Vital Education: Basic First Aid
When 36-year-old Kandace Seyferth collapsed from a severe asthma attack on Nov. 25, 2011; her daughter knew exactly what to do. She quickly dialed 911 and started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while her friend, performed chest compressions. When the mother was asked how her daughter learned to give lifesaving CPR, she said, “from watching a medical TV show”. The girl saved her mother just by performing a basic first aid technique even though she did not receive any training.
First Aid is the temporary help given to an injured or sick person before the professional medical help is provided. Any layperson can be trained to provide first aid which consists of simple medical techniques and procedures that are crucial in saving someone’s life. So, in this piece, I will try to briefly describe here the various methods of providing first aid for the most important medical emergencies.
1) Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): It is a very useful and most important technique in many medical emergencies. If someone you know had a heart attack or you just rescued someone from drowning in water, then the first thing you should do is CPR. If you have not done it before then you should start compressing the chest as rapidly as you can. It’s always far better to do something to help rather doing nothing. CPR can keep blood filled with oxygen flowing to the brain and other vital organs of the body until the ambulance reaches and more proper care is given. Before starting CPR, shake or tap the person and ask him or her whether he or she is ok.
2) Burns: Managing burns can be a real hard time job. Well, most of the burn incidents occur when people forget to turn off their heaters in the winter season or a woman in her house fails to turn off the stove completely after cooking. Medically speaking, burns are classified into first, second or third degree burns depending upon their severity. First degree burns are usually considered minor and most likely affect the outer layer of the skin.
There is redness and less pain. In second degree burns, the dermis (second layer of skin) is also burned which results in blisters, severe pain and swelling. In third degree burn, there is permanent tissue damage. These burns are major burns.
In order to treat first degree burns, remove patient from heat source and also remove the burnt clothes. Run cool water on the burnt area and use sterile bandage to cover it up. For second degree burns, clean the affected area and gently dry it. Keep burnt part at a raised level. And as soon as the ambulance arrives, hospitalization is necessary.
For treating third degree burns, elevate the burned body parts above heart level. Check for breathing and circulation otherwise, begin CPR. And, don’t remove the burnt clothes. Immediate hospitalization is necessary.
As a medical student, I once visited a burn unit in our hospital and came across a case of 3rd degree burn. The man was in his forties and belonged to a rural background. His relatives did not know how to give him first aid so his condition had worsened before he was brought to hospital due to severe dehydration. As his skin was damaged so it failed to provide a barrier against outside invading organisms and, ultimately, he died after catching a minor infection in a few days.
3) Minor Cuts and scrapes: Who does not accidently cut himself/herself? Minor cuts usually stop bleeding on their own. If they don’t then the first thing you should do is to apply pressure on the wound with the help of clean cloth. After that, clean the wound with clear water. After cleaning it with water, cover the wound with the help of bandage and clean the dressing daily. See your doctor if the wound isn’t healing or you notice any redness, swelling or warmth.
4) Fainting: Fainting occurs when blood supply to your brain is momentarily insufficient. If you feel like fainting, lie down or sit down and place your head between your knees. But if someone else faints, raise the person’s legs above heart level. Don’t get the person up too quickly and watch out for vomiting. Check for signs of circulation and do CPR as needed.
5) Bone Fractures: Few years back, my mother fractured her fibula as a result of an accidental fall from the ladder because she was getting rid of the spider webs anchored to the roof corners. At that time, I was in my first year of MBBS. I immediately applied ice wrapped in a towel in order to minimize the swelling and called for the ambulance. So if you suspect that a bone is broken or there is heavy bleeding; apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. Don’t mobilize the injured area. Apply ice (wrapped in towel or a piece of cloth) to limit swelling. According to requirements, begin CPR if there is no respiration or heartbeat.
6) Motion Sickness: A lot of people suffer from motion sickness. Unluckily, I am one of them. One common hypothesis of this is that the inner ear transmits to the brain that it senses motion, but the eyes tell the brain that everything is still. As a result, the brain reaches the conclusion that one of them is hallucinating and that the hallucination is due to poison ingestion. Vomiting is induced by the brain in order to clear the body of the supposed poison. So if you are travelling and are susceptible to motion sickness, don’t read and focus on a distant, stationary object. Rest your head against the back of the seat. Eat dry crackers and drink a carbonated beverage. Don’t smoke, overeat or sit near smokers.
7) Nosebleeds: For managing emergency nosebleeds, it is usually recommended that pinching your nose and holding your head back is vital. It is also recommended that you stay away from foods that raise the body temperature like mangoes if you suffer from frequent nosebleeds. Also, sit upright which reduces blood pressure in the veins of your nose and don’t pick or blow your nose for several hours.
8) Poisoning: Common signs and symptoms of poisons include burns and redness around mouth and lips, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, sleepiness and confusion. Call the ambulance or doctor immediately if someone you know has been poisoned or has swallowed poison. In the meantime, remove anything remaining in the mouth. Get him or her into fresh air. Wash the skin and eyes with cool water.
9) Snakebites: According to report in a section of press few months back, a twenty year old student of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) Jamshoro was bitten by a snake while she was sleeping in her hostel room. Unfortunately, she died 72 hours after the snake bit her. She was not given any snakebite first aid and was taken to different hospitals in Jamshoro, Hyderabad and Karachi which caused enough delay in her proper treatment. She died because she developed a clotting disorder that led her to bleed profusely.
Incidents of snakebite can occur any time. When a snake bites, its venom starts flowing in the blood vessels of the victim and if not treated immediately, the victim can die. Therefore, it is necessary to know the first aid for snake bites so that some help can be administered on the spot before the victim is taken to the hospital.
So, if you get bit by a snake; remain calm and immobilize the bitten arm or leg. Remove jewelry before you start to swell. Cleanse the wound and cover it with dry dressing. Don’t cut the wound or try to remove the venom. Also don’t drink caffeine.
10) Toothache: Toothache is often more common in children because they are habitual of eating a lot of sweet foods, the bacterial decomposition of which changes them to acids which corrode away the enamel layer and so toothache occurs. In case of toothache or tooth decay, it is usually recommended to rinse your mouth with warm water. Also taking any pain reliever also helps but don’t place aspirin or another painkiller directly against your gums as it may burn your gum tissue.
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