First Aid Fridays - Toothache

Welcome to a series called “First Aid Fridays”. This is a series inspired by my voluntary work as an Event First Aider with the British Red Cross and all articles published are written in accordance with the ‘DK First Aid Manual Revised 9th Edition’ (which is authorised by the UK’s largest first aid providers). In this series I have decided to write a short article on Fridays explaining the authorised procedures to follow in order to administer first aid to various injuries – the sole purpose of this series is to educate the readers with knowledge to apply in order to care for a casualty and possibly even save lives.


The written articles of this series only contain a summary of each condition and First Aid procedure; therefore it is advised that training or reading of the full manual is completed to understand the full procedure. Reading these articles alone does not classify as First Aid training.


Toothache develops when pulp inside a tooth becomes inflamed due to dental decay. If the condition is left untreated, the pulp may become infected which leads to a throbbing pain; the infection inside the pulp may also spread to the mouth and jaw if left untreated.

Recognition Signs:

- A throbbing feeling which causes pain in the mouth.


Procedure:
  1. To reduce the feeling of pain, painkillers may be given. If the casualty is an adult, they may take the recommended dose of paracetamol (or their usual painkillers); if the casualty is a child, they may take the recommended dose of paracetamol in either tablet or syrup form.
  2. Give the casualty warm compress which they can apply to the affected side of the face - ensure that the compress is not too hot otherwise burns may occur. Ideal compresses include hot water bottles wrapped in towels.
  3. If available, a plug of cotton wool can be soaked in oil of cloves and this can then be held against the affected tooth. The oil of cloves acts as a local anaesthetic.
  4. If the pain persists or worsens, advise the casualty to seek medical assistance from their dentist.

Apply a warm compress to the affected side.

For more information, see page 225 of the DK First Aid manual.

Could intestinal bacteria help catch criminals?

Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to observe at an embalmers. Whilst there I was surprised to find that many of the bodies had green abdomens and chests. This is as a result of the 'friendly' bacteria in our intestines.

There are more than 100 trillion bacterial cells within our intestines. They have a constant supply of food, but also aid in the breakdown of food as it passes through our digestive systems, and help to keep pathogens at bay by outcompeting them.


When we die, however, the muscles within the intestines relax and the bacteria is released. It colonises tissues, starting with the large and small intestines, and feed off of carbohydrates, amino acids and lipids secreted from dying cells. This can take anywhere between 24 hours and a week, but eventually gives the cadavers their gorey green colour.

The structure of a bacterial cell
However, a recent article in New Scientist divulged the results of an investigation into intestinal bacteria, or thanatomicrobiome, and how they behave after death. It was discovered that, since there is a lot of variation in thanatomicrobiome between individuals, this could be used in forensic sciences as a new form of identification.


Intestinal bacteria can be analysed and matched to bacteria found on the clothing of missing persons, for example. Furthermore, analysis could prove vital for murder trials; if bacteria surrounding a victim does not match their thanatomicrobiome it could be indicative that the body was moved.

While the investigation into thanatomicrobiome is ongoing, it has already made new breakthroughs. 'The microbiome of a cadaver is an unknown data set in biology' according to scientist Sibyl Bucheli and, even if no medical or forensic uses are proven, the investigation will allow for thousands of new species of bacteria to be catalogued and studied. I think that this is going to become an important new forensic technique and could yield many more new scientific discoveries in the future.

First Aid Fridays - Insect and Arachnid Bites

Welcome to a series called “First Aid Fridays”. This is a series inspired by my voluntary work as an Event First Aider with the British Red Cross and all articles published are written in accordance with the ‘DK First Aid Manual Revised 9th Edition’ (which is authorised by the UK’s largest first aid providers). In this series I have decided to write a short article on Fridays explaining the authorised procedures to follow in order to administer first aid to various injuries – the sole purpose of this series is to educate the readers with knowledge to apply in order to care for a casualty and possibly even save lives.

The written articles of this series only contain a summary of each condition and First Aid procedure; therefore it is advised that training or reading of the full manual is completed to understand the full procedure. Reading these articles alone does not classify as First Aid training.


Following recent news stories about multiple spider bites which have been life threatening, I decided to publish today's article about insect and arachnid bites as they can be treated in a similar manner. Bites from some animals such as spiders and mosquitoes can cause serious illness and may even lead to death if not treated promptly and correctly. If the bite takes place in the mouth or throat, be aware that the swelling from the bite may obstruct the airways of the casualty.

