Life Skills Everyone Needs: Basic First Aid
It’s Not Your Fault If You Weren’t Taught Them
Having a basic grasp of first aid is sensible. It just is. If something goes wrong or someone gets hurt, then knowing how to deal with it can literally be a lifesaver. But some parts of first aid are intimidating, and I totally understand people’s reluctance to learn them. People are afraid of being more of a hindrance than a help. But having even a basic grasp of first aid can be the difference between life and death (no pressure.)
I heard somewhere that you should put butter on a burn. That is of course nonsense. Any barrier over the burn will slow the release of heat, which can make the burn worse and much more painful. Don’t put butter or ointment of any kind over a burn or scald. Run it under cold water for at least 20 minutes. This will help cool the skin, and it also helps to prevent scarring. Whilst the skin is cooling, see if you can remove any clothing on the skin. Try it very gently and if there is even the slightest resistance, you should seek medical attention. Don’t try to remove clothing or jewellery that has bonded with the skin. I did it once, and I still have a decent-sized scar to this day. My hand was bandaged for months and the blister was massive. My hand looked like Goldmember for about 3 months. It was painful, inconvenient and gross. Don’t bandage the burn until it’s cool, use loose clingfilm or a non-fluffy bandage.
Apply pressure to the wound with a clean towel or bandage. If the cut is on your hand or arm, you should raise it above your head. This reduces the blood flow to that area so you should lose less blood. If it’s on your leg or foot, lie down and raise your legs. Clean the wound once it’s stopped bleeding. Just run it under or bathe it in clean water. It’s tempting to clean it with chemicals or antibacterial gel. This can damage the skin and slow down the healing process. Dry the wound with a clean towel and apply a sterile dressing.
Check that there is nothing in the wound. You need to make sure you’re not pressing down on anything and making things worse. If there is something in there, don’t try to remove it. You could risk causing major damage by removing it. Apply pressure around the object with a clean towel or material of some kind. If there is nothing embedded in the wound, then press firmly with a towel and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. If it keeps bleeding, then apply another towel or fabric over the top. Don’t take off the original one, just put another on top. If the bleeding continues, seek medical attention.
Anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis is a sudden severe allergic reaction. It can happen after eating certain foods or stings and bites. It can also happen for no obvious reason if a person has spontaneous angioedema. If the person knows about their allergy or condition, they should have an adrenaline injector. More commonly known as an epi-pen. It might sound scary having to “inject” someone with adrenaline. But they’re not really like real injections.
They’re preloaded and really small. You can’t do any damage with an epi-pen if someone needs one. If someone is struggling to breathe in any way, then you need to call an ambulance. Tell them someone is suffering from anaphylaxis and they will prioritise them.Take the pen from its clear plastic container. eip-pens have a blue safety cap. Other brands might be a different colour, but either way you need to remove the safety cap. The needle end of an epi-pen is orange (my consultant told me “blue to the sky and orange to the thigh.”)
Again, other brands may be different, but the needle end will be obvious. If the person has jeans on, make sure you’re not going to press the needle into the seam. This can prevent the adrenaline from actually getting into the skin.
Adrenaline pens should be injected into the thigh. Put the needle against the skin/clothes. Bring it back slightly and firmly press it into the thigh. You should hear a clear “click,” this means the adrenaline is being delivered into the bloodstream. Count slowly to 3 and remove the pen. There should be a marked improvement in their symptoms within around 5 minutes. If the ambulance is not there, phone again and tell them there has been no improvement. If there has been no improvement after 5-15 minutes (depending on the severity of symptoms.) Administer their second adrenaline pen. Loss Of Consciousness
If you think there is a chance someone may have any form of spinal injury, then do not move them. You should avoid moving an unconscious person altogether apart from tilting their head back to allow air into their lungs. Check regularly for breathing. Any loss of consciousness should be investigated by a medical professional. Call an ambulance, even if they’re breathing normally. Just because you can’t see any damage doesn’t mean there isn’t any.
*This advice is relevant to adults and children over 1-year-old. This advice does not apply to those under the age of 1 or pregnant women.
If someone is choking, you should try to get whatever is choking them out of their body. Back blows should be the first thing you do. Stand behind and slightly to the side of the choking person. Support their chest with one of your hands whilst leaning them forward. This means whatever is choking them will come out of their mouth rather than travelling further down and causing more problems. Using the heel of your hand, administer a sharp blow between the shoulder blades. Don’t be gentle, the idea is to remove the blockage. Check each time whether the blockage has been removed. If after 5 tries it hasn’t been removed, you need to start with abdominal thrusts.Standing behind the choking person, put your arms around their waist. Clench your fist and place it just above the belly button. Bend the person forward and place your other hand on top of your fist. Pull upwards and inwards as sharply as you can manage. Repeat this five times.If, after five times, the person is still choking you should call an ambulance. Repeat the back blows and abdominal thrusts until medical help arrives.
It’s beyond terrifying to have to give it. I only know this because I had to give it to my mother-in-law, who we were too late to save. But you might not be, so everyone should know how to perform hands-only CPR.Don’t wait. If you’re with another person and you find someone who isn’t breathing, one of you call an ambulance whilst the other one starts CPR. If you’re on your own, you should call an ambulance before starting CPR. The quicker the ambulance gets there, the better chance that person has. Make sure the person is laying flat.
Find the breastbone in the middle of the person’s chest. Put the heel of your hand on there and interlock the fingers of your other hand. Use your body weight to press down on their chest. You should be aiming to press down around 2.5 inches. Release and repeat as quickly as you can. It should be around 100-120 times per minute. It’s exhausting if you’ve never done it before. But it’s so important. If you feel a crack, don’t worry, it can happen. But don’t stop. That person would rather have a broken rib than never wake up.
Things like this might seem intimidating, but if it can save someone’s life, it’s definitely worth learning.