First Aid Basics

First aid is the provision of immediate care to a victim with an injury of illness, usually effected by a lay person, and performed within a limited skill range. First aid is normally performed until the injury or illness is satisfactorily dealt with (such as in the case of small cuts, minor bruises, and blisters) or until the next level of care, such as an ambulance or doctor, arrives.

How is injury treated?

Anything that can damage the body can cause an injury: blunt or sharp objects, impact at high speed, falls, animal or insect bites, fire or extreme heat, and exposure to chemicals and toxins.

Treatment of injury depends upon its type and severity. Some injuries can be treated with basic first aid techniques such as wound cleansing, wound dressings, rest, application of ice, compression, and elevation. More severe injuries may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other resuscitation procedures or surgery.

Guiding principles

The key guiding principles and purpose of first aid, is often given in the mnemonic "3 Ps". These three points govern all the actions undertaken by a first aider.

  • Prevent further injury
  • Preserve life
  • Promote recovery

Key skills of first aid

Certain skills are considered essential to the provision of first aid to injured persons and apply before all others if indicated. Particularly the "ABC“s of first aid, which focus on critical lifesaving intervention, must be rendered before treatment of less serious injuries.

ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.

First aid kit

A first aid kit consists of a strong, durable bag or transparent plastic box. They are commonly identified with a white cross on a green background.


  • Medium sterile dressings
  • Large sterile dressings
  • Bandages
  • Triangular dressings
  • Safety pins
  • Adhesive dressings
  • Sterile wet wipes
  • Microporous tape
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Face shield
  • Foil blanket
  • Burn dressings
  • Clothing shears
  • Conforming bandages
  • Finger dressing
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers


Many first aid situations take place without a first aid kit readily to hand and it may be the case that a first aider has to improvise materials and equipment. As a general rule, some help is better than no help, especially in critical situations, so a key first aid skill is the ability to adapt to the situation, and use available materials until more help arrives.

Some common improvisations include:

  • Gloves → plastic bags, dish gloves
  • Gauze → clean clothing (but not paper products)
  • Splints → straight sections of wood, plastic, cardboard or metal
  • Slings → the victim's shirt's bottom hem pinned to the center of their chest will immobilize a forearm nicely

Basic First Aid Guidelines

  • Remain calm, be aware of your surroundings, and closely evaluate the scene to protect yourself and others from further injury.
  • Do not move a critically injured person unless instructed by emergency medical professionals.
  • Do not try to drive someone who is critically ill or injured to a hospital unless there is no way to summon emergency help.
  • Call to a medical emergency or ask someone else to call:

RICE Method

  • Rest: Avoiding use of the injured area.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables to the area, without them touching the skin directly.
  • Compression: Wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage to provide support, reduce blood flow, and limit swelling.
  • Elevation: Keeping the area raised above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.

First aid is needed in daily life at any situation. So every citizen shares a responsibility of having basic first aid knowledge and practices. First aider should be able to assess, provide care and direct to appropriate medical care. Unfortunately, most of us will find ourselves, at one time or another, in a situation that requires first aid care. Would you be prepared to help yourself or others?

Here are basic guidelines for some common injuries and illnesses:

Breathing difficulties

  • People with breathing difficulty may be moved to a position of comfort, with loosening of any restrictive clothing.
  • First aid providers may help the person to sit upright leaning forward.

Dehydration and gastrointestinal distress

  • In cases of dehydration, first aid providers should rehydrate the person using ORS.
  • Either a commercially prepared ORS or a pre-prepared salt package for oral rehydration that complies with World Health Organization recommendations for ORS solutions should be used for rehydration.


  • If the person is breathing normally but remains unresponsive, maintain a patent airway by considering head tilt – chin lift, or recovery position.
  • If there is abnormal or no breathing, resuscitation should be started immediately.
  • An unresponsive person should be rapidly assessed for breathing/signs of circulation and perfusion (if trained to do this assessment).
  • If the person is face down and unresponsive (prone position), the first aider should turn his or her face up (supine position) to check breathing.
  • First aid providers should consider that any person who loses consciousness might have low blood sugar, stroke, seizure or other serious conditions.

