We hear the term first aid so often but we rarely realize its importance. It is literally the first “aid” that you provide someone in a medical emergency. When helping with minor cuts, bruises, and burns, appropriate first aid can reduce chances of infections and swellings. For other medical emergencies like a heart attack, it could mean the difference between life and death. These basic first aid skills are definitely worth knowing.
1. Cuts And Scrapes
These may seem minor but they’re bound to happen around the house, the playground, the kitchen, or in general settings. The most important thing to do is prevent infection. Do not assume that a cut is clean just because you don’t see dirt or debris.
What To Do:
- If you’re administering first aid, then wash your hands thoroughly with antiseptic soap and water.
- Use a mild soap to wash the cut or scrape.
- Use direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
- Apply antibacterial ointment and a clean bandage that will not stick to the wound.
If the wound is deep and/or large, call emergency services immediately.
Nosebleeds can happen when you have a cold or minor irritation in your nose. They can also be caused by certain medication. Fortunately, they’re rarely a cause for concern and relatively easy to treat.
What To Do:
- If you have a nosebleed, use your fingers to squeeze the soft portion of your nose gently but firmly.
- Keep your nostrils closed for 10 minutes.
- Most people tend to lean back but you should actually lean forward so that you don’t swallow any blood.1
- Do not lie down while doing this.
- Give the bleeding enough time to stop(at least 10 minutes).2
If you work in the kitchen or a laboratory, you should be careful. However, if you do get minor burns, do not panic, as they are easy to treat. However, call emergency services if the burn is:
- caused by an electrical wire or socket, chemicals.
- larger than 2 inches (5 cm).
- on the hand, foot, face, groin, buttocks, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.
What To Do:
- Using a sink, shower, or garden hose, hold the burned skin under cool running water for 10 to 15 minutes until it does not hurt as much.
- This can be done for chemical burns as well. Remove any clothing that has the chemical on it.
- Use cool or cold water. Never use ice as it may damage the tissue further.3
- If this is not possible, put a cool, clean wet cloth on the burn, or soak the burn in a cool water bath for 5 minutes.
A sprain normally happens around the joints. It’s when the ligaments around the joint become stretched or torn. If it is a sprain, the joint will show bruising, stiffness, and swelling.4
What To Do:
- Wrap some ice in a cloth and apply it to the joint immediately.
- Limit movement of the joint with a firmly wrapped bandage. You may use a splint if you need to.
- Rest the joint for several days and don’t put stress on it.
- A sling for the arm, or crutches or a brace for the leg can avoid further injury.
The most common type of seizure that people are familiar with is called grand mal seizures. Here, the person may cry out, fall, shake or jerk, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.
What To Do:5
- Help ease the person on to the floor and turn them gently to one side.
- Clear the surrounding area of anything sharp to prevent injury.
- Place a soft and flat object, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
- Remove their eyeglasses if they have them.
- Loosen anything constricting around their necks like ties.
- Remember to time the seizure. If it lasts more than 5 minutes, call emergency services.
6. Heart Attack
Heart attacks happen when the blood flow that carries oxygen to the heart is blocked. The heart muscle, starved of oxygen, begins to die.6 A heart attack is a serious medical emergency so if you suspect that someone is having a heart attack, call emergency services straight away.
What To Do:
- If they are conscious, have them sit down, rest and try to keep them calm.
- Loosen any constricting or tight clothing.
- Ask if the person takes any medication for a known heart condition. Have them take their medication.
- If the pain does not go away promptly with rest or within 3 minutes of taking medication, call for emergency medical help.
- If the person is unconscious and unresponsive, call emergency services, then begin CPR if you have been trained to administer it, or find someone who has.
First-aid is a crucial life skill to have, so seriously consider taking a session on first-aid training. If in doubt, or in the case of major injuries, always call your local medical emergency service and keep the person calm until help arrives.