Recognition Signs:

These signs can vary dependent upon the species of the biter.
- Pain, redness and swelling around the site of the injury.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Headaches.
- Allergic reaction/anaphylactic shock.


Procedure: 
  1. Reassure the casualty and encourage them to either sit or lie down.
  2. Elevate the affected area and place a cold compress onto the injury. Apply this for at least 10 minutes to minimise the risk of swelling.
  3. Monitor the vital signs of the casualty for at least 15 minutes - if the casualty develops breathing difficulties or appears to have an allergic reaction, contact further medical assistance.
  4. Call for emergency medical assistance (by calling 999) if the casualty shows signs of anaphylactic shock or has been bitten by a red back spider or a funnel web spider.
Redness and swelling due to a
spider bite.

For more information, see page 213 of the DK First Aid Manual.

The Brain: Neurons and Glial Cells

The Brain is composed primarily of two different types of cell: The Neuron, which acts as a cable through which electrical impulses travel through the brain and the entire body, and Glial Cells, which perform many functions to support the neurons. 
Above is a diagram of a basic neuron and it's components. A neuron has many basic cell components such as mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum and others that you may know about if you study AS Biology. Besides from these, neurons also have many unique organelles which I will now describe:

Dendrites - dendrites carry nerve impulses to the cell body.

Axon - an axon is the long fibre that makes up most of the length of a neuron. Electrical impulses travel away from the cell body and down the Axon to the terminal endings.

Myelin Sheath - this is, in essence, an extremely extended plasma membrane that is wrapped around the Axon. The Myelin Sheath electrically insulates the axon.

Nodes of Ranvier - The nodes of ranvier are gaps in the myelin sheath. Gaps are usually between two and three micrometers and occur ever one to three millimeters.

Terminal Endings - Terminal Endings (or Axon terminals) are where the electrical impulse leaves a neuron in a chemical form, which travels across a synapse and then to another neuron.


There are three main types of neuron:
- Sensory, transmits nerve signals from a receptor to a motor neurone.
- Motor, transmits signals from a sensory neurone to an effector such as a muscle.
-Immediate, transmit impulses between neurones.





Glial Cells
For a long time, glial cells were believed to be of not much use, but it is now believed that they perform quite a few important functions. The glial cells generally work to keep the brain in a good shape, which they do in a number of ways:
- Removing dead neurons
- Removing dead pathogens
- Supply neurons with vitals such as nutrients and oxygen
-Supporting the structure of the brains by keeping neurons in the correct place.



Medical Myths and Misconceptions: Week 1

Welcome to my new series on Medical Myths and Misconceptions. Fact and fiction surrounds us in our everyday lives, however;  how do we sort the truth from the lies?  Over the next ten weeks, I will be looking at some common medical myths and misconceptions, and why they simply are not true. So let us begin!

This week's myth: Waking a sleepwalker does harm to them.

Sleepwalking (also known as somnambulism or noctambulism) is a sleep disorder belonging to the parasomnia family.  Sleepwalkers arise from the slow wave sleep stage in a state of low consciousness and perform activities that are usually performed in a state of full consciousness. These activities can be as simple as sitting up in bed, walking to the bathroom, and cleaning, or as dangerous as cooking, driving, etc. Sleepwalking may last as little as 30 seconds or as long as 30 minutes.

Where does the myth come from?
The myth: 'Waking a sleepwalker does harm to them,' is an ancient belief. It was once widely thought that the soul leaves the body during sleep. Therefore, if a sleepwalker was to be woken up, they would be, in essence, a body without a soul. This led to the belief that if you were to wake up a sleepwalker, you would cause them significant harm, or even death.

Why is it not true?
We now know that waking a sleepwalker does not harm them. However, it is possible for them to become confused or disorientated for a short time. This is because, when waking someone from a deep sleep, they may suffer some cognitive impairment (sleep inertia). Furthermore, it is more likely for sleepwalkers to harm themselves if they trip over objects or lose their balance whilst sleepwalking, then for us to harm them. Such injuries are common amongst sleepwalkers.

What should I do then?
If you come across a sleepwalker, it is often recommended for you to gently guide them back to bed without waking them. In this way, you do not risk any harm to the sleepwalker, or to yourself.

Definitions
  • Parasomnia: A disorder categorized by abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system during sleep
  • Slow wave sleep: (SWS), often referred to as deep sleep, consists of stages 3 and 4 of non-rapid eye movement sleep
  • Sleep inertia: A phycological state characterized by a decline in motor dexterity and a feeling of grogginess immediately following an abrupt awakening.

