If you’re a mom, your ears are in tune with twenty different cries, and you know what each one means . . .
. . . a complaining cry.
A sad cry.
A “time for a nap” cry.
A “this is not a boo-boo, but a big ouchy” cry.
This was one of those cries. I was inside about to put the finishing touches on dinner and I heard our oldest crying outside. Both boys were outside with Daddy playing in the garage. I heard my husband enter the backdoor and say, a note of alarm in his voice, “I need your help!” When I went around the corner, he was carrying our oldest in his arms and the poor little guy was sobbing. I took a quick scan of his whole body and saw blood matted on his scalp and all over his tank top.
Ok. Deep breath. Nurse mode on.
I am so thankful for my training as a nurse; it helps me stay calm in emergency situations and think clearly. We immediately took him into the bathroom and I began to assess his head.
I wanted to give a “flow” of my thoughts and actions in hopes it might help other parents in these kinds of situations. My husband and I let my nursing license expire a few months after we got married because my priority was no longer in the workplace, but at home – to be a wife and mom. I still get to practice my skills everyday by advocating for our family’s health, though. It’s also helpful for me to read how other medical professionals handle emergency situations; to know in detail how they think, how they prioritize (triage, the medical world calls it), and then how they act. I share our treatment to equip other parents and caretakers to hone their minds in a medical way. Anyone can give medical care if their mind is trained. Granted, I may not be able to perform an emergency tracheotomy but I believe that anyone can administer basic lifesaving treatment.
I also wanted to share our “flow” of care to help others become more prepared in general. Although we live in the country, we are relatively close to top-notch hospitals. But whether you live 5 miles away from civilization or right in the heart of downtown, it always serves you well to be prepared. We wanted to share the supplies we try to have stocked up so that we can get through emergencies like this without undue strain. I believe everyone should live as thought they did live in the country, 10 miles away from everyone, so that when the time does come for things like this, you can move forward confidently.
So here is our flow!
#1: Stop bleeding. #2: Homeopathy. #3: Assess. #4: Cleanse and prevent infection. #5: Essential oils. #6: Close up and bandage. #7: Ongoing assessment.
#1: Stop bleeding.
We took our oldest into the bathroom and I asked my husband to grab some paper towels. If you have anyone on hand then utilize them to death. It never works to try to play savior in times like this. The first step was to stop the bleeding. Now, in any kind of minor laceration, it actually helps to let the blood flow freely for 30 seconds or so. This cleanses the wound of any superficial dirt or bacteria and can prevent infection. I knew it had already been bleeding longer than that so we immediately put on a compress.
While I held the paper towel firmly (but not with too much pressure to hurt him) to his head, I asked my husband to get our homeopathy kits down from the bathroom shelf. I asked our oldest to continue holding the paper towel on his head while I got out the first remedy, Aconitum. Aconitum is the first remedy I think of in an emergency. It is great for quelling fear after an injury ((as an aside, one way to remember this remedy is the word “act,” for three letters in its name; the first “act”ion you need to take in any injury is to give Aconitum).
“It is a state of fear so acute that some feel that their death is not just a possibility, but a certainty. At the scene of an accident or disaster, people needing this remedy may appear in a restless anxious state or may be wide-eyed and trembling in terror. Or they may be in a state of panic, unable to focus, unable to act” (https://www.homeopathycenter.org/homeopathy-today/when-disaster-strikes).
I could tell my oldest was not coping as well as I wanted to see so we put a few pellets in his mouth. You only need 2-3 pellets for a dose and it only needs to touch the tongue. We have our boys hold the remedies on or under their tongues for a minute or so before swallowing. Our oldest was well accustomed to doing this so he already knew what to do. I gave a 200c strength (6c is the lowest strength, then 30c, then 200c; you can actually go up to greater than 1M if warranted) since 200 is pretty strong for a child and that was the strongest strength we had (as an aside, one way to remember this remedy is the word “act,” three letters in its name; the first “act”ion you need to take in any injury is to give Aconitum).
It’s important for a child to cry and let out their emotions, but with any bleeding, the calmer they remain, the quicker the bleeding will stop. Crying can raise the blood pressure and also inhibit you from thinking clearly. Give your child plenty of time to process and talk later that day.
While you’re at it, give yourself a dose of Aconitum! It helps you to remain calm while you’re giving care. I didn’t do this but probably should have.
