First aid is medical care, generally provided by a layperson, as a first response to injury or illness. Its purpose is to preserve or save the life of the afflicted until such a time as a skilled medical professional can provide assistance. First Aid will is usually related to either circulatory system support (stopping the bleeding, check the pulse) and respiratory system support (make sure they're breathing, get them breathing if they are not) although it can take on other duties as well.
Refer to the first aid glossary for a list of First Aid/Medical terms and their definitions.
First Aid Techniques
First aid techniques are simple, yet very effective and possibly life-saving actions that can be performed by any able-bodied person. These most notably include skills like CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and others.
First aid is primarily concerned with the preservation of life through support of the respiratory and circulatory systems, to that end the "CAB's" or Circulation, Airway and Breathing are taught per the 2010 American Heart Association and American Red Cross First Aid/CPR Guidelines. Prior to these guidelines the "ABC's" of Airway, Breathing, Circulation were used.
- Circulation is generally the first thing checked through a brief initial assessment. If the patient is not breathing or if agonal breathing is present activate EMS and begin CPR.
- All humans require a clear airway to breathe. Possible causes of airway restriction include restriction of the trachea, "swallowing" of the tongue, vomit, food, or any of many other possible objects. Reposition the head and clear the airway of obstructions to allow for spontaneous respiration or artificial respiration.
- If the airway is clear the next step is to check the subject respiration, make sure that they are breathing. If they are not then rescue breaths may need to be performed. Breathing also includes trauma to the lungs, such as sucking chest wound since it collapses the lung.
CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is perhaps the best known and most widely taught first aid technique. CPR is performed to support the respiration and circulation of someone who has stopped breathing and/or has no pulse by using chest compressions and artificial respiration (mouth-to-mouth). The purpose of CPR is not to restart the patient's breathing or pulse, but rather to keeping oxygenated blood flowing to the brain until defibrillation can be performed by medical professionals or an AED (automated external defibrillator) becomes available. Take a CPR class and get certified in adult and infant CPR as well as AED! Also, keep in mind that CPR and AED standards change frequently according to current medical standards, so yearly refresher courses should be considered.
The Heimlich maneuver is a simple procedure to expel an object from the trachea of a choking individual by compressing the abdomen/diaphragm which in turn compresses the lungs causing a volume of high-pressure air to force out the obstruction. To perform this technique, position yourself behind the patient and wrap your arms around their midsection below their armpits. Make a fist with one hand and place that fist, with the thunb facing the patient, just below the bottom edge of the bone in the center of the patient's chest. Place the palm of your other hand over your fist, cupping the fist. Quickly and firmly pull in and up to force the diaphragm up. Continue until the obstruction is expeled or the patient loses consciousness, at which time you should ease them down to the ground and perform chect compressions instead until the obstruction is expeled. You may need to sweep the obstructing material from the mouth of the patient after it dislodges from the airway. Continue to monitor the patients CAB's, performing CPR if needed, until someone with more advanced medical training arrives.
The recovery position is a simple positioning of the body that helps to facilitate recovery and the stable condition of an unconscious patient through encouraging stillness and breathing. The position also allows fluids to drain from the patient's mouth and nose thus reducing the risk of an airway obstruction or aspiration of said fluids in an unconscious patient. To place a patient in the recovery position, lay them on their left side, with their head in a neutral position, and their left arm bent at the elbow with the left hand tucked under the left side of their head. The left leg should be striaght and the right leg bent at the knee with the right knee touching the ground in front of the left knee to help them stay in the position. NOTE: If a spinal injury is suspected, the patient should not be put in this position as it may contribute to further injury of the spine through movement of the spine from the neutral inline position. In such a situation, the patient should be placed on their back by moving their body as a whole if at all possible then a rescuer should position themselves at the head of the patient and place either their knees or their hands on each side of the patients head to maintain a neutral position of the head and spine. This protection of the spine should be performed unless there is an immediate threat to the patient's CAB's that could lead to death if not immediately addressed. Life takes presidence over limb. To clear the airway, the patient would be rolled briefly on their side while maintaining alignment of the head and spine.
Triage, which is the sorting, prioritizing, and selecting of patients to be treated according to various factors such as severity of condition; is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks a first aid provider may have to deal with. Depending on the situation you may select the most severely injured, the most likely to survive, the most treatable, or the most important to the survival of the group such as the leadership. Triage cannot be taken lightly, but you should do your best to perform the tasks with some objectivity. Color coded tags are commonly to mark the casualties that have been sorted. The tags can be formal slips of paper or something improvised quickly like different colored electrical tape.
- The four colors of triage:
Black Expectant Pain medication only until death Red Immediate Life threatening injuries Yellow Delayed Non-life threatening injuries (Walking wounded) Green Minimal Minor injuries
First Aid Kit
While some first aid procedures can be performed without any tools or equipment, having a first aid kit (FAK) can greatly increase the number of actions you can take and the effectiveness with which they can be performed.
Injuries and Ailments
The scope of first aid is limited compared to the rest of medicine due to limitations of the skills and equipment of lay people and first responders, so anyone interested in first aid or preparing a FAK should be aware of what injuries and ailments they wish to be prepared to treat and under what conditions.
While not exactly first aid, during an emergency or survival situation some psychology may need to be employed. A person who is overcome with grief at the loss of a loved one, shocked by the effects of a disaster, or otherwise in a debilitating frame of mind is at far greater risk than someone who is focused and determined. Having a basic understanding of how to get someone to "snap out of it" or otherwise rapidly deal with a psychological issue could save lives. A professional psychologist can help a person "deal" with their issues in a more complete way later, during a disaster it is more important that they keep functioning. Remember that your mind is the number one tool in any survival situation. Panic will only compound the situation.