Merriam Webster defines first aid as emergency care or treatment given to an ill or injured person before regular medical aid can be obtained (Merriam Webster, 2014).
Obviously one of the problems you may encounter in an emergency is lack of timely medical care. If the country collapsed today would anyone be able to seek medical care other than what you or others could provide in the form of fist aid.
It is important that you know how to treat some of the more serious conditions that could be fatal if not treated in a timely manner.
1.) CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
The following is only a guide and should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for taking an accredited CPR training course
All references to medical treatment are informational only; you should always seek medical help as soon as possible
CPR combines mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with chest compressions. In other words, the person performing CPR is providing blood flow by compressing (pumping) the heart and providing the body with oxygen through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The heart compressions will pump blood to the organs and brain providing them with lifesaving oxygen.
Do not let lack of training stop you from attempting to save a person’s life. Many people are not trained in CPR and/or are not willing to perform CPR because of legal considerations, and fear of contacting a disease when doing mouth to mouth. Professional first aid kits will have resuscitation masks that can protect you from an infectious disease.
You can purchase resuscitation masks and carry them in your car, purse, satchel, briefcase, first aid kit, home emergency kit or survival/bug-out-bag.
If you have no training at all you should still administer chest compressions and call for others that may be able or willing to administer mouth-to-mouth, with or without a protective mask.
To Perform Chest Compressions
- Place the heel of one hand on the lower half of the person’s breastbone.
- Place the other hand on top of the first hand and interlock your fingers.
- Press down in a firm manner, compressing to 1/3 of chest depth, compress 30 times.
- Administer 2 breaths as described below in mouth-to-mouth
- The ratio of 30 chest compressions followed by 2 breaths is the same, whether CPR is being performed alone or with the assistance of a second person.
- Aim for a compression rate of 100 per minute.
To Perform Mouth-To-Mouth Resuscitation
- Clear the airway (Make sure there are no objects in the persons mouth)
- Open the airway by tilting the head back and lifting the chin
- Pinch the victims nostrils shut with your finger and thumb
- Put your mouth over the person’s mouth and blow into their mouth.
- Give 2 full breaths to the person, this is called “rescue breathing”
- Ensure no air is leaking and the chest is rising and falling
- If the chest does not rise and fall, check that you are pinching the nostrils tightly and sealing your mouth to theirs
- If still no chest rise, check the airway again for obstructions
- Continue CPR, repeating the cycle of 30 compressions then 2 breaths until professional help arrives and/or the person recovers
2.) Controlling Bleeding
Wounds pumping or “spurting” blood means that an artery (arterial bleeding) carrying blood from the heart has been severed. This type of wound is fatal in minutes if you cannot stop the blood loss. Typically, you treat this type of bleeding wound before administering CPR unless you have extensive medical training and can make a determination otherwise.
This type of wound requires direct and firm pressure by any means available. First aid kits will have “compression bandages” for this type of wound. “Pressure bandages” are used when the blood is not pumping from the wound.
Place the bandage or other material directly over the wound and compress to staunch the flow. The bandage will become soaked with blood and if available add another bandage without removing the blood soaked one.
Do not release the pressure until the blood flow stops. Once controlled secure the bandage to the wound and raise the wound above heart level if possible. The bandage needs to be tight enough to stop blood loss, but not so tight, it completely restricts blood flow to the surrounding tissue.
When should you apply a tourniquet? If there is an amputation of a limb or the wound will not stop pumping blood. A tourniquet is a constricting band placed ONLY around an arm or leg to control bleeding.
How to Apply a Tourniquet
A tourniquet is a last resort measure to stop blood loss from a wound or to control bleeding resulting from an amputation. Ideally, you would use material designed for use as a tourniquet, but you can use a bandana, gauze or other material. Do not use wire or thin cordage. When using other than a rubber band type material you will need to use a stick or stick like object ridged enough to insert and twist the material tight.