The next remedy I got out right away was Arnica. It was actually in my purse instead of our kit, so lesson learned. My goal is to keep one tube of Arnica in my purse for emergencies outside of the home and one in our kit in the bathroom. I couldn’t find any in our kit so thank goodness my purse was close by. Again I had my husband be a runner while I stayed in the bathroom. I administered one dose of 200c Arnica.
Arnica is amazing for anything trauma. Think any inflammation, bruises, strains, sprains, concussions. It’s also great to slow bleeding. Even mainstream medical studies have demonstrated this ability (1). It is a must-have, along with Aconitum, if you want to assemble a small homeopathy kit for emergencies.
“Even newcomers to homeopathy know that Arnica is for bruises, sprains, strains, and other forms of trauma. But Arnica is more than that. The mental state of those needing this remedy at the scene of an accident or disaster is one of denial and isolation. Even though obviously injured, they will refuse care and insist they are fine. Such a state may be due to the psychic shock or to a head injury. They may not let others even approach them” (https://www.homeopathycenter.org/homeopathy-today/when-disaster-strikes).
I continued to give Aconitum until I saw improvement in our oldest’s restlessness. Continue to give the remedies until you see improvement. You can give doses up to five minutes apart, even one minute apart if necessary. I probably gave too many doses just to be safe but it can’t hurt in situations like this. I also gave repeat doses of Arnica.
(Another side note: One of my goals is to organize our remedies better. We have A-H in one box and the rest of the alphabet in another, but they are all thrown in there. Not good for emergencies. I’d love to make or invest in a roll-up remedy kit like this one.)
After the hubbub had died down a bit in the bathroom, I turned my attention to the paper towel and could tell there was no new bleeding. I gently took the paper towel off and began to assess his head. I still didn’t even know what had happened; it was important for me just to get the bleeding under control. Scalp lacerations are notorious for being big bleeders even if it is just a small cut, since the skin there has so many small capillaries to feed it. Being aware of this fact helped me to stay a little calmer, but I still didn’t know the extent of the injury. I tenderly separated the hair on his head to see if there was a cut there (at first I didn’t know if it was behind his ear or not). Sure enough, he had sustained a laceration to his scalp. I estimated it was a little over 1/8″ deep and about 1/2″ long. Not fun.
I quickly sterilized our razor that we use to give haircuts at home with rubbing alcohol and peroxide, letting it sit for 5 minutes to kill germs while prepared to give our oldest a shower (see below). Then I shaved just a little hair off above and around the edges of the cut to give me a better idea of what was happening.
The good news was that, apart from the gash, it didn’t look like there was any other injuries, save from some mild scratches around the cut and on his back. No obvious signs of fracture (break) of his skull (he would have evidenced massive wincing with pressure if I had pressed on the area), any other broken bones, or concussions. Thank you, Lord.
You may be surprised that assessment comes after stopping bleeding and homeopathy. It all kind of runs together. But it is most important to get a cloth on the bleeding and to stop it first before seeing what is actually going on.
#4: Cleanse and prevent infection.
Seeing his bleeding had pretty much stopped, we had our oldest get in the shower and I irrigated the wound. We used the shower rather than the tub because we have a filter on the shower and I wanted the water to be as clean as possible. I could have poured some of our filtered Berkey water over his head in the tub but I wasn’t thinking all the way and this was the best option to me at the time.
Irrigation of the wound means to let a sterile liquid flow from top to bottom to flush out any dirt, bits of material, and harmful bacteria. You always want the liquid to be as sterile as possible so as to not cause infection. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide to clean a wound or irrigate it . . . never learned this in nursing school! Had to learn it for another bad cut he sustained several years ago. It can kill good bacteria and you want to keep as much of this around as possible.
I gently dabbed the wound with a clean washcloth with some soap suds and wiped it from top to bottom, each time moving to a new area of the washcloth to prevent introduction of outside bacteria. You don’t want any foreign material to remain in the cut to irritate it or cause infection, especially if it’s not going to remain open and you are planning to shut it with butterfly bandages or stitches. Look closely for particles of dirt, pebbles, pieces of glass, etc.
#5. Apply essential oils.
The cut was still leaking a small amount of blood and serum after the shower, so I knew it still needed something.
I put a few drops of undiluted Helichrysum essential oil on a q-tip and dabbed it on the area. Helichrysum is a must-have in our essential oil stash, even though it is expensive. It’s amazing at stopping bleeding and healing wounds.
I also dabbed a little lavender and oregano oils on the cut to help prevent infection.
I don’t know much about essential oils (I should have diluted them first – I just applied them “neat”) and would love to be more prepared in this area, but I wanted to share what helped us! Between the Arnica and Helichrysum I was amazed that the laceration stopped bleeding so quickly.