Technology Update: TB Breath Test

This is a series featuring short posts about the latest advances in medical technology.

Tuberculosis.
Researchers from the University of New Mexico have investigated and developed a new method to recognising the presence of Tuberculosis in living organisms. Tuberculosis (abbreviated to TB) is a bacteria which is believed to infect around 8.6 million people a year; leading to 1.3 million deaths. This is the world's second largest killer, yet the bacteria can be overcome through early recognition and treatment using antibiotics.

The research team decided to utilise the fact that the TB bacteria emit a unique odour when exposed to antibiotics. Isoniazid is the
antibiotic used, the drug is activated by the TB enzymes and this is when the odour gases are released. The emitted odour is then analysed using a mass spectrometer - if the unique gas is present in the sample, then the organism has a TB bacteria infection.

Compared to current methods, it is obvious that this test is beneficial as it takes only 10-15 minutes for a result to be given whereas current methods can take up to six weeks. However, it has not yet been proven that this works within humans; testing has only occurred within rabbits so before this method could be implemented into hospitals, this further testing with humans must take place. Not only this, but it must also be considered that this test cannot be used on its own - the test only detects Isoniazid sensitivity and therefore it can only be used in conjunction with other tests.


For more information, read the published journal:
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140923/ncomms5989/full/ncomms5989.html

World's Biggest Coffee Morning

Today, Friday 26th September, is the World's Biggest Coffee Morning hosted by Macmillan Cancer Support. Macmillan is one of Britain's largest charities. It provides specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer. In this short blog post, I will be looking at the story behind Macmillan's Coffee Morning, and why you should support it.

Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. And as treatments improve, more people are living with it in their everyday lives. In order to help make sure that no one faces cancer alone, it is important for us to support these all important organizations.

In 2013, 154,000 people signed up to the World's Biggest Coffee Morning and raised a record £20 million. This year, however; it is important the we raise even more money to help further change the lives of people affected by cancer.

What is it all about?
The World's Biggest Coffee Morning is Macmillan's biggest fundraising event. They ask people across the UK to hold a coffee morning and raise money for people living with cancer. All donations on the day are made to Macmillan. These donations help support people, and their families, affected by cancer.

How did it start?
It started in 1990, when a local fundraising committee decided to hold a coffee morning. People came along to meet and mingle, as many people ordinarily do, but donate the cost of their coffee to Macmillan in the process. It was so effective that it was suggested that the model be taken up nationally. The first National World's Biggest Coffee Morning was in 1991. Since then it has raised over £113 million.

How do I get involved?
There are plenty of ways you can get involved. Although it might be too late to hold your own coffee morning, you can still support those in your local area. Here, at Ashby School, we are holding a coffee/cake sale. You could also donate to Macmillan.

And remember...

'Every coffee poured and every cake shared means someone facing cancer will have the Macmillan support they need'.

First Aid Fridays - Animal and Human Bites

Welcome to a series called “First Aid Fridays”. This is a series inspired by my voluntary work as an Event First Aider with the British Red Cross and all articles published are written in accordance with the ‘DK First Aid Manual Revised 9th Edition’ (which is authorised by the UK’s largest first aid providers). In this series I have decided to write a short article on Fridays explaining the authorised procedures to follow in order to administer first aid to various injuries – the sole purpose of this series is to educate the readers with knowledge to apply in order to care for a casualty and possibly even save lives.

The written articles of this series only contain a summary of each condition and First Aid procedure; therefore it is advised that training or reading of the full manual is completed to understand the full procedure. Reading these articles alone does not classify as First Aid training.


This is an injury which is less common but can have severe consequences - bites from sharp teeth can cause deep puncture wounds that damage tissues and can introduce germs. As the skin is broken, prompt first aid is required due to the increased risk of infection. Medical advice should be seen immediately following a bite due to the possibility of infection leading to rabies, tetanus, hepatitis and even HIV/AIDS.

Recognition Signs:
- A skin breaking bite mark - try to identify the animal which performed the bite. 

Procedure:
  1. Wash the bite wound thoroughly with soap and warm water in order to reduce the risk of the infection.
  2. Elevate the wound and support it to reduce the blood flow in order to slow any bleeding. Pat it dry with a clean gauze swab and then apply a suitable sterile dressing.
  3. Arrange for the casualty to go to hospital if the wound is large or deep. If the casualty is not going to hospital, advice the casualty to seek medical advice regarding the risk of infection.