Sprains & Strains

A sprain is an injury to a joint in which the ligaments and other tissues are damaged by violent stretching or twisting. Sprains usually occur when people twist their knee, fall on an outstretched arm, or land on the side of their foot. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and the inability to use the joint.

A strain occurs when a muscle is stretched beyond its normal range of motion, and tears. This can happen by prolonged, repetitive movement, improper lifting of heavy objects, or overstressing the muscles. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, tenderness when touched, muscle weakness and loss of muscle function.

The RICE formula can be used for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury to reduce swelling for both sprains and strains. Avoid using the injured body part and apply an ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes, every 2 to 3 hours. Use an elastic bandage to compress the injury and keep the body part elevated above heart level, if possible.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

CPR is as easy as ABC. Remember: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation:

  • Establish an open airway before determining if the victim can breathe on their own. Tilt the head back and lift the chin if no spine injury is suspected.
  • Listen, look and feel for signs of breathing. If the victim is not breathing, give two slow rescue breaths (2 seconds each).
  • Check for signs of circulation such as breathing, coughing or movement in response to breaths.

If circulation is needed, perform cardiac compressions. Adults require cycles of 15 chest compressions for every two rescue breaths.

Remember that in any emergency where a victim is unconscious and not breathing on their own, call emergency services immediately.

Snake bite

First aid in snakebite effective first aid should always be given to snakebite victims. It will prevent or minimize spread of venom that may have been introduced into the tissues, as well as complications resulting from the bite. Incorrect first aid may cause harm. The following simple, practical, effective and safe measures are recommended:

  1. The commonest reaction following snakebite is fear — the victim thinks of death. Reassurance is vital and should be done in a positive and authoritative manner and continued for as long as necessary. The following points should be emphasized
  • Most snakes are not venomous.
  • Even if a biting snake is venomous, it may not inject venom.
  • The presence of fang marks alone does not mean that venom has entered the body.
  • If envenoming has taken place, affective treatment is available in hospitals and full recovery is likely.
  1. The snakebite victim, and especially the bitten limb, must be kept still because —
  2. a) Movement of the bitten part and of the victim hastens absorption of venom, which may have been introduced into the body by the bite. Therefore keep the victim still. It is better to carry rather than to let him/her walk.
  3. b) In addition to retarding absorption of venom, immobilization also reduces pain. The bitten limb could be immobilized by splinting it with a piece of wood.
  4. To remove venom, which may lie on the surface of the skin, the bitten area should be washed gently with soap and water, or wiped with a wet cloth. Vigorous washing and rubbing may hasten venom absorption.
  5. Swelling of the bitten limb is a common feature after venomous snakebite. Prevent complications by removing, as early as possible, rings, bangles, anklets, cords or clothing, which could cause constriction if swelling were to occur.
  6. Paracetamol may be given for the relief of pain.
  7. Take the victim to hospital as early as possible. An accurate description of the circumstances of the bite will facilitate the identification of the snake, which will influence the management of the patient. It is no longer necessary to bring the biting snake to hospital for proper management. Live snakes, as well as dead ones, should be handled carefully


A dislocation is when two connected bones slip out of position in a joint. Dislocations are caused by falls and hard impacts, such as in sports injuries, and are more common in teens than young children. These injuries require emergency medical care to avoid further damage.


Heather or not a blister needs any treatment is debatable. If the blister is small, unbroken and not very painful, it is probably best to leave it alone. Cover it to prevent continued rubbing and pressure on it that can cause it to swell more and possibly burst on its own.

If the blister is large or painful especially if the activity isn’t finished (such as you are in the middle of a hike) follow steps to drain and dress a blister.

Use a sterilized needle and make small punctures at the edge of the blister and express the fluid. Then apply antibiotic ointment and cover it to protect it from further rubbing and pressure.


All extremity injuries need to be treated as broken bones (fractures) until an X-ray can be obtained.