Place the tourniquet 2 to 4 inches above the wound (never directly over the wound) between the wound and heart. Tighten until the bleeding stops. It is important that you remove the pressure every 20 minutes to allow blood flow to the limb to reduce tissue damage this is to prevent gangrene.
Place a large “T” on the person’s forehead and the time you applied the tourniquet on the victim’s forehead or otherwise mark the time it needs to be loosened somewhere where it can be seen by others. This is to alert rescue personnel or others to the fact the person has a tourniquet in place and the time applied.
If you are, the victim and are alone do not loosen the tourniquet for fear of passing out and bleeding to death.
3.) Treat for Shock/Prevent Shock
Assume shock is present or will occur and treat for it after a heart attack or any trauma to the body. The treatment for shock is also used to prevent shock.
You should not waste time looking or waiting for symptoms unless you are a trained medical professional so once again assume the person has shock or will have shortly and treat for it.
- If the victim is conscious keep them warm, and raise their legs up to 16 inches to increase and improve blood flow to the brain, lungs and heart. Do not raise the legs if you know or suspect a bone fracture of the leg and it has not been splintered or if the victim has an abdominal injury or bleeding head wound.
- To treat yourself place your head lower than your feet by elevating feet, or lay the head downhill if the terrain permits, use a tree, rolled sleeping bag, or backpack to elevate feet
- Loosen restrictive clothing
- If unconscious turn the person’s head sideways to prevent them from choking on their vomit or other fluids in the throat or mouth
- You want to control body temperature so this includes not letting them get overheated as well as not letting them get chilled
4.) Suture Wounds
Control bleeding before attempting to suture a wound. Sutures used to close flesh are not necessarily used to stop bleeding unless a trained professional is attempting to suture a severed artery. Closing a wound helps prevent wound contamination and to help promote healing and to some extent for cosmetic purposes.
How do you know if the wound needs stitching? Lacerations can be closed with stitches or staples. Puncture wounds or cuts caused by scrapes or where the flesh is literally flapping or ragged at the edges, are not sutured usually unless performed by a trained professional.
First, can you see any yellow fat tissue or bone and is the laceration ¼ inches or more deep, if so stitches are likely needed? Ask yourself first however, if the wound could be closed using butterfly bandages or surgical tape.
When closing the wound do not overlap or stitch too tight, because this can cause cross-hatching and cause ischemia of the wound edges, increasing the risk of infection.
Stitching a wound to some people can be an invasive technique so attempt to close the wound with strips of surgical tape or bandages first if the patient is fearful of the process.
If the wound will not scab over after a few days with bandages or tape then it will need to be held together with sutures or otherwise, the wound will not heal and will become infected easily.
5.) Treating a Broken Limb
If you suspect or know a bone is broken in a limb immobilize immediately (treat as if broken until verified otherwise by a medical professional). If the bone is protruding from the skin, stop the bleeding first.
Apply a splint if possible and secure above and below the break or suspected break area. Pad the splints and apply ice by wrapping in material first never apply ice directly to the skin. Treat for shock, regardless of symptoms. Do apply tape used to secure the splints such as duct tape directly to the skin.
When rushing to aid someone ensure you do not become a victim yourself. Check the area first, such as for traffic, falling limbs, and rocks or to prevent a fall.
If treating someone in an oxygen free environment and there is oxygen masks available treat yourself first so you are able to render aid.
Obviously, no one article or even book can cover all of the possibilities so the more likely have been referenced.
Cardiac arrest will be more common in a survival or crisis situation because of an increase in stress and physical activity.
Mechanical injuries (broken bones) will also increase due to an increase in physical activity. Bleeding wounds can be caused by any number of things and if not treated quickly can be fatal.
Shock is a byproduct of any trauma to the body and it can be present in all situations presented here and numerous other situations as well. Make sure your first aid kit is up to date, and that you know how to use the supplies it contains and it is capable of treating a variety of conditions.