Emergencies can strike at any time. When such situations arise, emergency care often must administered to someone who is sick or injured, and that care can mean the difference between life and death.
Being prepared for emergencies means understanding basic first aid procedures that can help a person navigate a crisis – or at least stabilize the situation until paramedics arrive. The following are some first aid principles that individuals should know and practice, courtesy of the American Heart Association, American Red Cross and CPR Certified Indigo Medical Training. They should not replace formal first aid training, but can assist a person when he or she is providing medical care to someone in need.
Bleeding can almost always be controlled until more help is available. Severe bleeding can lead to shock and death, so bleeding needs to be addressed immediately. Cloth should be used to cover the wound, and direct pressure should be applied to stop the blood flow. Do not remove the cloth; add more layers as needed. Tourniquets may do more damage to a limb than good, so they are generally no longer recommended. Nosebleeds can be treated by pinching the nostrils for a few minutes until the bleeding stops. Wounds to the head and mouth tend to bleed a lot even if they are superficial. So keep a level head when addressing these areas.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is one of the most important medical procedures to know. If the heart is no longer pumping blood, a person can die quickly. Immediately start chest compressions hard and fast in the center of the chest, allowing recoil between compressions. Many buildings also have automated external defibrillator devices that can help save lives. If you’re not trained in CPR, then provide hands-only CPR, says the Mayo Clinic. That means uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute (the beat of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by The Bee Gees) until paramedics arrive. People who are trained also may perform rescue breathing. The Red Cross and other medical groups offer first aid and CPR certification classes that train people on how to perform CPR and use an AED.
Someone suffering from shock or fainting needs blood to get back to his or her brain. Victims should lie on their backs with their feet elevated.
The Heimlich maneuver can be performed when someone is choking. Contrary to popular belief, people who are choking do not typically make any sounds. Stand behind the victim and wrap your arms around him. Place a fist between the person’s rib cage and belly button, and place your other hand over the fist. Deliver a quick thrust upward, and keep doing this until the foreign object is dislodged. Choking in children is handled differently depending on the child’s age. Parents can get training in child maneuvers.
Sprains and fractures
Sprains and fractures occur readily, especially among active adults and children. Immobilize the limb, apply a cold pack, elevate it, and offer anti-inflammatory drugs for discomfort and swelling. A doctor should be seen for further diagnosis and treatment.
Common first aid procedures can help save lives or reduce the severity of injuries when promptly offered.