A sling is a device used to support and keep still (immobilize) an injured part of the body.
Slings can be used for many different injuries, but are most often used when you have a broken (fractured) or dislocated arm or shoulder.
Care for all wounds first before applying a splint or sling. If bone is visible in the injured site, call your local emergency number (such as 911) or local hospital for further advice.
HOW TO MAKE A SLING
- You'll need a piece of cloth that is about 5 feet wide at the base and at least 3 feet long on the sides. (If the sling is for a child, you can use a smaller size.)
- Cut a triangle out of a piece of this cloth.
- If you don't have scissors handy, fold a large square piece of cloth diagonally into a triangle.
- Place the person's elbow at the top point of the triangle, and the wrist midway along the triangle's bottom edge. Bring the two free points up around the front and back of the same (or opposite) shoulder, and pin or tie securely together. Adjust the height of the knot so that the elbow is bent at a right angle.
- If you do not have material or scissors to make a triangle sling, you can make one using a coat or a shirt. Apply the sling in much the same manner as shown in the pictures "Creating a Sling" associated with this article.
- You can also make a sling using a belt, rope, vine, or sheet.
- If the injured arm should be kept still, tie the sling to the body with another piece of cloth wrapped around the chest and tied on the uninjured side.
- Occasionally check for tightness, and adjust the sling as necessary.
Do NOT try to realign an injured body part unless the skin looks pale or blue or there is no pulse.
Seek medical help if the person has a dislocation, broken bone, or severe bleeding. Also seek professional medical help if you cannot completely immobilize the injury at the scene by yourself.
If an injury needs a splint, apply the splint first, and then apply the sling.
Always check the person's skin color and pulse (circulation) after the injured body part has been immobilized. If the area becomes cool, turns pale or blue, or if the patient develops numbness or tingling, loosen the splint and bandage.
Safety is the best way to avoid broken bones caused by falling. Some diseases make bones break more easily, so use caution when assisting a person with fragile bones.
Avoid activities that strain the muscles or bones for long periods of time as these can cause weakness and falls. Also, use appropriate caution when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces.
Review Date: 1/13/2010
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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