Answering “What Is First Aid?”
Answering "What Is First Aid?"
by Mackenzie Thompson
Life Saver, NHCPS
posted on Mar 9, 2020, at 2:05 pm
Injuries and accidents reflect a major problem around the globe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), injury stands as the leading cause of death for people ages one through 44. Motor vehicle crashes, falls, homicides, violence, water incidents, fires, and other events may contribute to injuries and require First Aid or CPR. Unfortunately, without the training of how to perform the First Aid and CPR, appropriate for your workplace, risk of mortality increases. For some professions, First Aid training may be necessary to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations. In addition, the members of the health care profession may need to complete First Aid training to satisfy employer requirements, which may vary by facility as well.
The total costs of injuries and violence over $671 billion in 2013, First Aid can make a difference in reducing the burden of health care for accidents and injuries. Those that wish to save lives need to understand the value of First Aid training, the added benefits of First Aid training in the workplace, the primary differences between First Aid for infants, children, and adults, as well as a few unique First Aid tips that transcend age groups.
Basic Life Support (BLS) training gives you some education and guidelines to preserve life, and to whatever extent possible, quality of life whether you’re a nurse, EMT, or an elementary school teacher who just wants to be prepared for the “what-if”. You’ll know what to do in common COVID-related emergencies and be able to offer first aid, CPR, and defibrillation.
Given the recentness of COVID, however, it has taken some time to get COVID algorithms updated across organizations.
Checking the Scene for Safety and Considerations for Bloodborne Pathogens
Before attempting to help anyone, responders must always check the scene for safety. Checking the scene ensures you do not become the next victim. Possible electrocution, car accidents, falls, or other injuries may result from failure to assess the scene for safety first.
For example, why would checking the scene for safety be an issue for those that may be drowning? Think about possible rip tides or whirlpools. These natural events can pull you down and into the water, putting you at risk for drowning.
For someone with a suspected case of electrocution, the circuit may still be active. Imagine the risk of an ongoing animal attack.
For those that suffer a car accident, traffic takes time to stop, and even then, some may still fail to stop in time and further contribute to the worsening of the accident.
A safe scene must be your priority, regardless of what happens. If the scene is unsafe, contact Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for professional assistance immediately. That the best course of action for any event where you could become the next victim if you respond. This applies to trained health professionals too. If outside of the hospital environment and unable to ensure safety, wait for police or EMS to arrive with more resources. If an incident occurs in the hospital, still check the scene for safety risks, including causes of the injury, fall, or event.
For instance, a spill could make you fall too without carefully reviewing the scene.
Regarding bloodborne pathogens, as explained here, help to prevent cross-contamination of potential illnesses that travel through the blood or blood-containing bodily fluids. The foundation is easy to remember. Treat any bodily fluid as the most life-threatening substance in existence, using personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce risk of contamination. PPE includes gloves, face shields, masks, CPR shields and disposable gowns. Obviously, that may not be possible for sudden emergencies or the need to render aid without a First Aid kit’s supplies, such as those listed here. If available, wear protective gloves to prevent skin-contact with bodily fluids, a face shield for events involving spurting blood, or even a mask. It may also be appropriate to wear a CPR shield, if available, to reduce risk of exposure when performing CPR as part of First Aid for victims.
When removing personal protective equipment, a few simple steps can go a long way. Avoid unnecessary contact with contaminated surfaces by removing gloves carefully, grabbing the exposed portion of the glove “wrist,” removing the left glove. Next, ball the left glove in your right hand. Slide the index finger of the ungloved hand under the wrist of the right glove. Pull upward to remove the right glove, containing the left glove and leaving only the skin-side of the glove exposed. Dispose the gloves appropriately.
One other note; handwashing is essential to providing proper, clean care. However, that may not be possible in the field. So, use hand sanitizer or hand wipes to clean your hands before applying gloves. As soon as possible, remove your gloves, wash your hands thoroughly in warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
The Value of First Aid Training in Different Circumstances
First Aid training is not quite a catch-all topic. While similarities exist across First Aid in different circumstances, the circumstances themselves dictate the steps to take in First Aid and how to make the decision to contact professional help or pursue follow-up care with a primary care physician (PCP) or via an occupational medicine clinic. In addition, those interested in First Aid need to know the common injury risks, including drowning, exposure to the elements, car accidents, falls, injuries in the workplace, and injuries following weather events and natural or manmade disasters.
Drowning Statistics and First Aid Considerations
Approximately 10 people die per day due to unintentional drowning, says CDC.gov. Drowning stands out as the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S., and at least two victims per day are ages 14 or younger. As with any emergency, survival depends on rapid access to emergency medical care, and since drowning occurs outside of the hospital environment, First Aid and CPR will make a difference in mortality.
If someone suffers a drowning incident, those responding should check the scene for safety first.
