Claire Williams

How to treat DIY injuries

Claire Williams

Learn basic first aid skills that could help treat common DIY injuries

Around 200,000 people are admitted to hospital every year as a result of DIY accidents. Ahead of the bank holiday weekends, when many DIY enthusiasts prepare to make home and garden improvements, leading first aid charity, St John Ambulance, has issued some first aid advice.

Head injuries  

All head injuries are potentially serious; they can lead to damage of the brain and cause someone to become unresponsive. The severity of a head injury would depend on how someone injured their head, and how hard the impact of the injury is.

What to look for:  

  1. Brief loss of responsiveness 
  2. Wounded scalp
  3. Dizziness or nausea
  4. Loss of memory of events before or during the injury
  5. Headache
  6. Confusion 

For a severe head injury, you should also look for: 

  1. Reduced level of response
  2. Loss of responsiveness
  3. Leakage of blood or watery fluid from the ear or nose
  4. Unequal pupil size 

What to do:  

  1. Advise the casualty to sit down and give them a cold compress to hold against the injury. You can use a cold compress, bag of ice or frozen peas wrapped in a towel.
  2. Treat any scalp wounds by applying direct pressure to the wound.
  3. Check if the casualty’s response levels using the AVPU scale (below).
  4. If they’re unresponsive, or not quite right, don’t hesitate - call 999 immediately. Use the AVPU test below to help you decide their level of responsiveness

A-   Alert Is the casualty alert? Are their eyes open and are they responding to questions?

V- Voice Do they respond to your voice? Can they answer simple questions and instructions?

P- Pain If they are not alert or responding to your voice, are they responding to pain? Do they move or open their eyes if you pinch their earlobe?

U- Unresponsive Are they unresponsive to any stimulus? Call 999 or 112 for an ambulance and explain their response to the AVPU test. Wait with them until an ambulance arrives, open their airway, and monitor their breathing, pulse, and look for any changes in their level of response. If their breathing becomes noisy or they begin to snore, turn them on their side into the recovery position.


A break or crack in a bone is called a fracture. In most cases a broken bone cannot be seen; this is called a closed fracture, but sometimes bits of a broken bone can puncture the skin. This is called an open fracture. 

What to look for:  

The seven things you may see if someone has a fractured bone are:  

  1. Swelling and bruising 
  2. Difficulty moving
  3. Movement in an unnatural direction 
  4. A limb that looks shorter, twisted or bent
  5. A grating noise or feeling if the limb is moved
  6. Loss of strength
  7. Signs of shock

What to do: 

  1. Support the injured body part and immobilise it with a sling or by tying it to an uninjured part of the body.  
  2. If it is an open fracture, cover the wound with a sterile dressing and secure it with a bandage. Apply pressure around the wound to control any bleeding.
  3. Call 999. Don’t move the casualty unless they’re in any immediate danger.  
  4. Check for signs of shock, which is often caused by losing blood. Do NOT elevate an injured leg.
  5. If they become unresponsive, and their breathing becomes noisy or they begin to snore, turn them on their side into the recovery position. 

Severe bleeding  

When bleeding is severe, it can be dramatic and distressing. If someone’s bleeding isn’t controlled quickly, they may lose a lot of blood, become unresponsive and/or develop shock; this is not emotional shock, but a life-threatening condition which is often caused by loss of blood.

How to treat severe bleeding:  

  1. Protect yourself by wearing gloves and remove any clothing around the wound. 
  2. If there’s nothing in it, apply pressure directly to the wound with a clean non-fluffy cloth or sterile dressing. Apply a firm bandage over the dressing, but don’t cut off their circulation.
  3. If there’s something in the wound leave it where it is and apply pressure around it, pushing the edges together to stop the bleeding. 
  4. Call 999/112 for emergency help. 
  5. Lie them down and raise their legs to treat shock. 
  6. Keep checking their breathing and whether they can respond to you. 
  7. Be prepared to treat someone who is unresponsive. 
  8. If they become unresponsive, and their breathing becomes noisy or they begin to snore turn them on their side into the recovery position.