There could be a moment at any second of your life when your experience, your knowledge could save a life, either yours or others. Knowing about first aid could mean the difference between life and death. This can help you to prevent minor injuries or illnesses from getting worse.
First Aid is the initial care, the first treatment provided for an acute injury or illness. This can help to save lives, make life less severe, limit further injury and promote recovery. It can be a cost-effective method to improve health and welfare of people.
First aid is not just a method to provide care to someone with minor injuries but also act as an initial support in case of medical emergencies until professional help arrives. Such circumstances includes breathlessness, chest pain, allergies, stroke, heat injury, poisoning, unconsciousness, seizures, and trauma situations such as bleeding, wounds, contusions, head injury, burns and fractures.
In this article, we will make you aware and learn about the methods based on scientific evidence to provide first aid care in different situations so that you can be there to save a life.
3 basic steps in emergency situations
Keep the following steps in mind when you encounter an emergency situation:
- Assess the scene for danger before proceeding
Check the situation of casualty for any danger or potential hazards like falling debris, fire or violent people. If there are threats that cannot be avoided, stay away from the site and call for help.
If the situation is safe, assess the person who is sick or injured. Sometimes, you may need to move the person to a safe location before providing first aid if the situation demands. But you shouldn’t move the person if any movement can further worsen the person’s condition unless it is required to protect them from danger.
- Seek medical help, if needed
If you feel the sick or injured person requires emergency medical attention, you should call the local number for emergency medical services or tell a nearby person to do so.
- Provide care
If you have first aid skills, try to prevent any life threatening injuries or problems that you can. Stay with the sick or injured until professional help arrives.
What should a first aid kit contain?
A first aid kit generally have supplies and equipments that could be of use when providing first aid.
- Resuscitation mask
- Sterile water or saline
- Dressing material e.g. band-aids, sticking plasters
- Absorbent gauze, crepe bandage, eye pad
- Safety pins, tweezer, scissors
- Torch, disposable gloves, antiseptic wipes
- Medications, pulse oximeter, glucose meter
ABCs of First Aid
First aid is as easy as ABC – Airway, Breathing and Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Check whether the person’s airway is clear or not. Gently tilt the head back while slightly raising the chin upwards. Open the mouth and have a look inside to check for airway patency. Any obstruction found needs to be removed from the mouth by inserting the fingers into the mouth of the individual.
You can also place the person on their side, open their mouth and clear the contents, then tilt the head back and check for breathing.
Check whether the person is breathing effectively or not. Look for the chest movements – Up & Down. Put you ear near the person’s mouth and nose and listen for breath sound. Feel for breathing by putting your hand on the lower part of their chest.
If the individual is breathing effectively, check-out the whole body for:
- Open wounds
Monitor their breathing until the ambulance or professional care arrives.
Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
If the individual is not breathing, its the time to perform CPR.
- Lay the person on their back and kneel beside their chest.
- Tilt their head slightly to the back.
- Place one of your hands on top of another and clasp them.
- Keeping your elbows straight, put the heel of the hands over the chest (middle of lower half of the sternum).
- Push your hands atleast 2 inches deep.
- Keep compressing at a rate of 100 compressions per minute letting the chest rise fully in between the compressions.
- Give rescue breaths along with chest compressions. Do this by pinching the individual’s nose first, placing mouth fully over their and blowing it to make the chest rise.
- Give 2 rescue breaths between each series of 30 chest compressions.
- Keep repeating the steps until professional help arrives.
First aid for choking
Choking can occur when there is blockage in the throat and can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
Signs that someone is choking :
- Gagging, wheezing or gasping
- Grabbing the throat
- Unable to talk or make noises
- Face turning blue
- Waving hands
If you suspect that someone is choking, you should perform Heimlich maneuver.
To perform Heimlich maneuver,
- Stand behind the choking individual and lean them slightly forward.
- Put your arms around their waist.
- Make a fist, clench it between umbilicus and ribs and grab it with other hands.
- Pull the clenched fist upward and backward to provide a thrust. Provide 5 such quick thrusts.
- Repeat the steps until the object is coughed up.
First aid for burns
It is important to stop the burning process first. Clean the chemicals if its a chemical burn or turn off the electricity if its an electric burn. Thermal burns require to be cooled down under running water.
