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First Aid for Fall Injuries in Adults

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Fall Injuries in Adults are common problems, especially in those over the age of 65 years. It is reported that about 20% of such falls result in a bone fracture or a severe head injury (traumatic brain injury).

What is Fall Injuries in Adults?

  • Fall Injuries in Adults are common problems, especially in those over the age of 65 years. It is reported that about 20% of such falls result in a bone fracture or a severe head injury (traumatic brain injury)
  • The condition may be caused by body weaknesses that is brought about by advancing age, loss of balance, vision problems, or through accidents

What are the Causes of Fall Injuries in Adults?

Older adults are more at risk for fall injuries than younger and middle-aged adults. Fall Injuries in Adults may be caused by the following factors:

  • Old age and/or sickness causing weakness and frailty
  • Balance issues, slipping on smooth or wet surfaces
  • Losing balance while using staircases
  • Tripping over things/objects at home (such as carpets, rugs, and floor mats); this is especially observed to take place in older adults
  • Individuals who use walking aids, wheelchairs may be more prone to falls
  • Obesity or overweight individuals with weak legs; weakness of the lower body
  • Lack of sufficient physical activity or exercise
  • Lack of proper vision
  • Use of certain medications that cause sleepiness or dizziness (such as sedatives and anti-anxiety medications)
  • Falling due to a sudden heart attack, seizure, or stroke (or other medical conditions)
  • Wearing poor or unsuitable footwear
  • Accidents while working in heights
  • Influence of alcohol
  • Lack of proper sleep due to working late hours, night shifts

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Fall Injuries in Adults?

The signs and symptoms of Fall Injuries in Adults depend on several factors including the height of the fall and the age, weight, and health of the affected individual. The signs and symptoms may include:

  • Lacerations
  • The injured site is swollen
  • Bruises and contusions
  • Injury to the arms, legs, and head
  • Fracture of the bones - affecting the wrist, hip, shoulder, arm, or skull bones
  • Injury to the spinal cord that may be serious
  • Falling onto sharp or blunt objects may result in internal body injury including internal bleeding

Women with weaker bones (due to osteoporosis) are higher prone to fractures due to weaker bones.

How is First Aid administered for Fall Injuries in Adults?

First Aid tips for Fall Injuries in Adults:

  • Calling 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately, if:
    • There is heavy bleeding from the injury site; or, bleeding from the nose, ears, or mouth
    • A head, neck, back, or hip injury is suspected
    • The affected individual has difficulty breathing
    • The individual is unable to move or is unconscious
  • For minor fall injuries, the following may be considered:
    • Clean visible wounds with water
    • Apply an ice pack to injury site to reduce swelling and pain; do not apply ice directly to the skin, but wrap it in a cloth or towel
    • Stop any bleeding by applying pressure, using a sterile dressing or a clean cloth
    • In case of a fracture, try to immobilize the site (if you are trained to do so)
  • Try to comfort the affected individual and assess the reason for the fall (if possible)
  • In case no injury is evident, ask them to rest (stay seated or lie down) for a while before slowly helping them stand up
  • In such cases, when elderly adults are affected, it is important to monitor them for the next 1-2 days to ensure that there are no other symptoms
  • A tetanus shot may be necessary, in case of an open cut/wound
  • Take the individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment, as quickly as possible
  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller, if the pain is severe

Who should administer First Aid for Fall Injuries in Adults?

The injured individual or any bystander can administer first aid; however, the affected individual must seek medical assistance for a definitive management of fall injuries.

What is the Prognosis of Fall Injuries in Adults?

  • The prognosis of Fall Injuries in Adults is based on factors that include the following:
    • Age and gender of the individual
    • Height of the fall
    • Weight of the individual
    • Overall health status
  • Older adults, who are heavy, and had had serious fall injuries may have poorer prognoses than fall injuries that take place in younger and much healthier adults
  • Injuries to the brain and hip fractures in older adults (65 years and over) may portend poorer outcomes

How can Fall Injuries in Adults be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Fall Injury in Adults:

  • Fall-proof the home; address slippery smooth surfaces that poses risk for falls, and address issues of loose rugs, mats that curl at the ends, etc.
  • Improve balance and movement by performing certain simple exercises daily/regularly
  • Undertake periodic eye checkups (once a year or so) and use suitable glasses
  • Keep spaces used by older members of the family clutter free and bright
  • Provide suitable ‘grab bars’ in toilets, shower areas, along staircases, etc.
  • Use appropriate safety equipment, especially while participating in sports
  • Use suitable safety belts while working in heights

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately, if the hip, spine, or head is involved
  • Monitor the condition of individuals who recovered from falls, for a few days after the fall

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 27, 2017
Last updated: March 5, 2018