We all know that accidents and injuries happen. And when they do, it’s important to be prepared to deal with them. That’s why knowing some basic first aid is so important. It can literally mean the difference between life and death.
First aid is the initial care given to a person who has been injured or who is in sudden ill health. It can even be provided by someone with no medical training, and it can make all the difference until professional help arrives.
What should we remember when giving first aid?
How to Give CPR
When giving CPR, it is important to remember to:
- Check the scene for safety before approaching the victim. If the scene is unsafe, do not enter it.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number if the victim is unresponsive and you are alone. If someone else is with you, have them call while you begin CPR.
- Begin chest compressions by placing your hands in the center of the victim’s chest and interlocking your fingers. Use your body weight to perform compression-only CPR at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. Avoid tilting the head back as this can cause air to enter the stomach instead of lungs.
- Continue compressions until help arrives or the victim begins to show signs of life such as coughing, moving, or opening their eyes.
How to Help a Person Who Is Choking
If someone is choking, it is important to act quickly and remain calm. Try to encourage the person to cough. If the person cannot cough, cry, or speak, then they are having an obstruction in their airway, and you will need to perform first aid.
There are two ways to help a choking person: abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) and chest compressions.
- The Heimlich maneuver is used when the obstruction is partially blocking the windpipe. To do this, stand behind the person and wrap your arms around their waistline. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above the person’s navel. Grasp your fist with your other hand and give quick upward thrusts until you dislodge the object causing the blockage.
- If you are unable to do abdominal thrusts or if they are not effective, then begin chest compressions. Place both hands on top of each other in the center of the chest and push down hard at least 2 inches 30 times per minute until emergency medical help arrives or the victim becomes unresponsive.
The following video from St John Ambulance demonstrates what to do when someone is choking:
How to Help a Person Who Is Having a Seizure
If you see someone having a seizure, it is important to stay calm and follow these steps:
- Do not try to hold the person down or stop their movements.
- Clear the area around the person of any hard or sharp objects.
- Put something soft under their head.
- Loosen any tight clothing around their neck.
- Do not try to give them anything to eat or drink.
- Turn them on their side so they do not choke on vomit or saliva.
If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, call emergency services immediately.
What You Should Do if Someone Is Bleeding
If someone is bleeding, the first thing you should do is apply direct pressure to the wound. If the bleeding is coming from an extremity, elevate the limb above heart level. If possible, have the person lie down and rest. Once direct pressure has been applied, look for any foreign objects in the wound and remove them if possible. If the bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure, seek medical attention immediately.
If the bleeding is severe, you may need to apply a tourniquet. Here’s how to apply a tourniquet to stop bleeding:
- Place the tourniquet around the limb, above the wound.
- Tie the tourniquet tightly, making sure that it is not too loose or too tight.
- If possible, twist or wind the tourniquet until bleeding stops.
- Once bleeding has stopped, secure the tourniquet in place, and do not remove it until medical help arrives.
How to Treat Allergic Reactions
If someone is having an allergic reaction, it is important to give them first aid as soon as possible. The most important thing to remember is to not panic. Here are some steps you can take to help treat an allergic reaction:
- If the person is having difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately and start CPR if trained.
- If the person is not having trouble breathing, have them sit down and try to calm them down.
- If the person has swelling in their throat or mouth, give them a drink of water or milk (if they are able to drink). Do not give them anything else to eat or drink.
- Look for any signs of hives or rash on the body and try to identify what may have caused the reaction (e.g., was there a bee sting?). Remove any clothing that may be constricting circulation (such as a tight collar). Apply a cool compress if there is swelling present.
- Give the person over-the-counter medication such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) if they are old enough and alert enough to swallow pills safely. Otherwise, use an antihistamine cream (such as calamine lotion) on affected areas of skin.
- Monitor closely for any worsening symptoms and call 911 if necessary.
How to Treat Burns
Burns are one of the most common injuries that people sustain. While most burns can be treated at home, more serious ones require medical attention.
Burns can be classified as either first-, second- or third-degree, depending on how deep they go into the skin.
- First-degree burns only affect the outer layer of skin and are generally not too serious. If you or someone else have a first-degree burn, hold the affected area under cool running water for at least five minutes or until the pain subsides. You can then apply a topical antibiotic ointment if desired.
- Second-degree burns extend deeper into the skin and can cause blistering. For a second-degree burn, also hold the affected area under cool running water for five minutes before applying an antibiotic ointment and wrapping it in a sterile gauze bandage.
- Third-degree burns are the most severe, damaging all layers of skin and often causing tissue damage as well. If someone has a third-degree burn, do not try to remove any clothing that is stuck to the burned area – instead, cover it with a clean sheet or towel and seek medical attention immediately.
