Creating a splint can give an injured person a lot of relief, and prevent further injury. As with most things, though, there are right ways and wrong ways to apply a splint to an injury. Here are five common mistakes to avoid, if you ever have to tie a splint on your buddy or yourself.
Don’t splint the limb too tightly. Splinting should give support and limit movement, but not to the point where it cuts off circulation. The splint should be loose enough for you to fit a finger between it and the limb.
Don’t forget to check the splint. Check the pulse on the other side of the splint. It should feel as strong as it does on the non-splinted limb. You can also check for capillary refill. This is where you squeeze a fingernail or toenail on the other side of the splint. Squeeze it hard for a few seconds so that it turns white, then release it to see how quickly the color returns to the squeezed nail. Color should return in 2 or 3 seconds if the blood flow is normal. Check periodically for swelling of the injured limb, as the splint may start to cut off circulation later on if there is swelling.
Don’t make the splint impenetrable. A good splint should be easy to remove, so that wounds can be checked and so that you can compensate for swelling by adjusting the tightness of the splint and wrappings. Tie your knots where they are accessible and can be untied later. Limit or avoid using duct tape in splinting, as it is very unforgiving.
Don’t make it too small. The general rule for creating a splint is to immobilize both adjacent joints. For example, with a splinted elbow both the wrist and shoulder should be immobilized, too. The less movement of the injured extremity, the better the injury will be protected.
Don’t forget plenty of padding. Use wadded up clothing, a cut up sleeping pad, or anything else that is soft and will pad the limb before you put the splint on. Fill in hollow spaces to support the entire area evenly.
The American Red Cross class “Wilderness First Aid”
Mountaineering First Aid by Jan Carline, Martha Lentz and Steven Macdonald