We all fall at some time or the other. For children it is a common occurrence but in most cases the consequences are not severe. Not only do children have more flexible bones that can withstand the impact, they also tend to recover faster. However, a fall can be much more serious for adults, especially as they get older. Most of the time we get back onto our feet and continue with daily activities after a fall unless there is an open wound of fractured bone. But sometimes the most unassuming of fall injuries can be serious.
If you think that a fall is a big deal about nothing, here are some facts about falls among older adults (aged 65 years and older) from the Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov):
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries among older adults.
- Most fractures in older adults are from falls.
- The most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among older adults is a fall.
- Death from falls is 40% higher among older men than older women.
- Older women are twice as more likely to have fall-related fractures than older men.
But do not be misled into thinking that a fall is only serious if you are older. It can also have fatal consequences among younger adults and even children although it largely depends on the height involved and the landing surface.
Do Not Apply Heat But Ice
The injured area will be significantly inflamed after a fall. This is evident as pain, redness and swelling with some restriction in movement. You may want to apply heat to the injured area but this will very likely worsen the inflammation. Instead you should be using cold applications even though it is uncomfortable. An ice pack is ideal, or even in a cloth soaked in cold water. It will help minimize the inflammation and should be used for at least 2 days after the injury. Thereafter heat can be used. Unfortunately heat and cold therapy is only effective for superficial injuries.
Avoid Taking Aspirin Or Blood Thinners
Anti-inflammatory medication is very effective in reducing inflammation. When your injuries are deeper, these drugs are the only way to keep the inflammation to a minimum. But be careful about the type of anti-inflammatory drug that you use. Ideally you should consult with a doctor who can prescribe the appropriate medication. But if you have to self-medicate in the interim then stay away from aspirin and other drugs that may “thin” the blood. It can undo any clots and lead to bleeding. Sometimes the internal bleeding may not be evident until it becomes serious.
* If you are using blood thinners on a daily basis then speak to your doctor immediately. Do not stop these drugs unless your doctor says so.
Rest If Injuries Are Not Severe
It is not uncommon for most of us to delay in seeing a doctor after a fall when injuries do not appear to be severe. While it is not always necessary to seek professional medical attention, it is advisable to do so if you are a senior, in extreme pain, cannot move a part of your body, have an open wound, when there are signs of shock or if any deformity is evident. However, if your injuries do not seem to be severe then you should try to rest as much as possible. Continuing with your regular daily activities can worsen any injury even if it does not seem all that bad right now.
Keep An Eye On Injuries
Always monitor your injuries after a fall even if it does not seem severe. When you are in doubt then speak to a doctor as soon as possible. If your injuries are not severe then symptoms like pain, redness and swelling will gradually subside over hours and days. But if your injuries are getting worse then this is a sign that it is more serious than you originally thought. It is then unlikely that it will subside or heal on its own without medical intervention. Delaying treatment in these cases can lead to serious complications and sometimes have even fatal consequences.
Do Not Treat Open Wounds At Home
While nicks and minor cuts can be treated at home with a disinfectant and regularly changing any adhesive plasters placed on it, larger wounds need to be treated by a medical professionals. Even if your wound does not require stitches, it should first be examined and treated by a doctor. Open wounds can quickly become infected without proper care. These infections can become complicated with life-threatening consequences. Always follow your doctor’s instructions closely about cleaning and dressing your wound, and take the entire course of antibiotics if prescribed.
See A Doctor Immediately
If your injuries are severe then you need to see a doctor immediately. We are usually able to judge a serious injury from a minor one. A large open wound, extreme pain, excessive swelling, difficulty moving a body part or deformity of the injured area are some of the signs and symptoms that your injury is severe. Internal injuries may not be as obvious. If you are feeling dizzy or drowsing, lose consciousness, become confused, show signs of shock, have severe headaches, or experience sensory changes like blurred vision then you may have sustained a serious internal injury. Do not delay. See your doctor immediately or rush to the ER.
Look At Ways To Prevent Falls
The occasional fall is not uncommon and is usually just a minor mishap. But if you are falling regularly then there may be a serious underlying problem contributing to it. Do not ignore repeated falls. Your injuries may have been minor thus far but serious consequences may occur the next time around. Speak to your doctor about these falls as it can sometimes be due to underlying diseases or even the medication that you are using. Also be sensible about your surroundings and footwear. Do not clutter your home, be careful on slippery surfaces, use handrails or install it if necessary and wear shoes with good support and grip. These are just some of the measures that can help prevent future falls.