First Aid First Aid 101

Accidents and emergencies can happen at any time and in any place. When they do, knowing how to administer first aid can be a lifesaving skill. Whether it’s a minor injury or a more serious medical emergency, being able to provide prompt and effective first aid can make all the difference in the outcome. From treating cuts and scrapes to responding to a heart attack, having a basic understanding of first aid can be the difference between life and death. In this article, we’ll explore some essential first aid tips to keep in mind for common medical emergencies. 


First aid is the initial care given to an individual who has been injured or has suddenly fallen ill before the arrival of medical professionals. The primary goal of first aid is to stabilize the person’s condition, prevent further injury or illness, and provide temporary relief from any pain or discomfort. First aid can be administered by anyone, regardless of their level of medical training, and it can often mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. It’s important to note that while first aid can be very effective in many emergency situations, it is not a substitute for professional medical care. In cases of severe injury or illness, it’s important to seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible. 


First aid is a critical skill to have because it can often mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. In many cases, the first few minutes following an injury or illness are the most critical. If the person receives prompt and effective first aid during this time, it can significantly increase their chances of survival and reduce the risk of complications. 

First aid is also important because it can prevent further injury or illness. For example, if someone has a deep cut, applying pressure and dressing the wound can help to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. Similarly, if someone is choking, performing the Heimlich maneuver can dislodge the object and prevent the person from suffocating. 

Another important aspect of first aid is that it can provide temporary relief from pain or discomfort. For example, administering pain medication or using ice to reduce swelling can help to make the person more comfortable until they can receive further medical treatment. 

In addition to these immediate benefits, knowing how to administer first aid can also provide peace of mind and help to reduce anxiety in emergency situations. It can also help to build confidence and preparedness in case of future emergencies. 


Now that we’ve understood what first aid is and why it is an important skill to learn, it’s time to explore some essential first aid tips to keep in mind for common medical emergencies. 

As a medical doctor, I believe that is important to equip everyone with a few basic first aid skills and that every person who is able should attempt to master them. It might seem like a daunting task at first, but with the right preparation it isn’t hard as it might seem. Here are some basic first aid tips to remember for common medical emergencies:  


1. Bleeding: In case of a severe bleed, apply direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or bandage until medical help arrives. Do not remove the cloth if it becomes soaked. Removing the first layer will interfere with the clotting process and result in more blood loss. Instead, add more layers if needed. If the bleeding is from a limb, elevate the limb above the level of the heart to help reduce blood flow. 


2. Burns: Immediately run cool water over the burned area for 10 to 20 minutes. This helps to reduce pain and minimize the extent of the burn. Do not apply ice or butter to the burn, as this can cause further damage. For MINOR burns, you may apply a light gauze bandage to the affected area and then consult a doctor right away for proper medications. It is important to note though that for MAJOR burns (2nd to 3rd degree), emergency medical attention is warranted. Once you’ve stopped the burning process, bring the patient to the nearest emergency room.  


3. Choking: If someone is choking, try to remain calm and encourage them to cough to dislodge the object. If the person is unable to breathe or cough, perform the Heimlich maneuver by standing behind them, placing your hands around their waist and applying upward pressure just below the rib cage until the object is dislodged. 


4. Heart Attack: If someone is experiencing chest pain or discomfort, call for emergency medical help immediately. Have the person sit down and stay calm while waiting for help to arrive. Loosen any tight clothing. If the person is unconscious and unresponsive, and not breathing or does not have a pulse, call the local emergency number for help, then begin CPR. 


5. Stroke: Depending on the severity of the stroke, symptoms may be subtle or severe. Before you can help, you need to know what to watch for. To check for warning signs of a stroke, use the F.A.S.T. acronym, which stands for: 


 Face: Is the face numb or does it droop on one side? 

Arms: Is one arm numb or weaker than the other? Does one arm stay lower than the other when trying to raise both arms? 

Speech: Is speech slurred or garbled? 

Time: If you answered yes to any of the above, it’s time to call emergency services immediately. 


