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First Aid

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Open (Sucking) Chest Wounds

If a fractured rib or sharp object penetrates the chest wall, air from outside may be sucked into the pleural cavity (space around the lungs), causing collapse of the lung on the injured side.

Signs and symptoms

  • chest pain
  • increasing difficulty in breathing
  • sometimes a sucking noise and blood bubbling from the wound
  • blueness of lips
  • unconsciousness

First aid treatment

  1. If the injured person is unconscious, place in the lateral position, check the airway, breathing and pulse and begin expired air resuscitation (EAR) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.
  2. Rest the conscious casualty in a half-sitting position, leaning towards the injured side.
  3. Quickly remove clothing from around the wound and place your hand over it to stop air entering.
  4. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing, or make an airtight dressing from plastic or aluminium foil. Tape the covering to the chest on three sides, but leave the fourth side open so that air under pressure can escape.
  5. Seek medical aid urgently.

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