From cuts and bruises to broken bones and heart attacks, spend a few minutes to see what you should do. It could save a life
IT could be a life or death situation, or just a childhood tumble that needs serious TLC.
But how many of us know exactly what to do in an emergency? And with so many changes in the advice over the years, would we do the right thing?
Schoolgirls Rachel Walls, of Carrick Knowe, and Eilidh Tedford, of Corstorphine, proved they have the vital skills when they scooped one of the top prizes at the St Andrew’s First Aid Young First Aider of the Year competition at the weekend.
The 14-year-old Forrester High School pupils took top place in the competition’s Cadets Section for 11 to 16-year-olds following a gruelling series of tests that put their first aid knowledge under the spotlight.
Meanwhile, under-11s Yasmin Webb and Courtney Simpson, who go to Monktonhall Colliery first aid training section, scooped top place in their Badgers section.
“We’ve both really enjoyed learning first aid,” says Eilidh. “Luckily I’ve not really had to use what I’ve learned in real life, but at least I would know what to do if something happened. I think everyone should.”
Rachel adds: “The most important thing is to keep calm. If you can stay calm in an emergency, it means the patient won’t start to panic.”
Angie McCappin, a first aid trainer with St Andrew’s First Aid, says there are dozens of classes run by the charity – which can be found at www.firstaid.org.uk – that provide basic advice to advanced skills.
But if your first aid knowledge is just a little rusty, or you have no idea what to do in an emergency, take a tip from the experts with these first aid essentials.
ASSESS THE SITUATION
First, stand back and carefully consider the situation.
“Assess any dangers,” says Angie McCappin. “If it’s too dangerous, then phone the emergency services.
“If it’s safe to do so, remove any dangers and if the patient is unconscious, check they are breathing.”
“Put two fingers under the chin, two on the forehead and tilt the head right back, that lifts the tongue off the airway,” she adds. “Put your ear to their mouth and look right at the abdomen – not the chest – listening and feeling for breath.
“Check for bleeding, burns, broken bones and check for a response. Shake them gently and shout in both ears ‘Hello, can you hear me, open your eyes’.
“Check the airways for any obstructions. If something is blocking the airways, then use a pincer grip with both finger and thumb to remove it. Don’t try to slip one finger in because that could push it further back.”
BURNS AND SCALDS
Treat the area by running it under cold water for ten minutes. Do not use ice as it can lead to a further “ice burn”.
Instead, check if the skin has stopped burning by looking closely at the water on the surface of the skin after removing it from running tap. If after a short time there are no particles of water on it, it’s still burning.
Protect the wound by wrapping in kitchen film or a clean plastic bag that helps prevent infection, provides a barrier and helps prevent swelling.
For chemical burns, check manufacturer’s instructions. If safe to treat with water, put the affected area under cold water for 20 minutes.
Priority is to make sure you are protected – both for your own safety and the patient’s, says Angie.
“You don’t want to pass on anything to them or vice versa, so cover cuts and wear non-latex gloves if any are available. Clean the cut by holding the area under running water.
“Apply direct pressure and elevate the wound so it’s above the heart. If it’s a major bleed, then seek medical attention.”
A major bleed can lead to circulatory shock, warns Angie. “This is where there is a drop of blood pressure caused by a drop in volume of blood circulating in the system. It can cause the body to start to shut down, so it’s important to react quickly.”
Check to see if the patient is very pale and if they are cold and clammy – signs of shock. “Their pulse may be very fast but weak and they may be anxious. Being thirsty or asking for a drink, sick or feeling sick, can be a warning of circulatory shock.”
Someone suffering internal bleeding in the abdominal area – perhaps following a car accident – is likely to have a distended tummy area which is hard to the touch. “They will be reacting very badly to pain and showing signs of shock,” adds Angie.
“Look for a pattern of bruising on the skin – that is the capillaries bursting under the skin with the pressure of the bleed. There may be marks where the seatbelt has been or, if they have been attacked, a mark on the body .”
Emergency treatment is essential.
SPRAINS AND STRAINS
The golden rule here is RICE: rest, ice, comfort and elevation, says Angie.
“Rest the area and apply ice, making sure that it’s quite comfortable. Keep it raised, too. But if there is any deformity of the area, if the person is unable to bear weight, or there’s any cause for concern then it should be seen to.
“It’s often very hard to tell with younger children if they have a sprain or a broken bone. If there’s any doubts at all, then it’s best to have it checked.”
Having a well-stocked first aid kit is a must have, says Angie.
Among the essentials are various sized bandages and dressings, sterile wipes and waterproof plasters.
Although the St Andrew’s First Aid does not administer medicines or lotions when dealing with situations, home medical kits might also include a variety of ointments, painkillers or lotions.
“A good thing if you have children, is a red cloth,” says Angie. “Everything in a first aid kit tends to be white. If a child has cut themselves, it is less upsetting for them if you clean the area with a red cloth rather than a white one, so then they don’t see the blood.”
It’s the time of year for angry wasps to attack, and some can suffer extreme reactions.
Removing a sting can be tricky, but tweezers might not be the best solution. “Poking a sting with tweezers can cause the venom to go deep into the skin.
“Instead take a credit card or bank card, go behind the sting and scrape it out,” says Angie. “Once that’s done, put a cold compress over the area.”
Risk signs are if someone is struggling to breathe following an insect sting. “They might come out in hives, like white welts on the skin, or they could be showing signs of shock.
“They might be swelling and having difficulty talking – that’s a 999 or 112 situation,” she adds.
It’s often fairly obvious when someone has broken a bone – and sometimes it can be extremely hard to tell. Where there is an obvious break, Angie recommends immobilising the area around the break, above and below.
“All you can do is support and stabilise the injury until emergency services arrive,” she adds.
A fall from any height should be treated as a potential head, spinal or neck injury, warns Angie. “The best thing to do is immobilise the patient from behind, hold the head in position so they are not wriggling about. Phone the emergency services.”
If you suspect a heart attack, encourage the person to sit down with their back against a wall and their knees up to their chest, advises Angie.
“If you think about how the blood moves around the body and if you are standing, the blood is having to pump hard to get to the feet. Bring the knees up and that helps the blood circulate better within the heart area.
“If the pain does not ease at all once the patient is sitting down, then phone the emergency services right away.
“If the pain does ease, then it may be that it is something less serious – heart attack pain does not ease with rest.”
A possible stroke requires quick thinking and action.
“The rule to remember is FACE,” adds Angie. “Look at the face – is it droopy? Arms are next. Ask them to raise them up – is one going up but the other is staying down?
“Communication – can they understand you and can you understand them? If one or all of those checks gives concern, then think ‘emergency’, and call for an ambulance.”
It might sound like something to apply to a sprain, but ICE stands for “in case of emergency” and it could be the most sensible number stored on your mobile phone.
“Everyone should have a number of someone that can be called in case of emergency, stored under ICE on their phone.
“Emergency services will look for that and if there’s not a number there, they’ll just phone the last number dialled on your phone, so that could be your ex-boyfriend or your dentist.
“It’s a really good idea for parents to put a number on their children’s mobile phones so if something does happen, they can be contacted quickly.”