If you watch the news you know that horrific events can occur at any time and in any place. Survival situations, and even minor accidents, may require that you use first aid training. From car crashes, to choking, or a mass shooting – there are hundreds of scenarios where it may make a huge difference if you have been first aid trained. The value of taking a training course is huge, but there are many things you can do to better prepare yourself prior to taking an official course.
There are 4 main objectives of first aid. They are as follows:
- Preserve Life
- Prevent Further Injury
- Activate EMS ASAP
- Facilitate Transport to a Medical Facility
The first, and most important, step is to preserve life. This applies to not only the person in question, but also yourself, and any others that may be in the surrounding area. The first thing you should do is assess the surrounding area. For example, if there is a car accident and you are able to give first aid help be sure you are off the road (if possible) or at least in an area where you are not putting yourself or others in greater danger. Moving to the shoulder or a parking lot may help. If this is not possible find a way to block traffic, maybe with another vehicle or with flares. It is incredibly important to keep yourself safe as well. With that being said, it is important to remember that in certain situations (especially if someone has hit their head, fallen, or is unconscious) you should not move the body. Moving the patient may result in further injury.
The second stage of first aid training is to prevent further injury. Even though this is technically the second step of this process it is of the utmost importance. There are many ways to unintentionally make an injury worse when trying to help. By unnecessarily intervening it may cause the injury to become worse. Be sure you are evaluating the patient. For example, if someone has fallen and hit their head you may make it worse if you try to move them and they have a spine or neck injury. Various medical issues or trauma situations have different required responses. You should begin evaluating the person at the head, visually looking over their body to look for any and all injuries. It’s common practice to not move the patient until all treatments have been administered or paramedics have arrived. If you do not absolutely need to move the patient – don’t.
The third step of first aid training is to activate the EMS system. This simply means to contact the required personnel. This should be done as soon as possible. The quicker the paramedics can arrive on scene the better. They are trained professionals and will be able to assist. By contacting EMS quickly you are reducing the time between the incident and the response/treatment. Sometimes it can be a matter of minutes between life and death. In addition to this being a way to receive treatment is also begins the process for the fourth and final stage which is facilitate transport to a medical facility. If you are unsure if treatment is needed or if you should call for the paramedics you should opt to make the call. You’d much rather be safe than sorry in scenarios like this. Even if you, or someone else, are currently assisting the patient, still call EMS. They are better equipped and have access to necessary tools and treatments.
In addition to knowing the first four steps of providing first aid assistance you should also be aware of the ABC’s of first aid. The ABCs can help to save a persons’s life.
A = Airway
B = Breathing
An open airway is absolutely imperative for survival. In order to breath a person needs a viable airway. In the case of an obstruction (the inability to breath) there may be soft tissue or a foreign object preventing the passage of air. In any situation the first step is to determine if the person is in fact breathing. If the patient is breathing there is not reason for you to intervene. However, if the patient is not breathing you will need to open the airway. One way to do this is called the “jaw thrust technique.” This particular technique is popular because it allows the opening of an airway without moving the head or neck. Again, if you do not need to move the patient then don’t attempt to. If there is a foreign object you may try to scoop it out or roll the person on to their side (especially if the patient is vomiting). These are among some of the specific techniques you may learn in a first aid course.
The second step to check and make sure the patient is breathing. Just because you have opened an airway does not necessarily mean that the person will start breathing. There are several ways to confirm this. You can look at their skin and detect changes in color. You can look closely to see the rise and fall of the chest. You may put your ear, or a mirror, to the persons mouth to see if they are dispelling air. If you discover that the person is not breathing you should start mouth to mouth resuscitation. Here is a quick video on how to perform mouth to mouth CPR. Continue to do this until help has arrived or the person begins breathing on their own.
The final part of the ABCs is to determine the status of their circulation. There are a few various ways to be sure that a person is receiving adequate blood flow throughout their entire body. You can look at the color of their skin. Pink skin shows that there is in fact adequate circulation. Purple or blue tinted skin lets you know they are not circulating their blood effectively. You can also check their pulse. A pulse between 80-100 beats per minute is the goal. Anything above 100 or below 80 is cause for concern. (Be sure to take into consideration that they may be having a surge of adrenaline and this may slightly raise their BPM). Another way to check circulation status is by a technique called “capillary refill.” This technique includes pinching or squeezing the persons finger tip and counting how long it takes the skin to turn from white back to pink. It should only take 3 or less seconds. Anything longer than that is an indication that there is poor circulation.
If you do decide to attend a first aid class you will undoubtedly learn additional information. For example one of the first things you should do if someone is bleeding is attempt to stop the bleeding. You may be taught various ways to do this. In addition, responses vary depending on if there is a concussion, a fraction, an allergic reaction, choking, etc. Even though you cannot plan for these survival situations you can plan to be trained in various first aid responses so that you are better equipped if you do find yourself in one of these scenarios.