Do not use ice, butter, petroleum jelly, or any other home remedy on any type of burn – these can actually make things worse! Be sure to follow up with a doctor if there are any concerns about the healing process or if new symptoms appear.
How to Treat Sprains
There are a few things to remember when treating sprains:
- Rest the injured area. This will help minimize swelling and pain.
- Apply ice or cold packs to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, several times per day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin – wrap it in a towel first.
- Elevate the injured limb above heart level to help reduce swelling.
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help relieve pain and inflammation.
The following video from Mayo Clinic explains more about sprains and how they can be prevented:
How to Treat Fractures and Broken Bones
There are different types of fractures, but the most common is a break in the bone. It can happen from an injury or from something else, like osteoporosis. A fracture needs to be treated by a doctor so that it can heal properly.
If you think someone has a fracture, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help.
- First, try to keep the person calm and comfortable. If they are in pain, give them over-the-counter pain medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen that were mentioned earlier). You can also apply ice to the area to help with swelling and pain.
- Next, it is important to immobilize the injured limb or joint. This will help prevent further injury and relieve pain. Splinting is one way to do this. You can use anything that is firm and straight, like a stick or ruler, to splint the area by tying it on either side of the injury using strips of cloth or gauze pads. Once splinted, be sure not to adjust it without consulting a doctor first.
- Finally, elevate the injured area if possible so that it is above heart level. This will also help reduce swelling caused by gravity pulling fluid into the affected area.
When the injured person gets to the hospital, the doctor will take x-rays to figure out how bad the fracture is and what kind of treatment is needed. They may put a cast on it or do surgery. With proper treatment, most fractures will heal completely within 6-8 weeks.
How to Treat a Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a condition caused by body overheating, which can damage the brain and other vital organs. Symptoms of heat stroke include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, irritability, and unconsciousness. If someone is suffering from heat stroke, it is important to take immediate action. Here are some steps to take until help arrives:
- Remove the person from the hot environment and into a cool, shady area.
- Cool the person down with whatever means available – fanning them, spraying them with cool water, or covering them with damp towels.
- Have the person drink small sips of cool water if they are able to do so without vomiting.
- Monitor their vital signs and keep them comfortable while waiting for medical assistance.
How to Treat Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit and can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, confusion, and drowsiness. If someone you are with begins to exhibit these symptoms, it is important to take action right away.
- To treat hypothermia, start by getting the person out of the cold environment and into a warm room or shelter.
- Remove any wet clothing and replace it with dry blankets or warm clothes.
- Give the person warm drinks (do not give them alcohol) and share your own body heat by snuggling close in bed or under a blanket.
- If possible, warm up their hands and feet using hot water bottles or immersion in warm water (up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
By following these steps, you can help someone suffering from hypothermia before professional medical help arrives. For more info on treating hypothermia and other frost-related injuries, please read my article on how to survive extreme cold weather.
What First Aid Gear You Should Have
When giving first aid, it is important to have the proper equipment on hand. Here are some of the most essential items that your First Aid kit should include:
- Band-Aids of various sizes
- Gauze pads
- Adhesive tape
- Antiseptic wipes or spray
- Latex gloves
- Sterile eye wash solution or saline
- Safety pins
- CPR breathing barrier (such as a face shield)
Of course, this is not the compete list, and First Aid kits can be customized according to specific needs. But these items should give you a good starting point in stocking your own First Aid kit. Remember to refill or renew them at least once a year.
First Aid Only 298 Piece All-Purpose First Aid Kit is considered one of the best First Aid kits that you can get online. It contains all essential supplies that help treat injuries, cuts, swellings, burns, various types of pain, and much more. It’s also compact, lightweight, and can be easily carried with you. This First Aid kit is a bestselling Amazon product with over 55,000 positive reviews, which you can read here.
For additional highly recommended kits, please check out my list of top ranked First Aid kits.
I hope that my article has been helpful to you, and now you know what we should remember when giving first aid.
Always keep in mind to give first aid only when it is absolutely necessary and when you are sure that you can do it without causing more harm. Always call emergency services first and let them take over if the situation is beyond your control. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
My blog has many more posts with life-saving information, which can be critical in emergencies and disasters. I encourage you to read them. For example, I have posted a series of articles that explain how to successfully survive in the most extreme situations and environments: how to survive in the wilderness with nothing, how to survive in the desert, how to survive extreme weather, and how to stay warm without power. I’m positive that each and every one of these articles can provide the knowledge to overcome any life-threatening conditions.
Stay safe, my friends!