Everyone should know a little basic first aid and one to one tuition is the best way to learn. Yet a few basic pointers are within anyone's grasp, tips which may save the life and stabilise the condition of an accident victim until professional help arrives. For the most important thing to remember is that an ambulance or doctor should be called to any injury no matter how slight it may at first seem, any delay could lead to life threatening complications.

The first, golden,  rule, is to stay calm. If you panic you will be no help to anyone and, worse, your hysteria will transfer to the victim to their detriment.

Having sent for help:

  • Assess the condition of the patient, that they are conscious, check that they are breathing, that their heart still beats regularly, that their airway is unobstructed and that there is no bleeding.
  • If broken bones - do not move the affected part unless you absolutely have to. Generally, do not move casualties unless absolutely necessary.
  • If there are a number of casualties - rapidly assess the  condition of each and deal first with those at greatest risk.
  • If unconscious - loosen clothing, tilt the head back to open the airway, remove any obstacles to breathing.
  • If not breathing - loosen clothing, start mouth to mouth respiration immediately, pinch the nose closed, breath into the mouth until the chest rises, release. Repeat steadily until breathing naturally.
  • If no heartbeat or pulse - loosen clothing, start chest massage immediately, placing the heel of one hand over the heart and with the other hand on top and arms straight, compress the chest approximately 1 to 2 inches.  Repeat 15 times, then carry out mouth to mouth for approximately 1 minute. Repeat chest compressions and then breathing. Keep going until a pulse returns.  If there are other people, get them to assist you, but keep it going.
  • If the above have been successful - place into the recovery position, laying on one side - with something to protect the face -, lift both top arm and leg up and slightly forward. This eases breathing and circulation.
  • If bleeding - squeeze the sides of the cut together and apply constant pressure until a pad of some material can be formed, hold in place until help arrives or bandage firmly into place. If the cut is on a limb raise it to reduce blood flow
  • Use a blanket to keep the injured person warm, to reduce shock, and do not allow them to eat, drink or smoke.
  • If the casualty is conscious, question them to establish what their injuries are, this keeps them talking and gains vital information for the rescue services.

All of these simple tips can save life and are easily remembered but there is no substitute for proper training. For those who would like to know more both the Red Cross and St John run excellent short courses.  Both of these very worthwhile organisations are listed in the telephone book in their different areas and will give information on the next course close to you.

The BBC website also carries useful information, including a quiz to test your first aid skills in a number of different situations.

Article © Graham Benge 2007

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