In case of major burns, emergency medical attention is required. Call for ambulance or professional help once the burning process stops.
Minor burns can be managed with following first aid steps:
- Put the burnt area under running water for several minutes to cool it down.
- Apply a light gauze bandage. Ointment like aloe vera may be applied in minor burns before applying the gauze.
- An antibiotic ointment can also be applied to help prevent infection.
- If needed, pain killers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used.
First aid to stop bleeding
Bleeding can be from capillaries or arteries or the veins. Its important to distinguish the source of bleed to know the extent of injury.
- Capillary bleed: Bleeding looks like a trickle and will usually stop on its own.
- Venous bleed: There is a consistent blood flow and looks dark red in colour.
- Arterial blood: Bright red blood typically spurts out in case of an arterial injury.
How to stop?
- Wash your and put on gloves if available.
- Use water to rinse the wound.
- Cover the wound with a gauze or a cloth.
- Apply direct pressure to the bleeding are to stop the blood flow. This encourages blood to clot.
- Elevate the body part where its bleeding, if possible.
- Apply a clean bandage once the bleeding stops.
- If the cloth gets soaked through, dont remove it. Instead, add more layers of cloth.
First aid for sprains
A sprain is basically a stretched or torn ligament (tissue that connects bones at joints). Usual symptoms are pain, swelling and bruising and it usually occurs at wrist and ankle joint.
It is recommended to follow R.I.C.E to manage sprains through the first aid :
Rest the injured area : Use a sling for an arm injury, crutches for a leg or foot, and a splint for a finger or toe. Do not move the area.
Ice the area for twenty minutes every hour. Do not apply the ice directly to the area.
Compress the area by wrapping an elastic bandage or sleeve lightly around the joint or limb.
Elevate the area above the heart if possible. Let blood flow away from the injured area to other parts of your body.
Repeat the steps for few days until the swelling and bruising reduce.
First aid for nose bleed
To treat a nose bleed,
- Ask the person to sit down and lean forward.
- Pinch their nostrils closed with your thumb and index finger.
- Continue applying this pressure for five minutes.
- Check after 5 minutes, if bleeding has stopped. If not, continue pinching for further 10 minutes.
Emergency medical attention is required if the person continues to bleed for more than 20 minutes.
First aid for bees stings
Usually, bee stings cause pain that is distressing for the person. But in people who are allergic to bee venom, this can be deadly. It is important to be vigilant about the appearance of signs of allergy like flushing, itching etc.
If the person is known to be allergic to bee venom, epinephrine injection should be used to prevent any anaphylactic reaction.
If there is no such known allergy, perform these first aid steps while observing for any signs of allergic reaction :
- Remove the bee stinger out as quickly as possible.
- Wash the bitten area with water and soap.
- If there is any swelling, apply cold pack. Refrain from applying ice directly to the skin.
- Use antihistamine or other anti-allergic drugs to reduce itching and swelling.
- For pain, use acetaminophen or ipuprofen.
First aid for stroke
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.
It is important to recognize stroke at the earliest opportunity using stroke assessment system to improve functional outcome.
It is recommended to use the FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) stroke assessment system, which has a high sensitivity for the stroke identification.
Use the letters in F.A.S.T to spot a stroke:
Face drooping : Look if one side of the face is drooping or not. Ask the person to smile and observe if the person’s smile is uneven or not.
Arm weakness : Look if one arm is weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both arms. and look if one arm drift downward.
Speech difficulty : Look for any slurring of speech.
Time to call for help.
First aid for hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which glucose level is lower than the normal and is usually associated with diabetes treatment.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia includes tremors, excessive sweating and confusion.
Ambulance or professional help should be called immediately if any of the following is observed :
- Loss of consciousness
- Unable to follow simple commands
- Unable to swallow
If the person is able to follow simple commands and to swallow safely, give oral glucose or other dietary sugars.
Monitor the condition for further 10-15 minutes and call for ambulance if the symptoms persist or the condition deteriorates.
First aid for drowning
Remove the person from water rapidly and safely and asses his/her condition.
If the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally and only one first aid provider is present, commence CPR immediately and continue with about five cycles of chest compressions and ventilations before calling for ambulance.
If two providers are present, one provider should call for ambulance immediately.