First aid is the provision of care to the ill and injured to preserve life until definitive medical care can be delivered. So, when it gets right down to it all of first aid is dealing with the immediate emergency.
The purpose of providing First Aid is to;
- Ensure your own safety. Never go into the water to save a drowning person. If the shooting is still going on make sure you are under cover. You cannot help anyone if you are killed. Likewise, becoming a second casualty makes the saving of both of you twice as hard.
- Clear Airways. Most people who die quickly do so for lack of a patent airway. If the patient is chemically impaired and breathing turn them on their side so secretions can flow from their mouth. Likewise for people who just suffered a seizure. There is NO NEED to pry a seizure victims’ mouth open with a spoon or your fingers. Wait until the seizure passes and turn them on their side. Don’t get your finger bitten off. Refer to point 1 above!
- Breathing and CPR. If the patient is not breathing refer to point 2 above. Many times it is because their airway is occluded with their tongue. Thrusting their jaw forward with gentle pressure is typically enough to open them again. Current CPR standards don’t really support rescue breathing all that much anymore. It’s has come down to compression only CPR. If the airway is occluded due to choking you will need to remove the foreign material using the Heimlich maneuver or removing it from their mouth if you can see it.
- Circulation. You have to know where to check a pulse and I recommend the carotid artery because it’s right where you will be checking the airway anyway at neck. No pulse? It’s CPR time. Compress the sternum 1.5–2 inches at a rate that matches the timeless Bee Gees song “Staying Alive”. If there is an AED…. Retrieve it. Read the instructions and hopefully a “shock” will be indicated. Out of hospital full arrests survive only about 10% of the time. Remember…. They are already technically dead so you cannot hurt them. Do what you have to do.
- Disability. Bleeding is controlled by direct pressure. If it’s oozing a little pressure will do. If it’s spurting? More pressure will be required. Use anything clean and preferably cloth-like to put over open wounds and apply enough pressure to stop the bleeding. Forget tourniquets. I’ve never had to use one even with amputations. If a limb really hurts… it may be broken. Try to immobilize it any way feasible. Securing to the body works really well actually. Use strips of cloth to do so. If you have anything rigid use it. I’ve even seen a rolled up magazine used to immobilize a wrist fracture. It worked very well. Just don’t strap in a possibly fractured limb too tightly.
- Comfort. If all else fails… be nice. Reassurance is the best medicine of all. There is a LOT of fear involved in these events. Check your own pulse. Be calm and exude that calm. That is the very best and most rare thing in any emergency.
None of this is in any way a substitute for a real first aid class. There are never enough trained first responders. Become one and really make a difference. Saving a life will transform your own.