To a person with a reasonable knowledge of the simple basics of first aid, there is usually a clear-cut course to follow. There is no need to panic. This helps nobody, least of all the victim. Here in this section you will find the basic needs that may help in coping with the general run-of-the-mill accidents that commonly occur. It is not a complete manual, but it should serve as a guide in emergencies. However, this does not replace first aid training.
Read it through and get to know the requirements of how to act in an emergency. Who knows, but the next time it is needed you may be able to save someone very close to you – one of your children, relatives or friends. First aid knowledge will never go amiss, even if you use it only a few times in your lifetime. If it saves one life or more, then it will have been all worthwhile. It is possible to take courses in first aid in most countries.
To start this section, a few of the essential ingredients of first aid care will be outlined. It is not an exhaustive list, but covers the more important and more pressing needs.
It is essential that the person offering first aid remain calm throughout the entire procedure. In major accidents, fear will no doubt strike the heart of any amateur not regularly geared for the unpleasant sights that may occur. Seeing humans in pain and distress is never easy, and a sense of empathy is inevitable. However, do not be overcome with anxiety, for this will reduce your efficiency. It is preferable for the adrenaline produced by your system to convert you into a more efficient unit. When you are calm, you can think clearly, act with precision, with dignity and authority.
Others will tend to listen to you, and are more likely to be helpful. Most important, your patient will appreciate kind, authoritative words, filled with good cheer, confidence and hope. Do not tell stories about the last person you saw with similar injuries who died two days later. Right now the patient wants good cheer, hope, confidence, life, more than anything else. Use this to its full effect, no matter how you might feel, and how poor the outlook appears. It is a major factor, and is repeated often in the following headings of guidance.
Breathing and Heartbeat When attending a person who has sustained an injury, or some type of medical emergency, there are several steps to follow. These may be summarised as follows:
1. First, make sure that both you and your patient are in a safe position. This is especially true of roadside accidents, where passing traffic may cause further serious injury to you both. Or with electrical emergencies, make certain that the power has been turned off, so that further danger cannot occur.
2. It is essential to check the patient’s level of consciousness.
3. Next, check that the airways are open and clear. When this has been done,
4. Check for breathing, and
5. Check the pulse in the neck (the carotid artery pulse). This may be felt by the fingers just below the jawbone on the side of the throat.
If the patient is not breathing automatically, it is necessary to take steps to force air into the lung system. This is called expired air resuscitation, or EAR for short. It used to be called mouth-to mouth breathing or resuscitation.
If the heart is not beating, indicated by an absence of the carotid pulse in the neck, it is essential that this be started again. This is carried out by external cardiac compression (ECC for short. formerly known as external cardiac massage). More likely both procedures will be carried out together, and this collectively is called cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR for short. In summary, EAR + ECC = CPR.
It is essential to get the blood flowing again as urgently as possible, for it is well-established that irreversible brain damage may occur after three minutes, although this is a variable time. Sec the section on Resuscitation and learn by heart the methods to be used. The methods have various names, but names are unimportant; the basic steps are what matter. Any first aider must be aware of the system and be able to put it into immediate action at any moment. It is frequently life-sustaining.
These measures must be continued until normal heart and breathing action resume, or the patient is handed over to professional personnel geared with other methods of sustaining life.
Once the heart and lung action have been re-established, the next most pressing emergency action is to check any abnormal bleeding. Blood loss is crucial, and it must be stopped as a matter of urgency The more forceful the loss (and the greater the volume being lost), the more urgent the measure.
If this does not happen, fluids are lost from the body, and very quickly the patient may submerge into various states of shock. This may lead to unconsciousness, and death may quickly result.
Blood loss, irrespective of where it is coming from, must be checked. External loss can usually be stopped or greatly reduced by direct pressure using some form of clean padding. It doesn’t matter what this is during an emergency. Be as sterile in your actions as possible, but stemming the flow comes before sterility with haemorrhaging.
After these first essentials have been attended to, it is then possible to reassess the patient and attend to other injuries. These may include such features as broken bones (fractures), dislocations, soft tissue injuries such as lacerations, sprains and contusions (bruises). It may affect burns, foreign missiles and any number of items.
If the patient is unconscious, it may be impossible to decide what has happened. In any case, the patient is then best placed in a stable side position (see instructions and pictures), and medical help obtained.
Many accidents need urgent help from doctors and ambulance officers. Do what you can on the spot, and then summon assistance. Ideally, if living in the city or in areas where ambulance services are available, call them urgently, or have an assistant do this.
You will need to state clearly your address. and often the nearest cross-street, for this can help quicker access. State how many are injured and need help, and briefly the nature of the accident. Great details are unnecessary. Simply state: “There has been a motor-car accident and three persons are badly injured and two are unconscious.” That is adequate. Usually the ambulance depot gives you a reference number that is worth remembering in case there is some subsequent delay, or something goes wrong. If this is not available, get the help of a doctor.
If this is not forthcoming, then getting the patient to the emergency ward of a large hospital is the next best thing. The sooner this can be carried out the better. This is particularly difficult with serious accident cases, and unconscious victims or persons with a probable spinal or other serious fractures. However, in an emergency when there is no help available, you can only do your best.
First Aid Kit
Often many minor accidents can be helped a great deal if you happen to own a simple first aid kit. It is wise to have it ready for all occasions, and use it as need be. But after use, make certain you replenish the items used so that once more it will he readily available.
It is worth while having a photocopy of the methods of resuscitation and the stable side position glued to the inside of this kit, and also glued to the inside of your home medicine cabinet. Also, have the emergency phone numbers of likely persons you may need to contact similarly listed in these two places. It can make it so much easier when an emergency arises. How often have you seen people trying to fumble through the small print of the telephone book in an emergency. desperately trying to locate a much-needed number? Often they will miss it many times over because their nervous system is trying just too hard, and they are too overwrought to know what they are seeking. This even applies to such vital services as the ambulance, doctor, police and fire brigade. if these are clearly written in an obvious place, then you will have less worry, and you will be able to act in a more calm, positive and beneficial manner.
Often accidents require the assistance of many persons. Often you will need a neighbour or friends. Often there will be plenty of people around. But even though the crowd rapidly gathers when an accident occurs (especially spectacular events such as fires and road smashes), often there is hardly a soul who will willingly come forward to offer help. Far better to be able to call a friend or neighbour to lend a hand, and ideally someone who also has a little knowledge of first aid.
As a Last Resort
If, as a last resort, even though you are unfamiliar with first aid, and do not know too much about general principles, at least try to remain calm and do your best. Fortunately, commonsense often comes to the rescue, and will suggest to you what to do next. Be guided by your inner directives, and frequently this will help – at least until somebody with some more direction and knowledge turns up. Good wishes and success in your first aiding.