LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Recognize the different types of splints that are available, and determine how and when they should be used.
In an emergency, almost any firm object or material will serve as a splint. Thus, umbrellas, canes, rifles, tent pegs, sticks, oars, wire mesh, boards, corrugated cardboard, and folded newspapers can be used as splints. A fractured leg may sometimes be splinted by fastening it securely to the uninjured leg. Whenever available, use manufactured splints such as pneumatic splints or traction splints.
Splints, whether manufactured or improvised, must fulfill certain requirements. They should be lightweight, strong, fairly rigid, and long enough to reach past the joints above and below the fracture. They should be wide enough so that the bandages used to hold them in place will not pinch the injured part. Splints must be well padded on the sides touching the body; if they are not properly padded, they will not fit well and will not adequately immobilize the injured part. If you have to improvise the padding for a splint, you may use clothing, bandages, cotton, blankets, or any other soft material. If the victim is wearing heavy clothes, you may be able to apply the splint on the outside, allowing the clothing to serve as at least part of the required padding. Fasten splints in place with bandages, strips of adhesive tape, clothing, or other suitable materials. If possible, one person should hold the splints in position while another person fastens them.
Although splints should be applied snugly, they should never be tight enough to interfere with the circulation of the blood. When you are applying splints to an arm or a leg, try to leave the fingers or toes exposed. If the tips of the fingers or toes become blue or cold, you will know that the splints or bandages are too tight. You should examine a splinted part approximately every half hour and loosen the fastenings if the circulation appears to be impaired. Remember that any injured part is likely to swell, and splints or bandages that are otherwise applied correctly may later become too tight.