There are all kinds of broken bone myths, such as not being able to walk on a broken leg or whether there's a difference between a fracture and a break. If you don't have Superman's X-ray eyes, treat it like it's broken. Take these steps for a suspected fracture:

  • Don't try to straighten it.
  • Stabilize the limb using a splint and padding to keep it immobile.
  • Put a cold pack on the injury, avoiding placing ice directly on the skin.
  • Elevate the extremity.
  • Give anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen.

Basic First Aid for Bee Stings

Bee stings are either annoyingly painful or deadly, depending on if the victim is allergic to the venom. Use these bee sting first aid tips:

  • Get the stinger out any way you can to prevent more venom being delivered. It's a myth that any particular way is better or worse.
  • If the person is known to be allergic to bee stings, use an Epicene to prevent anaphylaxis or call emergency help if none is available.
  • Use a cold pack to reduce swelling at the site, but take care not to cause frostbite.
  • Use an antihistamine to reduce swelling and itching.
  • Monitor the person who was stung by signs of anaphylaxis, including hives, redness or itching in other areas of the body, and shortness of breath.
  • Blood is spurting from the wound
  • Bleeding cannot be stopped after 5-10 minutes of firm and steady pressure


The following measures need to be taken in giving first aid to a victim of an open wound:

  1. Stop the bleeding

– Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own.

– If they don't, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Hold the pressure continuously for 20 to 30 minutes and if possible elevate the wound

  1. . Clean the wound.

– Rinse out the wound with clear water. Soap can irritate the wound, so try to keep it out of the actual wound.

– If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles.

– To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a washcloth.

– There's no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or an iodine-containing cleanser.

  1. Cover the wound

– If the bleeding slows, cover the wound with a clean dressing and bandage.

– Dressings and bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out. A dressing is a sterile pad or compress (usually made of gauze or cotton wrapped in gauze) used to cover wounds, to control bleeding and/or prevent further contamination. A dressing should be large enough to totally cover the wound, with a safety margin of about 2.5 cm on all sides beyond the wound. A bandage is used to secure a dressing in place and to apply pressure to bleeding wounds.

The following measures need to be taken in giving first aid to a victim of a closed wound:

  1. Application of direct pressure, preferably with ice wrapped in a cloth, for several minutes, in order to arrest the bleeding as well as to reduce the swelling.
  2. Elevation of the affected region will also support in reducing the pressure as well as the re-absorption process and it should be practiced as and when appropriate.

First aid for bleeding

Bleeding is the loss of blood escaping from the circulatory system. It arises due to either traumatic injury, underlying medical condition, or a combination and can occur internally, where blood leaks from blood vessels inside the body, or externally, either through a natural opening such as the mouth, nose, ear, urethra, vagina or anus, or through a break in the skin.

External bleeding is generally described in terms of the origin of the blood flow by vessel type.

Internal Bleeding is one of the most serious consequences of trauma. It may occur after any significant physical injury.

Symptoms of bleeding are:

  • Blood coming from an open wound
  • Bruising
  • Shock, which may cause any of the following symptoms:

– Confusion or decreasing alertness

– Clammy skin

– Dizziness or light-headedness after an injury

– Low blood pressure

– Paleness (pallor)

– Rapid pulse, increased heart rate

– Shortness of breath

– Weakness

If the injured has internal bleeding, the aforementioned symptoms are joined by the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Chest pain
  • External bleeding through a natural opening

– Blood in the stool (appears black, maroon, or bright red)

– Blood in the urine (appears red, pink, or tea-colored)

– Blood in the vomit (looks bright red, or brown like coffee-grounds)

– Vaginal bleeding (heavier than usual or after menopause)

The following measures need to be taken in giving first aid to a victim of an external bleeding:

  1. Wash your hands to avoid infection and put on gloves
  2. Lay on the injured person down and cover the person to prevent loss of body heat.
  3. 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.

  1. 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 tight adhesive tape.

– Use your hands if nothing else is available.

– 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 of it

  1. 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.

– 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.

For more information https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Llq0-upWb8


Created : Nov 22, 2019 05:46am
Last updated : Jul 3, 2022 06:14am