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Basic First Aid

Choking:

If the person can cough or make sounds, let him or her cough to try to get the object out. If you are worried about the person’s breathing, call 911.

If the person can’t breathe, cough, or make sounds, then:

  • Stand or kneel behind the person and wrap your arms around his or her waist. If the person is standing, place one of your legs between his or her legs so you can support the person if he or she faints.
  • Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist against the person’s belly, just above the belly button but well below the breastbone.
  • Grasp your fist with the other hand. Give a quick upward thrust into the belly. This may cause the object to pop out. You may need to use more force for a large person and less for a child or small adult.
  • Repeat thrusts until the object pops out or the person faints.

Cardiac arrest:

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the most important medical procedure of all. If a person is in cardiac arrest (the heart is no longer pumping blood) and CPR is not performed, that person may die. On the other hand, performing CPR or using an automated external defibrillator (AED) could save a life.

You can start by reviewing the basics of CPR. The procedure has changed in the past few years, so it is best to take a CPR class. There is no substitute for hands-on training.

AEDs are available in many public areas and businesses. These devices are simplified for use even if you have never been trained. CPR training will include familiarization with AED use.

According to the American Heart Association and American Red Cross 2019 guidelines, the steps to take when a cardiac arrest is suspected are:

  • Ask someone nearby to call 911.
  • Immediately start chest compressions regardless of your training. Compress hard and fast in the center of the chest, allowing recoil between compressions. Hand this task over to those who are trained if and when they arrive.
  • If you are trained, use chest compressions and rescue breathing.
  •  An AED should be applied and used. But it is essential not to delay chest compressions, so finding one should be a task for someone else, if possible, while you are doing chest compressions.

Bleeding wound:

Regardless of how severe, almost all bleeding can be controlled. Mild bleeding will usually stop on its own. If severe bleeding is not controlled, it may lead to shock and possibly death.

There are steps to take if you are faced with a bleeding wound.

If bleeding is severe and you suspect there may be more serious injuries, call 911 immediately.

  • Cover the wound with a gauze or a cloth and apply direct pressure to stop the blood flow. Don’t remove the cloth. Add more layers if needed. The cloth will help clots form to stop the flow.
  • Once bleeding has stopped, apply a sterile non-stick bandage. You may also use antibiotic ointment to help healing and prevent infection.

Burns:

Thermal burns are caused by heat, hot liquid, steam, or open flames. The care that is required varies by the severity of the burn. If the burn is severe and causes significant pain, call 911.

Minor burns (Redness, Pain, Possible swelling)

  • Cool the affected area with clean running or submerge in water for at least 10 minutes. A clean, cool or cold (but not freezing) compress may be used as a substitute.

Medium severity burns (Redness, Pain, Possible swelling, Blisters)

  • Cool the affected area with clean running or submerge in water for at least 10 minutes. A clean, cool or cold (but not freezing) compress may be used as a substitute.
    • Remove jewelry and clothing from the burn site carefully, but do not attempt to move anything that is stuck to the skin.
    • Once it is cool, cover the burn loosely with a dry, sterile dressing, preferably non-stick gauze.
    • If pain and discomfort continue, consider seeking medical attention.

Bloody nose:

  • Have the person sit with their head slightly forward, pinching the nostrils, for 10 to 15 minutes. If the nosebleed was caused by a severe head injury, DO NOT PINCH THE NOSE.
  • Once you have controlled the bleeding, tell the person to avoid rubbing, blowing, or picking his or her nose because this could start the bleeding again.
  • If the person loses responsiveness, place him or her in the recovery position to allow blood to drain from the nose and immediately call 911.
    • Recovery position:
      • Raise the person’s arm that is closest to you.
      • Place the arm farther from you across the person’s chest with the palm against the cheek.
      • Raise the knee of the leg farther from you.
      • Roll the person toward you as one unit by pulling the raised knee and supporting the head and neck with your other hand.
      • Position the person on his or her side and slide the bent knee into a position that prevents the person from rolling onto his or her face.
      • Move the person’s other arm into a position of comfort in front of the body.
      • Reassess the person’s condition.

Bone break, fracture or muscle tear:

The signs and symptoms of bone, muscle, and joint injuries may include:

  • Pain, deformity, swelling, or bruising
  • Limited or no use of the injured body part
  • A broken bone or bone fragments sticking out of the skin
  • A sensation or sound of bones grating
  • Possible muscle cramps
  • The sound of a snap or a pop when the injury occurred

The injured patient may be anxious and in a lot of pain. One of the best things you can do is try to calm the patient and keep them comfortable to avoid further injury. Do not attempt to put traction or any manipulation of the area, this could be very dangerous. Seek medical attention.

If it is an open fracture, priority is to stop the bleeding. Refer to the Bleeding wound section.