Medical degrees take years to accomplish, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It takes just minutes to get a basic concept of first aid, especially wilderness or remote first-aid skills where medical attention could be hours away. Here are 15 first-aid skills you have to have that can save your life.
Sources: SASIOnline.org, BetterHealth.vic.gov.au, Scouting.org, FirstAid.About.com, WebMD.com, MyDR.com
One of the most important things in basic first aid is properly cleaning wounds to ensure they do not become infected. Carry antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes to sterilize wounds before dressing them, but be sure to wear gloves if you are helping somebody else and will be in contact with their blood.
After cleaning the wound, it’s imperative to give it a proper dressing, depending on the nature of the injury. A good rule of thumb is to create a loose, clean dressing that will keep foreign objects from getting in open sores, but is breathable enough to allow the wound to get some air.
Should you or somebody else break, dislocate or sprain a bone, a makeshift splint or sling is crucial until you can access proper medical attention for a more permanent solution. Often, a shirt can be used as an arm sling, or sticks, boards, and tape can become a leg splint. The most important part is to ensure the injured body part is immobilized so as not to cause more damage before help can be reached.
If you or somebody you are traveling with has a severe allergy, it’s important to make sure you are always carrying an Epi-pen to provide emergency treatment. Be familiar with using an Epi-pen, and take extra precautions with allergies so as not to trigger them – particularly with food allergies, which are easier to avoid than, for instance, bee sting allergies.
Being able to take somebody’s pulse, monitor their breathing, and recognize irregular vital signs is a key aspect to basic first aid. Before you are able to do any proper first aid, you must be aware if the patient’s vitals are out of the ordinary, suggesting something more serious might be happening.
Cardiac arrest doesn’t always manifest the same way. If somebody’s left arm begins to hurt and they have chest pain, it’s highly likely that something in the cardiac region is amiss. Other signs of cardiac arrest may include sudden loss of consciousness, fainting, gasping, no breathing, and, of course, a lack of pulse.
Knowing basic CPR is a critical skill that not enough people have. It’s recommended that you take a course though a local organization to become certified, and to ensure you are up to date on the proper technique.
If a defibrillator is handy, only perform CPR until it can be set up and attached to the person in cardiac arrest. If you know how to set up a defibrillator, the rest is easy – the machine will walk you through the steps to using it, and is much more effective than manual chest compressions.
Burns are some of the most common injuries, and treatment varies depending on the nature, location, and severity of the burn. Many people have heard of local remedies for burns such as covering them in butter or grease. Don’t do it — it’s not proper care. For small burns, wash and cool the area and cover the burn with clean, non-stick material (not adhesive dressings). For more serious burns, call emergency services immediately and check vitals, airways, and breathing before proceeding further. They may require CPR if the burn has been severe enough.
Though vomiting is often a sign that something in the body needs to come out, if it does not stop after a while, something may be seriously wrong. It’s important to recognize when somebody is vomiting a dangerous amount, or is unable to keep any fluids down to stay hydrated. Seek professional medical help immediately. If a person is unconscious and vomiting, you must ensure that they remain on their side to avoid choking.
The Heimlich Maneuver is the internationally recognized way to clear somebody’s airway who is choking, and while it is fairly easy to master, it’s important to have the technique down correctly. Performing the Heimlich incorrectly can lead to broken ribs, and may often make the choking worse. Have an experienced first aid responder show you the proper technique to ensure you have it down pat before you have to use it.
With any major injury, having the body go into shock is a serious concern. To care for shock, make sure the patient lies down, stays covered, awake and alert, and monitor vitals and circulation. These are critical until medical help arrives.
Head or spine injuries are incredibly tricky, and may lead to severe damage, and potentially paralysis, if not stabilized correctly. Knowing how to splint the head and neck to prevent movement is key, especially if you need to move the victim to receive further care.
Heat stroke is a common occurrence that is easy to recognize if you know what signs to look for. These include headaches, dizziness, a lack of sweat, red and hot skin, cramping, nausea, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, and unconsciousness. If you suspect somebody has heat stroke, call emergency services immediately and try to get them to a cool place. Cool their body temperature using ice packs or fans.
If you or somebody you’re with is epileptic or prone to seizures, knowing how to deal with them is extremely important to avoid further harm. Be sure to note the time from the beginning of convulsions until they finish — they will be treated differently based on their length. Clear away hard or sharp objects the victim could injure themselves on, loosen tight clothing around the neck such as ties or collars, put padding under the head, and attempt to roll the victim to their left side.