help someone who is bleeding severely
Severe blood loss can result from serious cuts, puncture wounds or blunt trauma. According to Healthline.Com: “If too much blood volume is lost, a condition known as hypovolemic shock can occur. Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency in which severe blood and fluid loss impedes the heart to pump sufficient blood to the body. As a result, tissues cannot get enough oxygen, leading to tissue and organ damage.” And death.
It is particularly important to recognize when someone is bleeding from an artery because he could bleed out and die within minutes. You know that the blood is coming from a ruptured artery when it is bright red and seems to spurt out in pulses.
Severe bleeding is stopped by putting pressure on the wound, ideally by holding a sterile cloth or gauze on it. But anything made out of fabric will do in an emergency. If possible, raise the wounded limb over the heart to help slow down the blood flow. In the case of an arterial bleed, do not remove the pressure until medical professionals arrive.
You can help
You may not be a first responder, but you can help even in these life-threatening emergencies. All it takes is willingness to help and some training. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer a variety of courses that teach you how to perform CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver and Emergency First-Aid. Check them out to see which ones fit your needs.
Proper training and preparation will give you the skill and the self-assurance to perform these procedures. And having a well-stocked emergency kit will ensure that you have the necessary materials, such as sterile gauze pads or a CPR mask, to hand.
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“Just put some ice on it”. How often have we heard that phrase? Or even said it? Somehow we just know that cooling some injuries makes them feel better. But which injuries? And why does it work?
Injuries that respond to cold treatment
Bruises happen when the small blood vessels under the skin break and blood seeps into the surrounding tissue. This usually happens as a result of falling, bumping into something or getting hit by a blunt object.
Insect bites and stings can come from yellow jackets, honey bees, wasps, hornets, fire ants, mosquitos and spiders.
Strains happen when a muscle, or the tendon that attaches the muscle to the bone, gets damaged. Strains usually occur in the neck, back, thigh or calf when muscles get stretched in unusual or unexpected ways. They are accompanied by pain and possible bruising.
Sprains happen when ligaments are injured as a result of stumbles or falls. Ligaments are the elastic tissues in the joints of the ankles, knees, wrists or elbows. The joints will swell or bruise.
How A Cold Pack Works
Cold packs provide relief because they reduce bleeding when the cold constricts the blood vessels. The cold also reduces inflammation and muscle spasms.
Cold packs can be made from ice cubes or even frozen foods stored in the freezer. Or you could be a bit more fancy and have a gel pack stored in the freezer in case you need it.
But what if you are on the road? Or out of ice? Or have eaten the last of the frozen vegetables? Your best bet is an Instant Cold Pack. This pack contains chemicals that turn cold instantly when the pack is hit or shaken up.
And the best place to keep one is in your First Aid Kit. That way you always know right where it is and have instant access to it. In fact, you should keep several Instant Cold Packs in your kit, and make sure that you replenish them after you use them.
How to Use the Cold Pack
- Activate the Instant Cold Pack.
- Place the cold pack on the injured area. Be sure to place a cloth or thin towel between the pack and the skin to protect it. The cold pack should last for 20 minutes.
- If possible, elevate the area of the injury. This also helps limit bruising or swelling because it reduces the amount of blood flowing to the area.
You will want to continue treating the area with cold therapy for the next 48 hours for maximum benefit. So keep additional Instant Cold Packs around or use some of the other options listed above.
Be alert for any signs of infection, such as fever, or allergic reactions to stings or bites and seek medical care immediately.
So go ahead and put some ice on it. You will feel better fast!
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