One never knows when some basic first aid might be required. A person can need first aid in various ways, forms, and shapes depending on the severity of the medical emergency. This is why it is always a good idea to know some basic first aid just in case you ever need it for yourself or someone around you is in need of it. Knowing how to administer basic first aid and help you prevent a minor mishap from turning into a worse medical emergency.1 In many cases, a severe medical crisis has been averted, and a life saved due to the administration of timely first aid.
First, let us understand what exactly is first aid? Providing basic medical care to someone who is experiencing a sudden illness or injury is known as first aid. In some cases, first aid may simply consist of basic medical support provided to a person who is having a medical emergency. This first aid support can help them survive until the medical team reaches them. In other cases, first aid may consist of medical care provided to a person who has experienced a minor injury. For example, first aid is usually sufficient for treating minor cuts, burns, and insect bites.2
First Aid Tips For Minor Injuries
Here are some of the most common minor injuries that require first aid.
First Aid for a Cut or Scrape
One of the most common injuries that may need first aid to be administered is if you get a cut or scrape. If there is bleeding, you need to press down firmly over the site of the injury with a clean cloth until the bleeding stops. This may take anywhere between five to 15 minutes.3
You can then clean the cut with lukewarm running water and gently pat the site dry. If the skin is broken, applying a thin layer of any antibiotic ointment will help prevent an infection from setting in. Then cover it with a gauze or bandage with adhesive tape. If you don’t have an antibiotic ointment available, you can also apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the injury.
If you find that you are unable to control the bleeding even after several attempts of applying direct pressure, it is best to call your doctor or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
If the cut has been stabilized and you have bandaged the site, then continue to use the antibiotic ointment and changing your bandage daily, or more if required, until the cut heals completely. If you find that the wound appears to have become swollen, red, or tender, is forming or draining pus, you need to see a doctor right away as these are all signs that the wound has become infected.4
First Aid for a Burn
Burns can be tricky to administer first aid. If you or someone you know has gotten burnt, immediately hold the burnt body part under cold running water. If there is no water around, apply a cold, wet towel until the pain subsides.5
If there is a small blister, cover it with gauze and tape or a loose bandage. A burn should never be covered with a tight bandage.
It is important to note that you must call a doctor or head to the emergency room if the burns are on the hands, face, or genitals, or if you find the burns are bigger than 1/4 inch on any part of the body. It is even more necessary to seek immediate medical assistance if the injury appears to be rooted.
In more severe cases where a burn is covering a tenth or more of the body, then do not attempt to use a cold compress. Call 911 or the emergency number of your area. Cover the area with a clean bed sheet or blanket to avoid hypothermia from setting in until medical help arrives.
Never attempt to pop any blister yourself. If there are a blister and the skin breaks, you should apply an antibiotic cream and cover the area with a loose gauze or bandage until it heals. Keep an eye on the injury for any swelling, redness, tenderness, or discharge of pus as all these are symptoms of infection. If you see any such sign, call your doctor immediately or visit the emergency room.6
First Aid for Sunburn
If you have experienced a sunburn, you will start experiencing the signs and symptoms of sunburn within a couple of hours after your exposure to the sun. You will find that the affected skin will become painful, swollen, and red. In cases of severe sunburn, the skin may blister, and you may also experience a headache, nausea, and fever.7
Some first aid steps to get relief from sunburn are as follows:
- It is necessary to cool down the affected skin. Apply a clean damp towel to the affected skin or take a cool shower or bath.
- Apply a lotion, moisturizer, or gel such as aloe vera or calamine lotion to soothe the burning.
- Keep drinking plenty of water or other fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Do not break or pop the small blisters that appear. These are usually as small as your little fingernail. If the blisters pop by themselves, gently clean that area with mild soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and loosely cover the affected area with a non-stick gauze bandage. If a rash develops, stop using the cream and visit a doctor. If you don’t have an antibiotic ointment handy, you can also apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly.
- For pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (available under the brand names of Motrin IB, Advil, and others). This will help with the swelling and discomfort of the sunburn. There are also many types of sunburn relief medications in the form of gels that can be purchased from your local pharmacy.
- In cases of severe sunburn, you can apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
When you have a sunburn, it is best to avoid further sun exposure as your skin heals from the sunburn. If you have large blisters, seek immediate medical help. Large blisters usually need to be removed as they do not remain intact on their own for long. If you find your symptoms worsening, such as nausea, confusion, severe headache, chills, fever, and signs of infection such as the blisters having pus or red streaks, you should seek medical assistance immediately.
First Aid for Insect Bite/Sting
In case of an insect sting, if the stinger has been left behind, gently scrape the skin with your fingernail to try and remove it. However, do it gently so that the stinger does not break inside. It is best to avoid using tweezers as this can squeeze out more venom from the stinger, worsening your injury.
If you have trouble breathing, develop a hoarse voice, hives, your lips or tongue swell up, or you start coughing, you should call 911 or your local emergency number at the earliest. These are signs that you are having an allergic reaction to the insect sting.
To take care of the itching, you can choose to apply a 1% hydrocortisone cream or any topical antihistamine ointment. But only use cream if the skin is not scabbed or broken.
For some people, a bee sting can prove to be a medical emergency as they may be allergic to a bee sting. In such cases, you should call 911 immediately. Some people may be carrying an epinephrine auto-injector such as an EpiPen, which helps fight against an allergic reaction. You can help the person find it and use it on them.10 Try to keep the person calm until medical help arrives.
