No matter how hard we try to prevent them, injuries still occur. But with a little advanced planning, minor disasters can be quickly and easily taken care of with as little stress as possible to the dancer (and to you). A well-stocked first-aid kit is essential for injuries that do not need immediate professional medical attention, or to hold a student over until help arrives. Here is a basic list of items every studio should have on hand and how to use them.
+ Latex gloves
Use: “It should be standard practice that anytime bodily fluids are involved, gloves are used,” says Alison Deleget, ATC, clinical specialist at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. When treating an open wound, gloves protect the injury from contamination and help both parties avoid infection.
+ CPR masks
Use: The mask prevents contact with saliva while rescue breaths are administered during CPR. It allows your oxygen to enter the injured party’s airway, but her breath cannot enter yours.
+ Gauze (square pads and rolled)
Use: Square gauze pads stop bleeding and absorb drainage from minor cuts or wounds. “Put direct pressure on a cut with gauze,” says Peter Lavine, PhD, an orthopedic surgeon in Washington, DC. “Then clean it with sterile saline and wrap it up with rolled gauze.” Rolled gauze can also be used for compression in minor joint injuries, like sprained or strained ligaments in the wrist or ankle. Wrap the injured area to reduce swelling.
+ Three to five ACE bandages
Use: For a serious ankle injury, the ACE bandage provides support until the dancer can see a physician. “When wrapping, go from the toes to the nose,” says Deleget. “Wrap inward so the swelling is pushed back up to the core rather than into the toes, where it has nowhere to go. Also, do not maximize the pull of the band.”
+ Five instant cold compresses
Use: In the case of a sprain, use ice to reduce swelling. Keep in mind that extreme cold can damage skin, so always use a barrier between skin and the pack. “Break the ice pack, wrap it in a paper towel, then place it on the injury,” Lavine says. “Remove it after 20 minutes,” which will allow blood to flow back to the injured area.
+ Air cast
Use: This should be used to immobilize a more severe ankle sprain or strain, or when a break is involved. “Air casts loosen up to fit everyone,” Lavine says. “Each can be used on either foot, so having one is convenient in many situations. Just fit it onto the ankle and secure it with Velcro.”
+ Three triangular bandages
Use: Triangular bandages have several uses. They can immobilize body parts when wrapped around the injury or be used to create a sling by tying the two opposite corners at the shoulder for support under the injured arm. “However, you need to be trained in how to make one into a sling,” Deleget says. You may also include a standard sling in your first-aid kit, but triangular bandages are more versatile.
Use: Crutches keep weight off an injured leg, ankle or foot. Lavine suggests metal models with adjustable height, which should be measured from the floor to the dancer’s armpit.
Your kit should also contain:
- Adhesive bandages in assorted shapes and sizes (20 to 25) for minor cuts and scrapes
- Cloth tape to hold bandages in place
- Stainless-steel scissors for cutting bandages and tape to the correct length
- Q-tips for applying ointment
- Individual alcohol wipes and saline solution for disinfection and cleaning out cuts
- Hydrocortisone cream packets for irritated skin
- An eye patch for injuries such as a scratched cornea or foreign objects in the eye
- Tweezers to remove splinters
- Toenail clippers
“Anyone who is a staff member at a dance studio should be trained in first-aid and CPR,” says Alison Deleget, ATC, clinical specialist at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. There are affordable classes offered at the American Red Cross. To find a class or workshop in your area, visit www.redcross.org.
In Case of Emergency
Studio owners should post an emergency action plan near the front desk, which employees can refer to as guidelines during an emergency. According to Deleget, this poster should include all of the studio’s information, like its specific location, to give to 911, as well as the location of the first-aid kit.
The Drug Dilemma
While Advil, Aleve, aspirin and Tylenol can all be used to keep swelling down, dispensing drugs, even over-the-counter versions, is controversial. “It is the studio owner’s choice if she would like to have over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications available,” says orthopedic surgeon Peter Lavine, PhD. “They are nice to have, but always ask if the dancer has any allergies before distributing them.” Also, dancers under 10 years old should not be given anything; leave this decision up to their parents.
Brianne Carlon is an Ohio-based freelance writer and former dancer for the Cleveland Cavalier Girls.
Illustration by Emily Giacalone