Accidents and injuries can happen to anyone at any time. How many times have you encountered a roadside accident that left casualties? How about knowing someone who suffered a nasty cut at home or broke a bone while out hiking?
Each year, an estimated 28.1 million people in the US alone are rushed to the emergency room for unintentional injuries. Unfortunately, the numbers also show that more than 100,000 Americans die each year for the same reason. A lot of this could have been prevented if people knew how to administer first aid.
What is first aid?
First aid is the assistance given to a sick or injured person until professional medical help arrives. In emergency situations, time is of the essence so knowing how to properly administer first aid might just save a life.
In emergency or survival situations, you will most likely find yourself in a scenario that would need first aid. The question is, would you know how to respond? We’ve listed here a few situations and included the procedures that you can do to help someone until a professional medical team arrives:
An obstructed airway caused by foreign objects can be fatal if not treated promptly. A person would clutch their throat as a universal sign of choking. The Mayo Clinic also lists the following indications:
- Inability to talk
- Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
- Inability to cough forcefully
- Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky
- Loss of consciousness
First Aid For Choking
The Red Cross recommends a five-by-five approach to choking:
- Give 5 back blows. First, deliver five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
- Then, proceed to deliver 5 abdominal thrusts or Heimlich maneuvers.
- Give 5 back blows and 5 thrusts alternately or until you dislodge the blockage.
Bleeding Cuts or Wounds
Extensive blood loss can eventually lead to shock; the goal of first aid, in this case, is to stop the bleeding and prevent the wound from getting infected.
It’s also helpful to identify the source of bleeding. Venous bleeding will have dark red blood that flows continuously. Arterial bleeding, however, is characterized by bright red blood that comes out in spurts and requires more immediate medical attention.
First Aid for Bleeding:
- Apply direct pressure on the wound with a clean cloth. Do not remove the material if blood soaks through. Add another layer and keep applying pressure to the wound.
- If the wound is on a limb, raise it above the heart to lessen the bleeding.
- If an object has been impaled on the wound, do not attempt to take it out as it will only increase the chances of the person bleeding out.
- Secure the dressing by tying a bandage securely on the wound. In emergency situations, a clean piece of cloth like a scarf would do.
- Do not attempt to put a tourniquet unless the bleeding is very severe. A poorly executed tourniquet could do more harm than good.
The goal for first aid in burns is to remove the person from the source of burns, cool the site and prevent further damage and infection to it. Burns can be classified by the degree of damage to the skin:
First-degree burns– only affect the topmost and outer layer of the skin. A good example would be mild sunburn. The burn site is red, painful, dry but no blisters such as described in the video below:
Second-degree burns – also known as partial thickness burn and involves the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) and part of the inner layer (dermis). The site appears red, painful, swollen and with blisters.
Third-degree burns – destroys both skin layers. The burned area appears white or charred. There is no sensation in the area as nerve endings are damaged.
Fourth-degree burns– damage reaches bones, muscles, and tendons
First Aid for First Degree Burn:
- Make sure that the person has been removed from the source of burn. Remove any restrictive clothing or jewelry.
- Keep the area cool by holding skin under running water until the pain subsides. Do NOT place cold water or ice on the burn area. Aloe vera gel may help relieve pain.
First Aid for Second and Third Degree Burns:
- For small burns less than 3 inches in size: Immerse in cool water or apply a compress for 10 to 15 minutes.
- For large burns: Do not immerse in cold water as this may lead to hypothermia, drop in blood pressure and eventually, shock.
- Protect the burned area by covering it loosely with cool, moist sterile bandage.
- Do not remove burned clothing stuck to the skin as this would only increase injury.
- Prevent shock by laying the person down and elevating the feet.
- Elevate the burn area.
Broken bones are commonplace, especially in active children and adults. There are also many kinds of fractures but they all present similar signs and symptoms. Healthline lists them as follows:
- intense pain in the injured area that gets worse when you move it
- numbness in the injured area
- bluish color, swelling, or visible deformity in the injured area
- bone protruding through the skin
- heavy bleeding at the injury site
- The goal of first aid in treating fractures is to immobilize the body part, prevent further damage and shock.
First Aid For Fractures:
- Visualize the area of damage. Cut loose — never pull— articles of clothing.
- Stop any bleeding.
- Do not attempt to push back exposed bone.
- Immobilize the injured area. If the person has broken their neck, back or head, do not attempt to move them until professional help arrives.
- If the fracture is in their limbs, immobilize the area using a splint or sling:
6. Always check for circulation after you have applied the splint or sling. While it should be secure, it should not impede blood flow to the area
First Aid Could Save A Life
Knowing how to properly administer first aid is invaluable, both in survival situations and everyday life. It may take Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel several minutes to respond, so knowing these simple skills could mean the difference between life and death. Practice and improve your skills by taking seminars and workshops, and always stock your first aid kit so you can respond quickly to any sudden injuries.