If a person has been stung by a bee and does not show any signs of an allergic reaction, it can be treated without needing medical assistance.
First Aid and CPR
Knowing CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a life-saving skill and one of the first lessons in first aid classes. If you find someone unconscious, while you should always call your area’s emergency number like 911 first, but if the surrounding area around the unconscious person appears to be safe, you can approach them to begin CPR while waiting for the medical team to arrive.11
It is not necessary that you need to have any kind of formal training in CPR. You can use the hands-only CPR technique to keep someone alive until the paramedics arrive at the scene.
Here is how you can use the hands-only CPR method to keep an adult alive:
- Place both your hands on the center of their chest. Place one hand on top of the other.
- Now press straight down to begin compressions on their chest repeatedly. It should ideally be at a rate of around 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
- A trick that can help you count at the correct rate is to do the compressions of the chest to the beat of ‘Crazy in Low’ by Beyoncé or ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees.
- Continue doing the chest compressions until the paramedics arrive.
First Aid for a Nosebleed
First aid for a nosebleed should be administered as follows:
- Sit them down and tell them to lean their head forward.
- Use the index finger and thumb to firmly pinch or press the nostrils close.
- Continue applying this pressure continuously for at least five minutes.
- Remove your hand to check.
- Repeat the same process if the bleeding does not stop.
If the nosebleed continues for more than 20 minutes or longer, you should seek medical assistance. If the nosebleed was caused by an injury, the person should ideally go for follow-up care with their doctor.12
Preparing a First Aid Kit
Since an emergency can strike at any time, it is a good idea to have a well-stocked first-aid kit handy in your home and car. There are preassembled first aid kits available in pharmacies, or you can buy them online as well. You can also make your own first aid kit.
It is essential to know that you will need to replace or add some products in your standard first aid kit to make it infant-appropriate. For example, there should be an infant thermometer and infant ibuprofen or acetaminophen in the kit.
If there is a baby or child in the house, make sure that you store the kit in a place where your child is unable to reach it. For more information, you can always ask your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician about what other items should be included in the kit.13
To be best prepared for any medical emergency, it is best to have a well-stocked first-aid kit. Here are some of the items that a standard first aid kit should include:
- Roller bandages of various sizes
- Adhesive bandages of different sizes
- Triangular bandages
- Sterile gauze pads
- Absorbent compress dressings
- Adhesive cloth tape
- Antiseptic wipes
- Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Antibiotic ointment
- Calamine lotion
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Safety pins
- Breathing barrier for CPR
- Instant cold pack
- Vinyl or nitrile gloves
- First aid manual
It is also a good idea to keep a list of your doctors, emergency contact numbers, and any prescription medications you are on in the first aid kit.
It is essential to keep yourself safe from hazards and contagious diseases while you are providing first aid. Here are some steps you should take to keep yourself safe:
Always double-check for hazards that could put your own safety at risk before approaching an injured or sick person.
Avoid coming into direct contact with vomit, blood, or any other body fluids.
Wear protective equipment, such as vinyl or nitrile gloves when treating someone who has an open wound. You should also use a breathing barrier when you are performing CPR on someone.
Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer after providing first aid care.
In many medical emergencies, providing basic first aid immediately can help prevent a minor condition from getting worse. First aid may even help save a person’s life if administered at the right time.
- Eisenburger, P. and Safar, P., 1999. Life supporting first aid training of the public—review and recommendations. Resuscitation, 41(1), pp.3-18.
- Oliver, E., Cooper, J. and McKinney, D., 2014. Can first aid training encourage individuals’ propensity to act in an emergency situation? A pilot study. Emergency Medicine Journal, 31(6), pp.518-520.
- SHOT, G.A.T., First aid for cuts and scrapes.
- Cross, C.R., Cuts and Scrapes: What You Can Treat and When You Need a Doctor.
- Hudspith, J. and Rayatt, S., 2004. First aid and treatment of minor burns. Bmj, 328(7454), pp.1487-1489.
- Swain, A.H., Azadian, B.S., Wakeley, C.J. and Shakespeare, P.G., 1987. Management of blisters in minor burns. British medical journal (Clinical research ed.), 295(6591), p.181.
- Australia, H., 2020. Blisters.
- Burgdorfer, W., Barbour, A.G., Hayes, S.F., Benach, J.L., Grunwaldt, E. and Davis, J.P., 1982. Lyme disease-a tick-borne spirochetosis?. Science, 216(4552), pp.1317-1319.
- Dantas-Torres, F., Chomel, B.B. and Otranto, D., 2012. Ticks and tick-borne diseases: a One Health perspective. Trends in parasitology, 28(10), pp.437-446.
- SETTIPANE, G.A. and BOYD, G.K., 1970. Prevalence of bee sting allergy in 4,992 boy scouts. Allergy, 25(4), pp.286-291.
- Wik, L., Kramer-Johansen, J., Myklebust, H., Sørebø, H., Svensson, L., Fellows, B. and Steen, P.A., 2005. Quality of cardiopulmonary resuscitation during out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Jama, 293(3), pp.299-304.
- Haymes, A.T. and Harries, V., 2016. ‘How to stop a nosebleed’: an assessment of the quality of epistaxis treatment advice on YouTube. The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 130(8), pp.749-754.
- Farrer, F., 2012. Which over-the-counter medications should be included in a first aid kit?: first aid. SA Pharmacist’s Assistant, 12(3), pp.26-28.
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