For those that do suffer drowning, explains WebMD, the First Aid response steps include:
- Activation of EMS, contacting 9-1-1 and getting the help of a lifeguard, if available
- Move the person from the water
- Check for signs of breathing, looking for a rise in the chest, listening for the sounds of respiration, and feeling for the push of air from the person’s lips or mouth
Exposure to the Elements and First Aid
Even those that start hiking trips or spend excess time outdoors may be subject to possible injury. In these cases, hypothermia, dehydration, and physical injury becomes the biggest health risks. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, hypothermia First Aid may be necessary if a person falls into cold water or experiences prolonged exposure to the cold. First Aid for this situation is as follows:
- Remove the person from the water or away from the cold. If not possible, protect the person from the wind
- Remove wet clothing, replacing it with warm, dry coats or blankets
- Address any potential physical injuries per First Aid training, including stopping bleeding, cleaning the area, applying a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and covering the area with gauze or bandaging and adhesive tape
- Always contact EMS if the injury appears beyond your capabilities, if the injury swells, or if it continues to bleed
Car accidents or motor vehicle crash injuries are the most common cause of injury in the U.S., says the CDC. While safety measures, such as following traffic laws and wearing appropriate seat belts, may reduce risk for injury in an accident, the event can be exceedingly violent and still cause injury or death.
When responding to a car accident, follow these steps as explained in First Aid training courses, such as the one available here:
- Evaluate the scene for safety
- If you are unsure of the victim’s injuries or needs, contact EMS
- Assess the individuals affected for potential injuries
- Attempt to rouse unresponsive individuals by shouting “are you okay? Do you need help?”
- For those that do not respond, check for the ABCs of CPR
- Begin CPR if appropriate
- Attempt to avoid moving individuals unless they require CPR or movement to maintain safety, such as when the vehicle is on fire
- Address any minor injuries using the skills from First Aid
- For those with advanced CPR and First Aid training, apply the skills as specified in the training course, such as a temporary splint, applying pressure to bleeding wounds, stabilizing a projectile, or applying a bandage to the chest with a single corner untapped in the case of suspected lung puncture
First Aid Training and Falls
Falls are another potential injury that may require First Aid. The biggest risks for falls involve the risk for head injury, broken bones, or subsequent harm from whatever caused the fall, such as a wet floor. Even contact sporting events may require the applications of First Aid to reduce risk for poor treatment outcomes, explains MedlinePlus.Gov. The First Aid steps for falls include:
- Assessing the person for circulation and breathing.
- Determining the cause of the fall.
- Stop bleeding through applied pressure.
- Addressing minor wounds.
- Avoid moving the person if a head injury is suspected.
- For those that are vomiting, move the person into the recovery position by rolling the person to the side and supporting the head at the same time, turning the person as a whole. This provides a protective effect against the spine.
- Contacting EMS or 9-1-1 if appropriate.
- Applying ice packs to swollen areas.
For treating falls, do not shake a person or attempt to rouse him if awake and appearing dazed or confused. This is essential to preventing potential injury.
Also, avoid removing sporting helmets until after treating all needs and the arrival of EMS if applicable.
Hazardous Workplace First Aid
The workplace is another potential risk factor for injury, and the OSHA sets the requirements for First Aid training for staff members that may encounter dangers or injury while on the job. Industrial workplaces may involve heavy, large equipment that could lead to an injury. Falling products or materials could lead to injury. Hazardous chemicals could result in significant health risks.
The specifics of workplace First Aid mirror the basic principles of First Aid in the general public. However, an employer may add to First Aid requirements depending on the risks present.
For instance, a facility that uses corrosive chemicals may have kits on site with the appropriate materials to neutralize the chemical.
Unfortunately, OSHA does not specify the “reasonable” distance or time at which a person may obtain professional care from an appropriate facility for different types of workplaces. In other words, the rules are subject to interpretation and the ability of EMS responders to get to the facility. With that in mind, most employers where a reasonable risk is likely will require First Aid training among employees. Again, taking a First Aid training course in advance and recognizing the unique health risks of workplaces is essential to rendering First Aid for victims. The general practices for addressing wounds, unresponsive victims, or other events, such as those listed above, continue in this case, always checking the scene for safety first.
A Few First Aid Considerations
It is important to take a few considerations when performing First Aid on infants, adults with certain medical conditions, and even in the health profession. First Aid for infants and children involves not moving a child or infant at all if a head injury is suspected. First Aid for those that are pregnant may need to consider reducing risk to the baby or even moving the placement of hands for chest compressions in caring for the unresponsive victim in either cardiac arrest or choking. Meanwhile, First Aid for non-EMS first responders may include the addition of Narcan or Epinephrine to treat emergencies before EMS can arrive.
How Long Does a Traditional First Aid Course Take to Complete
The time to complete a traditional First Aid course is generally less than one day. Students may complete a course in one sitting, or it may be spread out over several days. Moreover, students that opt to take a multi-disciplinary training program, such as a combined CPR, BLS and First Aid training course, may take longer to complete. For that reason, more students choose to complete online training courses to enable flexibility and avoid the need to schedule multiple days of coursework and unnecessary travel.
Know How to Respond to Those in Need With the Right First Aid Training
The value of First Aid training is clear. Completing a First Aid training course teaches participants how to respond to a variety of accidents, injuries, and other elements. When someone suffers an accident or injury, applying the skills learned within First Aid buys valuable time to get the person to a qualified medical facility or obtain the help of EMS. Those considering entry into the health profession, EMS, job professions that may result in injury, and positions requiring the supervision of others need to seriously consider completing an accredited First Aid training program. Of course, a comprehensive program will include a thorough review of First Aid principles across age groups and unique situations, but some programs may focus heavily on a specific age group, such as infant First Aid and CPR. Before enrolling in any program for workplace requirements, verify with your supervisor what type of First Aid training options are available and how often your facility requires its renewal.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone required First Aid? If so, share your experiences, along with this article, to social media now. Also ensure you are prepared to handle such emergencies and situations in the future by enrolling in a First Aid training course online, such as the one available here, now.