#6: Close Up and Bandage.
I asked my husband to go to our local grocery store and pick up some butterfly bandages – again, lesson learned! Need to have these on hand at all times! We were still trying to decide whether to go to a local urgent care to get a stitch or two or close it up at home. He took our youngest along with him so I was able to focus on our oldest more.
I’ve included some pictures of the gash at the very end of the blog post in case lacerations aren’t your thing :), but I find it helpful to look at wound pictures to see how they are treated (and also to mentally prepare to treat them myself . . . must be a nurse thing?!).
Thankfully, the wound had stopped bleeding and I could clearly see inside. This is one of the signs that you need stitches – if the wound keeps bleeding for more than 5-10 minutes of applying firm pressure, or if it’s spurting blood (a sign an artery has been cut), you need to head to an ER or Urgent Care right away.
I just didn’t know, based on the size of the cut, whether to get one to two stitches. I felt like I could treat it at home but wanted to be sure. I could see a bit of the subcutaneous layer of skin beneath the top layer, and that gave me pause to think about the depth of the gash. To help me think more clearly, I texted a picture to one of the women at our church who works in the pediatric ICU. She was good to reassure me it didn’t look like it needed stitches. It’s always so helpful to get backup in situations like this. Even though I’m a nurse, I’m also a mom, and anytime your child is involved, it can be a little harder to think clearly!
I also researched wound sizes that needed stitches. If the wound is more than 1/2″ long or more than 1/4″ deep, that’s a good benchmark to take someone in for stitches.
Other indications for stitches and professional care include:
- You can’t get the wound edges together (called approximation). This wound had well-approximated edges, so that made me feel better; I could gently shut it with clean hands.
- The wound has ragged or uneven edges. If it does, this will prevent the skin from coming together and healing nicely.
- Even after irrigating the wound it still has debris in it like dirt, rocks, or glass.
After praying about it we ended up deciding to apply butterfly bandages ourselves. It was almost closing time at the local Urgent Cares, and I just didn’t want to expose our oldest to more germs at a stressful time (or pay a $500 co-pay at the ER!). We ended up being very happy with our decision; it is healing so nicely, and it was so nice to just stay at home, rest, watch a movie, and continue on with our night.
If you do end up applying butterfly bandages, you’ll ideally want two sets of clean, gloved hands, one to apply the bandages and one to lightly bring the wound edges together (you can do it by yourself, it’s just easier with two people). Take one end of the bandage, press it down on one side of the wound, then gently stretch it over the laceration and stick it down on the other side. This will help the wound to come together and heal quicker.
One more note: we then covered the wound with sterile gauze and then covered this with a wrap-around Ace bandage. We joked he looked like a wounded Civil War soldier. But this is an awesome way to protect a head wound – no sticky edges from big bandages getting caught in hair. I’m just not a big fan of band-aids in general either, anymore – some have yucky chemicals that kill good bugs laced into their pads.
#7: Ongoing Assessment.
You’re not quite done yet!
My pediatrician friend was good to remind me there could be a skull fracture underneath the gash or a concussion. We monitored for symptoms like dizziness, double vision, trouble walking, labored breathing, etc. The Aconitum and Arnica seemed to do wonders; this guy didn’t complain of any head pain at all! We set our alarms to wake us up a few times in the middle of the night to make sure he was ok (we also had him lay on his side to prevent putting pressure on the wound). We would gently roll him back on his side, using pillows on both sides to try to keep him on his sides.
Once he complained of neck pain before bed, so I gave him Hypericum 1M (the only strength we had). Again, this is pretty strong for a child but 1 dose can’t hurt. Hypericum is great for nerve damage after injury. I gave another dose of Arnica before bed, too.
We continued to give two doses of Arnica, one in the am and one in the pm, the next day, just to be on the safe side, but he still didn’t complain of any pain or concussion-like symptoms.
For wound care, the butterfly bandages accidentally came off the first day, but it ended up being a good chance to assess the wound. I applied more Helichrysum and also some raw honey to the wound. I was surprised how quickly the edges were coming together only one day after the accident! It ended up filling in quickly and with no obvious signs of infection like warmth, redness, etc.
One curious symptom that showed up: hiccups (primarily after eating)! Apparently then can be common after a head injury (!?). This is the only sign of trauma we saw. We gave Hyoscymus, a homeopathic remedy, and this seemed to do the trick to take them away after several days.
I know this is a lot of information, but I hope it helps you prepare for injuries like this in your neck of the woods!