I’m sure there was a time when you experienced a health emergency or probably had minor or severe injuries. Or maybe you’ve seen, or you know someone who did. Then you’ll know that some people survive while others were not so lucky. Often, the difference between people in these two categories is the first aid they apply themselves or receive from someone else. So you see that first aid can be that tiny difference between life and death.
Have you experienced terrible health emergencies and have been caught between what to do and what not to do?
And I can tell you that those tense moments can be scary, but don’t panic; I’ve got you covered.
In this article, I’ll show you the top first aid skills you’ll need to stay on top of these emergencies as a first responder. But first and foremost, let’s know the basics.
First aid is the immediate or first care or treatment that an injured or sick person receives pending diagnosis or full medical treatment. It is a preliminary treatment offered in the occurrence of an accident or health emergency. Often, first aid is performed by Red Cross Societies (RCS) members who act as first responders to small and large scale incidents.
It will interest you to know that you don’t have to study medicine or join a Red Cross Unit to render first aid and save lives. Most first aid skills require quick thinking, composure and are basic procedures and soft application skills that do not necessarily need technical expertise. But since most emergency incidents happen unexpectedly and in different locations, you may be that first responder.
So, I’ll buttress on skills you can use when you don’t have access to an actual first aid kit. But if you do, please rely mainly on the tools in the kit while using these skills. Some of these tools include gloves, syringes, sterilizers, bandages, cotton, plasters, tapes, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, ointment, antiseptic, etc.
Now, here are the top 12 first aid skills that you must know during an emergency
#1 Introduce yourself: Due to the likelihood of panic, an excellent first responder introduces himself or herself to the injured person. However, this is not necessary in cases where the persons involved are familiar with each other or have a relationship. This preliminary procedure is required to obtain consent, whether express or implied.
Here, it would be best if you communicated with the person to ensure that they are still conscious. You also need to know whether the injured person is responsive by tapping or talking to them. As a last course of action, find a valid means of identification if the individual(s) is unresponsive and immediately report it to the authorities.
#2 Assess the situation and safety of the environment: In the case of injuries or accidents, you should check whether the surroundings are safe before starting treatment. You should take the injured person away from more harm if the surrounding is dangerous. So, if there’s traffic or conflict, you should first find a safe shelter for yourself and the individual before attempting rescue or first aid.
Ideally, this should come before introducing yourself, but specific situations may necessitate a change in the order. For instance, if there is imminent danger in an unsafe area, you should relocate the injured person to a safe distance. But if the person is injured during a cross-fire, you should introduce yourself so that you are not harmed due to apprehension.
#3 Identify the emergency: You need to know whether it is stroke, bleeding, allergy reaction, cardiac arrest, sprain, fracture, or other health issues. In such emergencies, you can only help a person when you’ve accessed the situation, and you know what the problem is. But if you don’t, you may want to wait for the health emergency dispatch while keeping the person company.
#4 Call the Emergency Health Hotline: You should know or find quick access to the emergency hotline(s) of health operators in your area. You should immediately call for medical assistance when you identify the emergency and carry on with the first aid.
Often, these hotlines are just three figures, so they are easy to remember. Some countries use 911, 999, 111, 123, and so on for various local health emergencies.
Now, what are those other skills you’ll need to manage and treat specific emergencies?
#5 Breathing: If the cases involve breathing issues, there are simple skills you can use. These skills are applied to supply oxygen to the lungs and sustain oxygen flow to restore breathing and blood circulation. These skills can be combined or used solely.
In the case of no breathing or cardiac arrest, you may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You can do this by applying pressure on the chest with both hands – one on top of the other. Or you can apply back blows on the back chest region while holding the person upright. And you’ll then perform mouth-to-mouth by blowing enough air into the mouth while holding the person’s nose.
And if you have the automatic external defibrillator (AED), you should only use electric paddles if you have proper training. So you can take CPR classes or seek training from medical experts.
But if the person cannot breathe due to choking, you should bend them forward and apply back blows to dislodge the object. You can also perform the Heimlich maneuver if you have the proper skill training.
