First Aid

What to Do After an Accident

If someone is injured in an incident, first check that you and the casualty are not in any danger. If you are, make the situation safe. When it’s safe to do so, assess the casualty and call for an ambulance (if necessary). You can then carry out basic first aid.

Assessing a casualty

The priorities when dealing with a casualty can be remembered as ABC:

  • Airway
  • Breathing
  • Circulation


If the casualty appears unresponsive, ask them loudly if they are OK and if they can open their eyes. If they respond, you can leave the casualty in the position they are in until help arrives. While you wait, keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response:

  • Are they alert?
  • Do they respond to your voice?
  • Do they respond to pain?
  • Is there no response to any stimulus (they’re unconscious)?

If there is no response, leave the casualty in the position they are in and open their airway. If this is not possible in the position they are in, gently lay them on their back and open the airway.

You open the airway by placing one hand on the casualty’s forehead and gently tilting the head back, then lifting the tip of the chin using two fingers. This is to move the tongue away from the back of the mouth. Do not push on the floor of the mouth as this will cause the tongue to obstruct the airway.

If you think they may have a spinal injury, place your hands on either side of their face and use your fingertips to gently lift the angle of the jaw to open the airway. Take care not to move the casualty’s neck. This is known as the jaw thrust technique.


To check if a person is still breathing:

  • Look to see if their chest is rising and falling.
  • Listen over their mouth and nose for breathing.
  • Feel their breath against your cheek for 10 seconds.

If they are breathing, place them in the recovery position so the airway remains clear of obstructions.

If the casualty is not breathing, call for an ambulance, then begin CPR.


If the heart stops beating, you can help maintain their circulation by performing chest compressions. This is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when combined with rescue breaths.


If you are not trained or feel unable to give rescue breaths, you can perform compression-only CPR.

Agonal breathing is common in the first few minutes after a sudden cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating). Agonal breathing is sudden, irregular gasps of breath. This should not be mistaken for normal breathing and CPR should be given straight away.


First Aid


Unconsciousness is when a person suddenly becomes unable to respond to stimuli and appears to be asleep. A person may be unconscious for a few seconds (fainting) or for longer periods of time.

People who become unconscious don’t respond to loud sounds or shaking. They may even stop breathing or their pulse may become faint. This calls for immediate emergency attention. The sooner the person receives emergency first aid, the better their outlook will be.

What Causes Unconsciousness?

Unconsciousness can be brought on by a major illness or injury, or complications from drug use or alcohol abuse.

Common causes of unconsciousness include:

  • a car accident
  • severe blood loss
  • a blow to the chest or head
  • a drug overdose
  • alcohol poisoning

A person may become temporarily unconscious (faint) when sudden changes occur within the body. Common causes of temporary unconsciousness include:

  • low blood sugar
  • low blood pressure
  • syncope (loss of consciousness due to lack of blood flow to the brain)
  • dehydration
  • problems with the heart’s rhythm
  • neurologic syncope (loss of consciousness caused by a seizure, stroke, or transient ischemic attack)
  • straining
  • hyperventilating

Signs that a Person May Become Unconscious

Symptoms that may indicate that unconsciousness is about to occur include:

  • sudden inability to respond
  • slurred speech
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • confusion
  • dizziness or lightheadedness

Administering First Aid

If you see a person who has become unconscious, take these steps:

  • Check whether the person is breathing. If they are not breathing, call an ambulance immediately. If they are breathing, position the person on their back.
  • Raise the person’s legs at least 12 inches above the ground.
  • Loosen any restrictive clothing or belts. If the person doesn’t regain consciousness within one minute, call ambulance.
  • Check the person’s airway to make sure there’s no obstruction.
  • Check again to see if the person is breathing, coughing, or moving. These are signs of positive circulation. If these signs are absent, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until emergency personnel arrive.

CPR Instructions

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a way to treat someone when they stop breathing or their heart stops beating.

  • Lay the person on their back on a firm surface.
  • Kneel next to the person’s neck and shoulders.
  • Place the heel of your hand over the center of the person’s chest. Put your other hand directly over the first one and interlace your fingers. Make sure that your elbows are straight and move your shoulders up above your hands.
  • Using your upper body weight, push straight down on the person’s chest at least 1.5 inches for children, or 2 inches for adults. Then release the pressure. Repeat this procedure again up to 100 times per minute. These are called chest compressions.

