First Aid: What to Do Before Medical Help Arrives
First Aid: What to Do Before Medical Help Arrives
First aid can be learned by just about anyone, including children, and it can definitely help to save lives in a medical emergency situation. For example, if a person is choking or severely bleeding, being able to help them while waiting for emergency medics to arrive can literally make the difference between life or death. There are many organizations that offer first aid training courses for civilians. The techniques are usually quite simple and the courses can be completed in just a few days. This small amount of effort can help people be prepared for emergencies by knowing exactly how to act instead of panicking. Read on to learn about some basic first aid techniques and how you can find out more about being trained.
When someone is having trouble breathing or cannot breathe at all, it is crucial to act quickly. It could be due to a number of issues, such as asthma, a heart attack, a lung injury or more. The first step is to call 911 and let them know the details. If the person is asthmatic, give them their inhaler and try to calm them down to help them take slow, deep breaths. Loosen the clothing on their chest (remove ties or scarves) and after checking their throat for obstructions, as well as their pulse, start CPR. Even if the person seems to not be breathing, you can check by holding a mirror near their nose or mouth. If it fogs up even faintly, it could indicate that they are breathing very lightly. Any wound on the chest, back or neck should be bandaged immediately.
- How to Respond to Breathing Difficulties – Review the signs and symptoms of a person who is having trouble breathing and learn exactly how to help them while waiting for the medics.
- Recognize Asthma Attacks – Know when to differentiate between a mild, treatable asthma attack and a serious one that requires professional aid.
- Performing CPR – Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is one of the most valuable techniques that are taught in first aid courses and can help to kick-start a person’s heart or help them start breathing again.
- A Visual Guide to CPR – Follow a series of animated steps that illustrate how to perform CPR correctly.
- Rescue Breathing – Learn how to alter your rescue breathing technique when treating an adult or a child or infant.
Most minor bleeding injuries can easily be treated at home. Shallow cuts or wounds should be washed properly with soap and water, and then apply an antibiotic cream before bandaging it. Minor cuts and scrapes usually clot and stop bleeding of their own accord quite soon, followed by scabbing the next day. If it continues to bleed after more than a couple of hours, it would be best to contact a doctor. Nosebleeds are usually also counted as a minor type of bleeding. The best way to treat a nosebleed is to lean forwards (not backwards, as old remedies suggest!) and apply an ice pack to the nose. Gently put some gauze in the nostril to help stop the bleeding. More serious types of wounds include deep cuts, puncture wounds and arterial bleeding. In these cases, call 911 especially for severe bleeding or lack of sensation. While you wait for medics to arrive, ask the person to lie down with their legs propped up and their head at a lower level than the chest. Lift the injured area if possible, remove any loose pieces of debris and stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure with your hand or tying a bandage or piece of cloth around it. If the bleeding soaks through the cloth, wrap another swathe over it.
- How to Bandage a Wound – Follow some simple instructions on how to clean and bandage a wound.
- Treating a Wound – It is very important to disinfect a wound before wrapping it to avoid bacteria from worsening the injury.
- Professional Help for Bleeding – Extremely deep wounds or unstoppable bleeding are two examples of when you should call a doctor or emergency medics right away.
- Stopping a Nosebleed – When treating a nosebleed, lean forward to prevent blood from running down into the throat and apply gentle pressure to the soft part.
- Stop the Bleeding – Use direct pressure, elevation of the limb and clean bandaging to treat severely bleeding wounds.
When someone is choking, attend to them right away. In many cases, it might be due to a piece of food or a small object lodged in the throat. If the person is still able to talk and breathe, ask them to keep coughing to help remove the object. If it persists or if the person is unable to make any sounds or breathe, proceed with the Heimlich maneuver. In this technique, the responder has to wrap one arm (with the hand in a fist) around the person’s stomach and then wrap the other arm around so that it holds the fist. Push up and out repeatedly, reaching as high as the breast bone each time. If the person falls unconscious, call 911. Make sure the person is lying flat on the ground and try to manually remove the object from their throat and then perform CPR. If the object is not retrieved, start CPR and check the throat each time the mouth is opened.
- Children and Choking – In the case of a choking child, be careful while performing the Heimlich maneuver since their bodies are small and more delicate than an adults.
- Prevent and Treat Choking – Find out how to prevent choking from occurring in the first place, and how to treat it if it does occur.
- Helping a Choking Person (PDF) – Follow an illustrated guide on how to respond when someone is choking and what to do if they become unconscious.
- The Heimlich Maneuver for Adults – See how to perform the standard Heimlich maneuver on an adult victim.
- What if a Baby is Choking – Choking infants should be placed face down on an adults lap, so that the adult can firmly but gently hit the back to help force out the lodged object.
When a person goes into shock, they could display many different symptoms. Some of the most common signs are cold, clammy skin, sweating, lowered pulse, nausea, confusion and faintness or unconsciousness. Call 911 or ask someone near by to call 911. Try not to leave the victim unattended. Help to treat the person by asking them to lie down or sit with their back against a wall, with their head tucked between their knees. Loosen their clothing. If the person is overheating, place a wet towel on the back of their neck. If the person seems cold, drape a blanket around them. For unconscious people, arrange them lying down on the floor on their sides so that if they vomit, it will be safely emitted instead of causing choking. Check the body for any serious injury or bleeding and treat it as best as possible.
- Treatment for Shock – After treating a person for shock, keep monitoring them and continually speak to them in a reassuring manner to comfort them.
- Causes and Care of Shock – Look through the different levels and causes of shock and find out how to treat them accordingly.
- Understanding Shock – Remember that shock can be caused by physical or mental factors alike.
- How to Treat a Person in Shock – Learn how to recognize the signs of shock and view some illustrations on how to position and treat the person.
- Types of Shock – Read about the different types of shock, as defined by medical terms, that usually result from a very fast reduction in blood pressure.
There are many national as well as local training programs where people can go to learn first aid. Your local Red Cross center is an excellent place to start. Other groups such as the American Lifeguard Association, as well as many non-profit health and medical organizations also offer training for non-professionals. As an alternative, many workplaces cover the cost to train some of their employees in first aid. Since some courses are slightly varied, it is best to check what it entails and compare it with a few others to find one that you find most helpful.
- Red Cross Classes – The Red Cross offers first aid classes for work and school situations, as well as for untrained individuals and refresher courses for professionals.
- The American Heart Association – The AHA offers in-class and online courses in first aid and CPR.
- American Lifeguard Association – For those who work in or near the water, the ALA’s lifeguarding first aid and CPR course is a very valuable choice.
- National Safety Council – The NSC offers a general first aid course for the general public to teach people how to identify and respond to medical emergencies.
- A List of First Aid Training Programs – Choose from a list of government-approved first aid training programs geared especially towards those who work with children.