#6 Bleeding: There are simple skills you can use to stop bleeding, as this is treated as a priority in such cases. You should know that every minute counts, as excessive blood loss can lead to fatality.
If the case is bleeding, and the cut is small, wash your hands, clean the wound with saline solution, and apply antibiotics. It would help if you then cover the wound with a bandage.
And if there is severe bleeding, then you should apply pressure on the wound for some minutes to make the blood clot. In more severe or combat cases, first responders may also use morphine to reduce pain and prevent shock.
#7 Burns: There are various degree burns, but they are caused by excessive heat or fire. Minor burns are often due to bruises or direct contact with hot liquid or hot surfaces. But major burns could be a result of a fire outbreak or road accident.
As a first responder to minor burns, you need to apply cold water and moisturizer to the affected area. You can also advise that the person visit a pharmacy store to get pain relief drugs.
In cases of major burns, there only so much you can do with your kit. But it would help if you put out any fire burning the person, either with a wet cloth or a fire extinguisher. It would also help if you then covered the wound with loose material.
#8 Allergies: In cases of allergies, you can only probably know this if you have prior knowledge about their condition. Or you were told you by the person experiencing the allergic reaction. But allergic reactions occur when the body is hypersensitive to an external substance
First, you’ll need to check if the person has an epinephrine auto-injector such as an EpiPen. And if they do, apply the EpiPen on them to subdue the reaction.
But if you can’t find an EpiPen, ensure you keep the person calm and ensure they have enough ventilation. Also, have them lie back and keep their feet aloft
#9 Hypothermia: For as much as you enjoy the cold weather, this can be a terrible experience. Hypothermia is due to prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures.
According to medical experts, hypothermia starts when your body temperature drops below 950F (350C). And persons who experience this develop a weak pulse and may eventually lose consciousness.
As a first responder, you need to cover the person with a thick and warm blanket and relocate to a friendly environment where there’s heat. If you’re in an isolated outdoor, you can start a small fire. Also, you should replace any wet clothes and offer hot drinks or warm fluid.
#10 Sprains: Sprains are usually identified by a swelling limb. You can reduce the swelling by applying ice to the injured area, either in a wrapped cloth or plastic bag. You should ensure that you tightly wrap these to keep the injury congested.
It would help if you regularly compress the area at intervals by replacing the ice and plastic bags. Lastly, ensure that you don’t place too much weight on the sprained limb. You can do this by placing the leg aloft.
#11 Stroke: Here, every second count. A stroke usually occurs in older people, but no one is immune to stroke. A stroke happens when cerebral circulation is impaired, and cerebral arteries or veins are blocked due to blood clots.
Stroke victims usually exhibit fatigue, dizziness, and numbness. They also have intense headaches and sometimes disoriented, and unable to see and walk properly.
As a first responder to a stroke victim, you can apply aspirin if you’re sure the person does not have an allergy. Ensure you keep the stroke victim conscious while you wait for an ambulance.
#12 Fractures: In such cases, you need to be careful with the fractured area. So, don’t try to straighten the limb as it may cause further pain or bleeding. Just paddle the area to stabilize locomotion and apply a cold bag just like the sprain case above. And you should keep the limb aloft and ensure that you don’t put weight on the injured limb.
Lastly, don’t forget that first aid is not complete until you clean yourself. If you’ve come in contact with a sick or injured person, you should check your health status immediately before going to work or returning home. Also, place all tools that come in contact with bodily fluid and dispose of responsibly.
If you have bloodstains, you should clean, wash and sanitize your hands, and probably have a hot bath. If you rendered first aid to a sick person, you should follow-up on the incident, inform your family doctor or therapist. In extreme trauma cases, you may also visit the hospital.
Easy right? Yeah, I bet you are now ready to tackle health emergencies as a first responder and save a life someday.
And don’t forget to apply these skills to achieve the “three P’s” of first aid: the preservation of life, prevention of further injury, and promotion of recovery.