Note: this article is not intended to be used as a guide during an emergency if you have not received training. Call for an ambulance and follow the guidance of the dispatcher if this is the case.
First aid can be given to victims of an accident or ailment before professionals arrive. It is often capable of preventing death or serious disability if conducted correctly. Here are four basic first aid procedures.
The ABC Check
One of the most basic first aid procedures – and certainly one of the most important – is the initial assessment of a patient’s condition. The ABCDE system is a good way of remembering how to check a patient’s signs when they are unconscious. ABCDE in first aid stands for:
Tilt the head gently back and lift the chin to check if the airway of a patient is clear. Untreated airway obstructions can lead to suffocation and cardiac arrest.
Check if the patient is breathing by looking for movement, listening for breath, and feeling if air is leaving their mouth or nose.
Check the heart rate of the patient by feeling their arterial pulse. You should also check their capillary refill time. Normal capillary refill time is two seconds or less. Anything more sluggish than this can indicate a heart attack.
Checking how conscious a patient is. Testing whether they are alert (fully conscious), voice responsive, pain responsive, or unresponsive can help you give paramedics very useful information when they arrive.
With the dignity of the patient in mind, check their body for any visible trauma such as cuts, needle marks, bruises, or fractures.
Stemming Blood Flow
Stemming blood flow is one of the first things you will learn during first aid training. Almost all bleeding can be stemmed, but if it is left untreated, it can lead to serious problems like shock and brain damage. If you suspect arterial bleeding, call for an ambulance and put direct pressure on the wound. Don’t try and apply a tourniquet unless you are trained to do so. Instead, constant pressure is the best way of helping a patient until help arrives. Wash your hands before and after treating an open wound if possible to avoid the transmission of bloodborne diseases to and from a patient.
Basic resuscitation skills can make the difference between life and death. If a person is in suspected cardiac arrest, they will need to be subjected to CPR in order to restart their heart. CPR training involves familiarization with mouth to mouth, compression, and the use of electronic resuscitation devices. Electronic resuscitation devices are increasingly available for public use in prominent places.
The Heimlich Maneuver and Back Blows
The Heimlich maneuver is used to dislodge items stuck in a person’s airway. It should only be used when a patient is still conscious. The Heimlich maneuver is now more commonly termed as an abdominal thrust. Medical associations typically suggest using alternating back blows and abdominal thrusts to help choking victims. Five back blows should be alternated with five abdominal thrusts.