To minimize potential injuries, only those trained in CPR should perform rescue breathing. If you haven’t been trained, perform chest compressions until medical help arrives.

If you are trained in CPR, tilt the person’s head back and lift the chin to open up the airway.

  • Pinch the person’s nose closed and cover their mouth with yours, creating an airtight seal.
  • Give two one-second breaths and watch for the person’s chest to rise.
  • Continue alternating between compressions and breaths — 30 compressions and two breaths — until help arrives or there are signs of mov

How Is Unconsciousness Treated?

If unconsciousness is due to low blood pressure, a doctor will administer medication by injection to increase blood pressure. If low blood sugar level is the cause, they may need something sweet to eat or a glucose injection.

Medical staff should treat any injuries that caused the person to become unconscious.

Complications of Unconsciousness

Potential complications of being unconscious for a long period of time include:

  • coma
  • brain damage
First Aid

Travel First Aid

Travel First Aid Kit

Just as you prepare first aid kits for your home and car, you should also create one for travel.

Your travel kit can be customized for every trip. You will want to bring basic supplies found in your standard home emergency kit, but you should also include other items. Consider the following:

How many people are going on the trip? You need to bring enough supplies for the number of people traveling with you.

How long will you be gone?  Prescription and over-the-counter medications should be adequate to last for the duration of the trip, plus a few days extra in case of travel delays.

Where are you going?  For instance, on a wilderness trip, you’ll need special gear, including a compass, a water-filtering bottle or water purification tablets, and a whistle.

An over-the-counter antihistamine should be included in case of allergic reactions. And a first aid instruction manual, preferably for wilderness travel, is desirable as you may be far from immediate medical help.

What will you be doing?  If you plan to hike, for example, you’ll want to include moleskin to protect your heels from blisters. If you’re boating, motion sickness medication is a must.

Insect repellant, sunscreen, calamine lotion, and aloe or another burn gel are essential for almost all outdoor adventures.


First Aid

Snake Bites

What Are Snake Bites?

A bite from a venomous snake can be deadly, and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even a bite from a harmless snake can be serious, leading to an allergic reaction or an infection. Venomous snake bites can produce an array of symptoms, including localized pain and swelling, convulsions, and nausea—even paralysis.

There are first aid steps you can take after a snake bite occurs, such as cleaning the wound, remaining calm, and immobilizing the affected area. However, it is essential to get the bite victim to a medical facility immediately for emergency treatment. If treated in time, the outlook for recovery is good.

To identify a snake bite, consider the following general symptoms:

  • two puncture wounds
  • swelling and redness around the wounds
  • pain at the bite site
  • difficulty breathing
  • vomiting and nausea
  • blurred vision
  • sweating and salivating
  • numbness in the face and limbs

First Aid for Snake Bites

It is essential to get a victim of a snake bite to a medical facility for emergency treatment as quickly as possible. However, there are some tips that you should also keep in mind:

  • Call ambulance immediately.
  • Keep the victim calm and still. Movement can cause the venom to move more quickly through the body. Consider making a splint to restrict the movement of the affected area.
  • Remove constricting clothing or jewelry. The area of the bite will likely swell, so it is important to remove these items quickly.
  • Carry or transport the victim by vehicle. This person should not be allowed to walk.
  • If the snake is dead, take it with you for identification. Do not waste time hunting it down, though.

There are also several outdated first aid techniques that are now believed to be unhelpful or even harmful. Do not do any of the following:

  • Do not use a tourniquet.
  • Do not cut into the snake bite.
  • Do not use a cold compress on the bite.
  • Do not give the victim any medications unless directed by a doctor.
  • Do not raise the area of the bite above the victim’s heart.
  • Do not attempt to suck the venom out by mouth
  • Do not use a pump suction device. While these devices were formerly recommended for pumping out snake venom, it is now believed that they are more likely to do harm than good.

