First aid is the immediate care given to a sick or injured person before professional medical help is available. It is sometimes the fine line separating a sick or injured person from incuring permanent damage, worse outcomes or even death.
Therefore, the knowledge of first aid is crucial for every member of the society to have in order to improve health outcomes. This is also why there should be first aid kits in offices, schools and other public places as well as our homes.
The first aid kit is a container standardly marked with a white cross on green background which contains materials like plasters, cotton swabs, bandages, antiseptics and gloves which may be needed to provide first aid. Contents of a kit may vary depending on brand (if ready-made) or personal discretion (if home-made).
Why first aid?
There are three main goals for providing first aid or any emergency:
1. To preserve life
This is the primary aim of any care given to an affected person even beyond the first aid since the basis of healthcare is the preservation of life. There are many emergencies in which unavailability of prompt response will very likely lead to loss of life. Therefore, the knowledge of first aid by the people around can be a life-saving factor. An example is giving the Heimlich manoeuvre to a choking person where the breathing is temporarily impaired. Delayed attention to such a person can lead to death. .
2. To prevent injury or illness from worsening
This often translates to preventing irreversible damage or a more critical health state. It is particularly important to ease the intervention of medical professionals and improve prognosis. An example is applying pressure to a major wound to prevent bleeding out.
3. To aid recovery
First aid is not only preventional as it may be generally believed. It consists of wholesome care that may not need further intervention. This is usually in cases of minor injuries or illnesses. However, one must still see a professional to assess the patient's health status. An example is covering up a minor cut to help it heal.
Common situations of first aid applications in our environment include:
1. minor cuts
3. Animal bites
5. Heart attacks
7. Drowning and so on
What should you do?
In an emergency where professional help isn't nearby, the 'ABC's of resuscitation (meaning airway, breathing and resuscitation) must be assessed:
The affected person's airway should be checked for any object blocking it. One must ensure that the tongue is also not blocking the airway. If it is, one should tilt the head backwards and raise the chin.
One must ensure that the injured person is breathing properly. This can be assessed by checking for chest movements. In cases where breathing is affected, immediate breathing assistance must be given.
To assess this, the pulse can be checked to ensure proper circulation is occuring. In cases of impeded circulation, one may be required to perform chest compressions.bAfter the 'ABC' are cleared, further assistance needed should be given promptly.
First aid practices vary majorly with the situation and the caregiver's level of expertise. Care may also be affected by availability of first aid materials and individual compliance and discretion. Organisations like RED CROSS and other private groups organise first aid trainings for people interested in learning first aid practices for specific situations.
Always remember, first aid is never a replacement for proper medical attention. The affected person needs to see a doctor as soon as it is possible.