Other signs and symptoms of a stroke, which come on suddenly, include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including the face, arm or leg, dimness, blurring or loss of vision, particularly in one eye or sudden double vision, sudden, severe headache with no clear cause, unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall.  


While waiting for help to arrive, make sure they’re in a safe, comfortable position. Preferably, this should be lying on one side with their head slightly raised and supported in case they vomit. Check to see if they’re breathing. If they’re not breathing, perform CPR. If they’re having difficulty breathing, loosen any constrictive clothing, such as a tie or scarf. Don’t give them anything to eat or drink. If the person is showing any weakness in a limb, avoid moving them. 


6. Seizures: If someone is having a seizure, make sure to clear the area around them of any sharp or dangerous objects. Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help the person breathe.  Do not try to restrain the person or put anything in their mouth. This can injure teeth or the jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her tongue. Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head. Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe. Time the seizure. Stay with the person until the seizure ends. Call for help if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes. Do not offer the person water or food until he or she is fully alert. 


7. Poisoning: If someone has ingested poison, remove anything remaining in the person’s mouth. Do not try to induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by medical professionals. For poison on the skin, remove any contaminated clothing using gloves. Rinse the skin for 15 to 20 minutes in a shower or with a hose. For poison in the eye, gently flush the eye with cool or lukewarm water for 20 minutes or until help arrives. For inhaled poison, get the person into fresh air as soon as possible. If the person vomits, turn his or her head to the side to prevent choking. Begin CPR if the person shows no signs of life, such as moving, breathing or coughing and call for emergency medical help immediately. Do not forget to gather pill bottles, packages or containers with labels, and any other information about the poison to send along with the ambulance team. 


8. Fractures: If someone has a suspected fracture, immobilize the injured limb using a splint or makeshift support until medical help arrives. Do not try to straighten or move the limb, as this can cause further damage. Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material. 


9. Nosebleeds: If someone is experiencing a nosebleed, have them sit down and lean forward slightly to prevent blood from flowing into their throat. Pinch the soft part of their nose, just below the bridge, with your fingers and apply gentle pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. Encourage the person to breathe through their mouth during this time. If bleeding persists, seek medical attention.  

It’s important to note that if a nosebleed is severe or if it is accompanied by a head injury or other serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, seek emergency medical attention right away. 


10. Drowning: If someone is drowning, immediately call for emergency medical help and notify any lifeguards or nearby individuals for assistance. If the person is still in the water, attempt to remove them from the water as quickly as possible while being careful to not put yourself in danger. If they are not breathing, begin CPR immediately until emergency medical personnel arrive. 

If someone has been rescued from drowning and is unconscious but breathing, place them in the recovery position and monitor their breathing and heart rate until emergency medical personnel arrive. It’s important to note that even if someone appears fine after a near-drowning incident, they should still receive medical attention to ensure that there are no underlying injuries or medical conditions. 


In any emergency situation, knowing how to administer first aid can be a lifesaving skill. Whether it’s a minor injury or a more serious medical emergency, being able to provide prompt and effective first aid can make all the difference in the outcome. It’s important to remember that while first aid can be very effective, it is not a substitute for professional medical care. In cases of severe injury or illness, it’s important to seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible. 


If you haven’t already, consider taking a first aid course to learn the necessary skills and gain the confidence to respond effectively in an emergency situation. You can also refresh your knowledge by reviewing basic first aid techniques and procedures regularly. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to respond in case of an emergency, and you may even be able to help save a life. 


Remember, in any emergency situation, the most important thing is to stay calm, assess the situation, and take appropriate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the person in need. With a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can make a big difference in an emergency situation.  

About The Author

Dr. Hannah is a highly-skilled and compassionate physician who completed her medical degree at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2014. She passed the Physician Licensure Exam in 2015, and has since gained experience working in various hospitals and clinics throughout Metro Manila. For three years, she served as a physician on duty at a dialysis institute, caring for patients with chronic lifestyle diseases. 


As a primary care physician, Dr. Hannah is dedicated to providing patient-centered care that takes into account the whole person, not just their illness. She believes in empowering her patients to take an active role in their healthcare, and believes that this type of doctor-patient relationship is key to achieving optimal health. 

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