Treatment for Snake Bites

The most important thing to do for a snake bite victim is to get him or her emergency medical help as soon as possible. A doctor will evaluate the victim to decide on a specific course of treatment. In some cases, a bite from a venomous snake is not life-threatening. The severity depends on the location of the bite and the age and health of the victim. If the bite is not serious, the doctor may simply clean the wound and give the victim a tetanus vaccine.

If the situation is life threatening, the doctor may administer an antivenom. This is a substance that is created with snake venom to counter the snake bite symptoms. It is injected into the victim intravenously. The sooner the antivenom is used, the more effective it will be.

Prevention of Snake Bites

Snake bites can be prevented in many cases. Refrain from approaching or handling snakes in the wild. Avoid areas of tall grass and piled leaves, as well as rock and woodpiles. These are typical places in which snakes like to hide.

When working outside where snakes may be present, wear tall boots, long pants, and leather gloves. Avoid working outside during the night and in warmer weather, which is when snakes are most active.


First Aid


  1. Lay the Person Down, if Possible

  • Elevate the person’s feet about 12 inches unless head, neck, or back is injured or you suspect broken hip or leg bones.
  • Do not raise the person’s head.
  • Turn the person on side if he or she is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth.
  1. Begin CPR, if Necessary

If the person is not breathing or breathing seems dangerously weak:

  • For a child, start CPR for children.
  • For an adult, start adult CPR.
  • Check breathing every 5 minutes until help arrives.
  1. Treat Obvious Injuries

  2. Keep Person Warm and Comfortable

  • Loosen restrictive clothing.
  • Cover with coat or blanket.
  • Keep the person still. Do not move the person unless there is danger.
  • Reassure the person.
  • Do not give anything to eat or drink.
  1. Follow Up

  • At the hospital, the person will be given oxygen and intravenous liquids.
  • Other treatment will depend on the cause of shock.


First Aid

Poisoning First Aid

Poisoning is injury or death due to swallowing, inhaling, touching or injecting various drugs, chemicals, venoms or gases. Many substances such as drugs and carbon monoxide are poisonous only in higher concentrations or dosages. And others such as cleaners are dangerous only if ingested. Children are particularly sensitive to even small amounts of certain drugs and chemicals.

How you treat someone who may have been poisoned depends on:

  • The person’s symptoms
  • The person’s age
  • Whether you know the type and amount of the substance that caused poisoning

When to suspect poisoning

Poisoning signs and symptoms can mimic other conditions, such as seizure, alcohol intoxication, stroke and insulin reaction. Signs and symptoms of poisoning may include:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips
  • Breath that smells like chemicals, such as gasoline or paint thinner
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or other altered mental status

If you suspect poisoning, be alert for clues such as empty pill bottles or packages, scattered pills, and burns, stains and odors on the person or nearby objects. With a child, consider the possibility that he or she may have applied medicated patches or swallowed a button battery.

When to call for help

Call your local emergency number immediately if the person is:

  • Drowsy or unconscious
  • Having difficulty breathing or has stopped breathing
  • Uncontrollably restless or agitated
  • Having seizures
  • Known to have taken medications, or any other substance, intentionally or accidentally overdosed (in these situations the poisoning typically involves larger amounts, often along with alcohol).

Call your regional poison control center in the following situations:

  • The person is stable and has no symptoms
  • The person is going to be transported to the local emergency department

Be ready to describe the person’s symptoms, age, weight, other medications he or she is taking, and any information you have about the poison. Try to determine the amount ingested and how long since the person was exposed to it. If possible, have on hand the pill bottle, medication package or other suspect container so you can refer to its label when speaking with the poison control center.

What to do while waiting for help

Take the following actions until help arrives:

  • Swallowed poison. Remove anything remaining in the person’s mouth. If the suspected poison is a household cleaner or other chemical, read the container’s label and follow instructions for accidental poisoning.
  • Poison on the skin. Remove any contaminated clothing using gloves. Rinse the skin for 15 to 20 minutes in a shower or with a hose.
  • Poison in the eye. Gently flush the eye with cool or lukewarm water for 20 minutes or until help arrives.
  • Inhaled poison. Get the person into fresh air as soon as possible.
  • If the person vomits, turn his or her head to the side to prevent choking.
  • Begin CPR if the person shows no signs of life, such as moving, breathing or coughing.
  • Call your regional poison control for additional instructions.
  • Have somebody gather pill bottles, packages or containers with labels, and any other information about the poison to send along with the ambulance team.


