Basic First Aid and First Aid Kits
This article was put together by xdemix, for Young People Can Help The World Too and for ClareJulissa’s blog International Young Artists for a Better World, which can be found here: iya4abetterworld.wordpress.com
“First aid” is a term referring to the basic care that someone can provide in the event of illness, accident, or injury until professional medical treatment is given. It was a concept first put into practice by the Knights Hospitaller, who came up with the term “first aid” and founded the Order of St. John in the 11th century to train knights in the treatment of common battlefield injuries.
The information below is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Taking a first aid class will provide even more in-depth instruction. But there are definitely actions you can take to help in the event of injury.
When accidents happen, sometimes the first casualty is plain old common sense. It’s easy to panic and forget about what’s important, but these mnemonics can help you remember what to do. Mnemonic devices are formulas, usually in the form of rhymes, phrases or acronyms, to help you remember things. Some of the most familiar mnemonics in first aid are: the three Ps and the three Bs; the ABCs and CPR; and RICE.
The Three Ps:
Preserve life. Prevent further injury. Promote recovery.
Make sure the person stays alive, ensure that nothing is done to further injure the person, take any action you can to help the person get better.
The Three Bs:
Breathing. Bleeding. Bones.
The Three Bs will help you to remember to check, and in the order of importance, while you treat an injured person: Is the person breathing? Is the person bleeding? Are there any broken bones?
Remember Your ABCs
ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
Remembering your ABCs helps you to remember to check that the injured person has a clear airway passage (that they aren’t choking), is able to breathe, and has a pulse. Open the airway by lifting the person’s chin with your fingers, and gently tilting their head back. Listen for breathing sounds, look for a rise and fall of the chest, and feel for breathing movement. Check for a pulse by placing two fingers on the person’s neck between the voicebox and the muscle on the side of the neck. If a person is not breathing and does not have a pulse, call 911 and begin CPR.
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a procedure performed on people whose heart or breathing has stopped. Once you have checked the ABCs, if a person is unresponsive, call 911.
Begin CPR on an adult by pinching the person’s nose as you give two breaths into their mouth. Using two fingers, check the person’s pulse at the carotid artery (the neck, just under the jaw, between the voicebox and the muscle on the side of the neck) for 5-10 seconds. If there is no pulse, make sure the person is on their back, then place your hands one on top of the other on the lower half of the chest. Press down to give 15 compressions, about one every second. Give two more breaths, pinching the nose and breathing directly into the person’s mouth. Continue 15 compressions with 2 breaths for 4 cycles. After one minute, recheck pulse and breathing. If the person has regained a pulse, discontinue compressions. If the person is still not breathing, continue giving a breath every 5 seconds until help arrives.
When performing CPR on an infant, use two fingers instead of your whole hand, and compress on the breastbone, just below the nipple line. For children, use two hands for chest compression. For infants and children, alternative five compressions and one slow breath, for a total of twelve cycles.
Use RICE for acute injuries like a sprained ankle or injuries due to overuse, like muscle strain.
Rest the injured area until pain and swelling go away (usually 1-3 days)
Within 15 minutes of an injury, apply ice by placing a damp towel over the injured area and putting a cold pack, bag of ice, or a bag of frozen vegetables on top of that. Leave the ice on for 10-30 minutes, then take it off for 30-45 minutes. Repeat this ice on/ice off alteration as often as possible for the next one to three days.
Use a bandage to apply gentle, but firm, pressure until the swelling goes down. Beginning a few inches below the injured area, wrap the bandage in an upward spiral; if using compression in addition to ice, wrap the bandage over the ice pack.
Try to keep the injured area above heart level to drain excess fluid for at least one to three days.
For Burns, Cuts and Scrapes
Burns are classified by degree. First-degree burns are a reddening of the skin, like a mild sunburn. Second-degree burns are when the skin blisters. Third-degree burns are when the skin is charred.
Treatment for first- and second-degree burns is to immerse in cold water for 15 minutes, then apply sterile dressing. For a third-degree burn, cover the burn with a sterile dressing and treat for shock (calm and reassure the injured person, help her maintain a comfortable body temperature with a blanket or remove her from wind or sun, or have her lay down and elevate her legs 8 to 10 inches.)
NEVER, EVER apply ice, butter, oil or any other substance to a burn.
For cuts and scrapes, rinse the area with cool water. Apply firm but gentle pressure, using gauze, to stop any bleeding. If blood soaks through, add more gauze, keeping the first layer in place. Continue to apply pressure.
