Did you know that the first ten minutes of an injury is the only brief window of opportunity you have in successfully administering first aid to a person? It is clear that in first aid treatment, every second counts. Training in first aid can not only help one act quickly but also make the right choices in treating injuries. With India facing a real crisis in the shortage of trained first aid professionals, you can make a real difference to people’s lives by learning first aid. Before we move onto first aid training, let us take a look at what is first aid is all about.
So what is First Aid?
First aid is medical help administered immediately to a person who’s injured or ill to prevent further complications, either being the first step in a long treatment plan or a complete treatment by itself. Fast response time is crucial in administering first aid which is most effective when administered within the first ten minutes of an injury. The treatment offered before the arrival of emergency medical services is often the difference between life and death. First aid consists of step by step procedures to help reduce the severity of the injury to keep the person alive for a fuller medical treatment.
The first steps in first aid treatment
These are the essential steps in a first aid treatment. The steps can vary slightly depending on the scenario and type of injury.
• Survey the scene and the injured person. Study the surroundings making sure it is absolutely safe to enter. Talking to bystanders can help you ascertain what happened.
• If the person is conscious and awake, obtain permission before proceeding with treatment. Do a head-to-toe examination checking head, arms, shoulders, hips, and legs for signs of injury or bleeding. Examine the nature of the injury to ascertain what kind of care he or she needs.
• Check for all vital signs first, heart rate, blood pressure, and a steady pulse rate. If any of these are fluctuating then it is a definite sign that the person needs medical attention.
• If the person is unconscious, tap the shoulder to see if there is any response. Shout the name of the person if known. In the case of infants, gently tap the bottom of their feet. If the person is unconscious but breathing, do another head-to-toe check and call emergency services.
• If the person isn’t breathing, do a ‘Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation’ (C.P.R) making sure that the person is face-up on a flat surface. Continue with C.P.R until emergency services arrive.
Though administering first aid looks deceptively simple, nonetheless it has many nuances that are best learned from medical professionals in specially designed training programmes.
First aid training and its many benefits
It is easy to discern the importance and value of training from the first-aid procedure described above. First aid training has two major parts to it; one part is about understanding emergencies while the second part is about acquiring the skills and technical know-how. Training involves learning about life support, dealing with traumas, controlling external and internal bleeding, casualties, use of a defibrillator, treating burns of different degrees, etc. We’ll take a look at two important constituents of first aid training, the ‘Heimlich Manoeuvre’ and ‘Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation’ (C.P.R).
The Heimlich manoeuvre named after American physician Dr. Henry Heimlich involves alternating abdominal thrusts and blows which dislodges objects or food particles stuck in upper airways. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation as the name implies is a procedure used in treating cardiac arrests. It combines chest compressions with artificial respiration to restart the heart. Both of these procedures are now standard in all first aid training.
Training in first aid has numerous advantages for people, employers, and employees in organizations both small and large. Some of them include:
• Speed of Response: A speedy response can help cut down recovery time, and in case of a grievous emergency, first aid can be the only difference between life and death. Being trained in first aid can help one confidently execute all the necessary steps during an emergency.
• More positive work environment: First aid training encourages everyone to cultivate a safe working environment. It is also a superb team-building exercise as it brings everyone closer ensuring that people look after one another.
While the importance of the first aid kit has been recognized, more needs to be done to spread awareness about its utility. In countries like Australia, U.K, and the U.S.A, about 45% – 50% of the population have received first aid training. In India though, first aid training is now seen as a valuable skill with trained professionals constituting about 6% of the population. Medical professionals, however, are of the opinion that ideally, at least 10% of the population needs to get first aid training.
Case study: Inspiration & Caution
The usefulness of first aid training cuts across the age divide. This is clearly seen in an incident that happened in the UK where a ten-year-old girl was able to act quickly when her mother suddenly collapsed. The daughter immediately called emergency services and kept her mother’s head tilted to keep her airways open. Paramedics soon arrived and took the mother to the nearest hospital where she received treatment. The daughter was able to know what to do in a medical emergency because she had been attending first aid training at her school. On the other hand, negligence of first aid has been the cause of far too many deaths. In India, a toddler at a nursery school suddenly starting choking when he accidentally swallowed a toy. He was taken to the hospital where he was declared brought dead. In such a scenario, the Heimlich manoeuver can be used as a first-aid treatment for choking.
One of the main goals of first aid treatment is in the protection and preservation of human life, reassuring patients by talking to them throughout the first aid process, keeping them calm, free of stress and anxiety. First aid when executed well can in most cases help reduce the impact of injuries and illness thus saving precious lives. It is imperative that this training is imparted early in life. First aid is thus an extremely valuable life skill that is of great help anytime and anyplace.