For more information, see page 211 of the DK First Aid manual.

The Brain: Anatomy

The brain is one of the most complex systems in the entire universe and is also one of the most mysterious to us.

There are many parts to the brain, a relatively basic diagram is displayed here. In this article I will give a brief description of each of these parts of the brain.

The Skull - The skull itself is a very complex part of the body and helps amplify both vision and hearing, whilst primarily protecting the brain from damage and supporting face structure.

The Spinal Cord - The spinal cord combines with the brain to form the central nervous system. The spinal cord not only carries nervous impulses up and down the body but also contains the reflex arc, which allows the body to react quickly to certain stimuli.

The Brainstem - The brainstem is where the brain and the spinal cord are joined. The brainstem is a vital part of the brain as it performs many functions: regulating heart beat, regulating sleep cycle, controlling the face and neck.

The Cerebral Cortex - The cerebral cortex is composed primarily of grey matter; an incredibly important substance that holds most of the body's neurons. The grey matter is also responsible for a lot of the body muscle movements, and many other functions such as perception, meaning grey matter is responsible for responses to visual or oral stimuli. The grey matter is also involved in skill development, and areas responsible for a certain skill can be denser if that skill is well practiced.

The Basal Ganglia - The basal ganglia is the part of the brain involved in voluntary muscle movement and decision making and is connected to the cerebral cortex.


The Cerebrum is divided into four primary sections, known as lobes:

Frontal Lobe: contains most of the neurons that can be effected by dopamine and so is associated with reward, short term memory and motivation among others.

Temporal Lobe: is responsible for long term memory as well as processing input from the eyes and ears. The temporal lobe is also used in language.

Parietal Lobe: the parietal lobes can be divided into two sections on basis of functionality; one being responsible for perception and sensation, the other for sensory input.

Occipital Lobe: primarily responsible for interpreting information from the eyes. Damage to this part of the brain, though rare due to it's position in the back of the brain, can effect eyesight.


I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to the brain. I intend to cover other brain related subjects such as grey matter and neurons in later articles.











First Aid Fridays - Stroke

Welcome to a new series called “First Aid Fridays”. This is a series inspired by my voluntary work as an Event First Aider with the British Red Cross and all articles published are written in accordance with the ‘DK First Aid Manual Revised 9th Edition’ (which is authorised by the UK’s largest first aid providers). In this series I have decided to write a short article each week explaining the authorised procedures to follow in order to administer first aid to various injuries – the sole purpose of this series is to educate the readers with knowledge to apply in order to care for a casualty and possibly even save lives.

The written articles of this series only contain a summary of each condition and First Aid procedure; therefore it is advised that further training or reading of the full manual is completed to understand the full procedure. Reading these articles alone does not classify as First Aid training.

A stroke is a medical emergency which occurs when there is a disruption in the blood flow to the brain; this medical condition is the third most common cause of death in the UK. The risk of a stroke is increased with age and is has a strong correlation with high blood pressure - strokes are most often caused by a blockage in a blood vessel however they can also be due to ruptured blood vessels which allow blood into the brain. The earlier the casualty receives hospital emergency care, the better. 

The FAST Test:

If you suspect somebody may be having a stroke, use the FAST test:

F = Facial weakness - can the casualty smile?
A = Arm weakness - can the casualty raise both arms?
S = Speech problems - can the casualty speak clearly?
T = If any of the three other tests are failed or you suspect a stroke, its time to call 999.

Recognition Signs:

- Facial weakness.
- Arm weakness.
- Speech problems.
- Sudden weakness or numbness to the face.
- Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.
- Sudden confusion.
- Sudden severe headache with no apparent cause.
- Dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall.

Procedure:
  1. Look at the casualty's face - ask them to smile. Stroke sufferers may be only to smile on one side of the face.
  2. Ask the casualty to raise both arms - a stroke sufferer may not be able to lift both arms.
  3. Ask the casualty to speak - if their speech is unclear or slurred, they may be suffering from a stroke.
  4. Call 999 for emergency medical assistance if any of the FAST test has been failed. Tell the control room you have conducted the test and believe it is a stroke.
  5. Keep the casualty comfortable and supported. If the casualty is conscious, you can let them lay down - reassure them that help is on its way.
  6. Regularly monitor their vital signs and keep a record of these as the ambulance crew will want them.


For more information, read page 175 of the DK First Aid manual.


Video: 

To add to the procedure listed above, I have included a video from the British Red Cross who are showing a stroke situation.