The universal choking symbol is made by putting your hands around your throat. If you are choking and cannot talk, make this symbol to alert people around you. If someone who is choking can still talk or is coughing, encourage her to cough more to expel the object. If she cannot talk, or if the cough is weak or ineffective, perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Stand slightly behind the choking person and place your arms around her waist, below her ribcage. Make a fist with one hand, placing your thumb just above her belly button, and grab that first with your other hand. Give five strong upward-thrusting squeezes to try to lift the diaphragm, forcing air from the lungs and provoking a cough. The cough should move and expel whatever is blocking the airway. If it doesn’t, perform the maneuver again to dislodge the object. If choking persists, call 911.
Treatment depends on the type of reaction to insect bites. If there is only redness and pain at the site of the bite, application of ice is adequate treatment. Clean the area with soap and water to remove contaminated particles left behind by some insects (such as mosquitoes.) These particles may further contaminate the wound if not removed. Refrain from scratching, because this may cause the skin to break down and an infection to form.
You may treat itching at the site of the bite with an over-the-counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in cream or pill form. Calamine lotion also helps relieve itching.
If the person with the bite has a history of severe reactions to bites, they may have been assigned an anaphylaxis kit. The kit contains an epinephrine injector (the person gives themselves an injection), a tourniquet, and an antihistamine. The kit should be used according to doctor’s instructions. Call 911 IMMEDIATLEY if you, or the person with the insect bite, are having chest pains, difficulty breathing, severe bleeding, sudden weakness or numbness, or if you think there is a medical emergency.
If you suspect that you or someone you are with may be having a heart attack, call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
While waiting for the ambulance, have the patient chew two baby aspirin or at least half a regular aspirin—at least 160 mg. There is no evidence that taking more than that helps more, and the patient could have unwanted side effects if they take too much.
It is important to chew the medicine before swallowing it, because chewing it decreases the time that the medicine takes to take effect.
Chewing an aspirin in the early stages of a heart attack may reduce the risk of death and it may also reduce the severity of the attack.
If the patient has had angina and has nitroglycerin tablets available, have the patient place one under the tongue. This may aid in increasing blood flow to blocked or narrowed arteries.
If the chest pain continues in the next five minutes, take another tablet under the tongue.
If, after three nitroglycerin tablets, the patient does not have relief of the chest pain, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
If the pain is from acid reflux (GERD), it may be relieved with antacids. Even if the patient’s pain goes away after taking an antacid, do not assume they are not having a heart attack. The patient should still be evaluated in a hospital emergency department.
Home care is appropriate when a person is known to have seizures, if the seizure is brief, and if the person recovers fully and uneventfully. If not, call 911 or your local emergency number. If home care is appropriate, ensure that you do the following.
*Cushion the head.
*Loosen any tight neckwear.
*Turn the person on his or her side after convulsion ceases. This may help drain any moisture or secretions from the person’s mouth.
*Do not attempt to hold down or restrain the person.
*Do not place anything in the person’s mouth or try to pry the teeth apart.
* Observe these items: length of seizure, type of movements, direction of any head or eye turning, amount of time to return to alertness and full consciousness.
In an emergency, what helps most is being prepared.
Make a list of important phone numbers and put them on the wall next to your kitchen phone, or a notepad stuck to the refrigerator. That way, in the event of an accident, you’ll easily find the numbers to call your family doctor, poison control, the fire department, or the police.
The most important emergency number to know, of course, is 911, OR whatever the emergency number or police station number is in your country. Calling 911 is free from any phone, even a pay phone. It can be scary to call 911, especially if you aren’t sure if what you’re dealing with is a real emergency. But it’s the right thing to do when someone is dangerously hurt, not breathing, unresponsive, choking and you’ve tried the Heimlich Maneuver several times and it isn’t working.
A good rule to remember is: When you’re in doubt, make the call.
What To Do When You Call 911/Your Country’s Emergency Number
*Try to speak as calmly as you can.
*Give the address you are calling from.
*State the nature of the emergency (fire, accident, injury, choking, etc.)
*Listen to the 911 operator and follow any instructions you are given.
*DO NOT HANG UP UNTIL THE 911 OPERATOR TELLS YOU IT’S OKAY TO HANG UP.
First Aid Kit
It’s ALWAYS a good idea to have a first aid kit at home (making one for your family can even be a fun project!) For the kit itself, you can use a tote bag, backpack, or other container that is clean, roomy, easy to carry, and easy to open. The American College of Emergency Physicians recommends including the following in your first aid kit:
*Band-Aids of assorted sizes
*Bandage closures and safety pins
*Gauze and adhesive tape
*Sharp scissors with rounded tips
*Instant-activating cold packs
*Oral medicine syringe (for children)
*Medicines including aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cough suppressants, antihistamine, decongestants
*A page listing the contents of your kit for easy reference, your list of emergency phone numbers, and a list of family member’s allergies and medications.
First aid on the go: You can make a mini-kit (with Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, and Ace bandages) to take with you on a hike, or when you babysit.