Everyone should know CPR and basic First Aid techniques. These skills can help save the lives of a loved one, or even a complete stranger, any day, any time — but they are especially critical in the face of a disaster or national emergency.
It is a critical part of your overall Disaster Preparedness plan that you or someone in your family is trained in CPR and Basic First Aid. The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and the American Heart Association (www.heart.org) are excellent sources of such classes. The information I present here should never be taken as a substitute for such classes, and if you really want to be prepared, I highly recommend you get some real First Aid training. However, that having been said, in addition to CPR, here are some other basic First Aid tips and techniques everyone should know.
The Heimlich Maneuver
The Heimlich Maneuver is usually taught in most CPR courses, along with rescue breathing. You probably have seen it done, and it is a life-saver, but it needs to be done correctly. By performing abdominal thrusts to a choking victim you can expel objects that are blocking the victim’s airway. Doing the proper method and applying the right force when doing the Heimlich maneuver is very important to avoid causing injuries. Watch this short video tutorial on how to administer the Heimlich maneuver properly.
Dressing and Treating Severe Wounds
If possible, before you try to stop severe bleeding, wash your hands to avoid infection and put on gloves. If the wound is abdominal and organs have been displaced, don’t try to push them back into place — cover the wound with a dressing. For other cases of severe bleeding:
- Have the injured person lie down and cover the person to prevent loss of body heat. If possible, position the person’s head slightly lower than the trunk or elevate the legs and elevate the site of bleeding.
- While wearing gloves, remove any obvious dirt or debris from the wound. Don’t remove any large or more deeply embedded objects. Your principal concern is to stop the bleeding.
- Apply pressure directly on the wound until the bleeding stops. Use a sterile bandage or clean cloth and hold continuous pressure for at least 20 minutes without looking to see if the bleeding has stopped. Maintain pressure by binding the wound tightly with a bandage or clean cloth and adhesive tape. Use your hands if nothing else is available. If possible, wear rubber or latex gloves or use a clean plastic bag for protection.
- Don’t remove the gauze or bandage. If the bleeding continues and seeps through the gauze or other material you are holding on the wound, don’t remove it. Instead, add more absorbent material on top of it.
- Squeeze a main artery if necessary. If the bleeding doesn’t stop with direct pressure, apply pressure to the artery delivering blood to the area. Pressure points of the arm are on the inside of the arm just above the elbow and just below the armpit. Pressure points of the leg are just behind the knee and in the groin. Squeeze the main artery in these areas against the bone. Keep your fingers flat. With your other hand, continue to exert pressure on the wound itself.
- Immobilize the injured body part once the bleeding has stopped. Leave the bandages in place and get the injured person to the emergency room as soon as possible.
Forget what you see in the movies, it is not recommended that a tourniquet be used by untrained personnel to control bleeding.
Shock can be the result of any number of injuries, or conditions that can require First Aid, recognizing the signs of shock, and knowing how to treat it, are critical skills for any First-Aider.
Various signs and symptoms appear in a person experiencing shock:
- The skin is cool and clammy. It may appear pale or gray.
- The pulse is weak and rapid. Breathing may be slow and shallow, or hyperventilation (rapid or deep breathing) may occur. Blood pressure is below normal.
- The person may be nauseated. He or she may vomit.
- The eyes lackluster and may seem to stare. Sometimes the pupils are dilated.
- The person may be conscious or unconscious. If conscious, the person may feel faint or be very weak or confused. Shock sometimes causes a person to become overly excited and anxious.
If you suspect shock, even if the person seems normal after an injury:
- Have the person lie down on his or her back with feet about a foot higher than the head. If raising the legs will cause pain or further injury, keep him or her flat. Keep the person still.
- Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If absent, begin CPR.
- Keep the person warm and comfortable. Loosen belt and tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Even if the person complains of thirst, give nothing by mouth.
- Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking if the person vomits or bleeds from the mouth.
- Conduct appropriate First Aid treatment for injuries, such as bleeding or broken bones.
Always keep a good, well-stocked First Aid kit in your car, your home, your office, and your backpack. Getting yourself some basic First Aid training is easy and can make all the difference between knowing what to do, and panicking if you or someone you are with becomes injured during a disaster or other emergency. The information in this brief article should not be taken as a substitute for proper First Aid training, but in an emergency, these techniques could save a life.