  • Syrup. Don’t give syrup or do anything to induce vomiting. No good evidence proves its effectiveness, and it often can do more harm than good.

If you still have old bottles of syrup of ipecac in your home, throw them away.

  • Button batteries. The small, flat batteries used in watches and other electronics — particularly the larger, nickel-sized ones — are especially dangerous to small children. A battery stuck in the esophagus can cause severe burns in as little as 2 hours.

If you suspect that a child has swallowed one of these batteries, immediately take him or her for an emergency X-ray to determine its location. If the battery is in the esophagus, it will have to be removed. If it has passed into the stomach, it’s usually safe to allow it to pass on through the intestinal tract.

  • Medicated patches. If you think a child got hold of medicated patches (adhesive products for trans-dermal drug delivery), carefully inspect the child’s skin and remove any that are attached. Also check the roof of the mouth, where they can get stuck if the child sucks on them.


First Aid

Nose Bleeds

  1. Stop the Bleeding

  • Have the person sit up straight and lean forward slightly. Don’t have the person lie down or tilt the head backward.
  • With thumb and index finger, firmly pinch the nose just below the bone up against the face.
  • Apply pressure for 5 minutes. Time yourself with a clock.
  • If bleeding continues after 5 minutes, repeat the process.
  1. Call a Health Care Provider

See a health care provider immediately if:

  • Nosebleed doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of home treatment
  • The person is taking blood thinners, such as warfarin or aspirin, or has a bleeding disorder
  • Nosebleed happens after a severe head injury or a blow to the face
  1. Medical Treatment

  • The health care provider may use specialized cotton material, insert a balloon in the nose, or use a special electrical tool to cauterize the blood vessels.
  1. Follow Up

  • Broken noses often are not fixed immediately. The health care provider will refer the person to a specialist for a consultation once the swelling goes down.
  • The person should avoid strenuous activity; bending over; and blowing, rubbing or picking the nose until it heals.


First Aid

Muscles Strains

Control Swelling and Prevent Further Injury With PRICE

  • Protect by applying an elastic bandage, sling, or splint.
  • Rest the muscle for at least a day.
  • Ice immediately, and continue to ice for 10 to 15 minutes every hour, for 2-3 days.
  • Compress by gently wrapping with an Ace or other elastic bandage. (Don’t wrap tightly.)
  • Elevate injured area above the person’s heart level, if possible, for at least 24 hours.

    Manage Pain and Inflammation

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication like diclofenac or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to anyone under age 18.

    Follow Up

  • Elevate and ice the area every 3 to 4 hours after the first day.

    When to Call a Doctor

Call a health care provider if:

  • After a day or two the person can’t move or put weight on the affected area.
  • The injured area is cool, pale, or changes color.
  • There is tingling or numbness.
  • There is new or severe pain.
  • The person needs advice on how (and how soon) to resume normal exercise and activity.




First Aid

Motion Sickness

Any type of transportation can cause motion sickness. It can strike suddenly, progressing from a feeling of uneasiness to a cold sweat, dizziness and then vomiting. Motion sickness usually quiets down as soon as the motion stops. The more you travel, the more easily you’ll adjust to being in motion.

You may escape motion sickness by planning ahead. If you’re traveling, reserve seats where motion is felt least:

  • By ship, request a cabin in the front or middle of the ship near the water level.
  • By plane, ask for a seat over the front edge of a wing. Once aboard, direct the air vent flow to your face.
  • By train, take a seat near the front and next to a window. Face forward.
  • By automobile, drive or sit in the front passenger’s seat.

How can motion sickness be prevented?

  • Focus on the horizon or on a distant, stationary object. Don’t read.
  • Keep your head still, while resting against a seat back.
  • Don’t smoke or sit near smokers.
  • Avoid spicy and greasy foods and alcohol. Don’t overeat.
  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as meclizine (Antivert), or one containing dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), at least 30 to 60 minutes before you travel. Expect drowsiness as a side effect.
  • Consider scopolamine (Transderm Scop), available in a prescription adhesive patch. Several hours before you plan to travel, apply the patch behind your ear for 72-hour protection. Talk to your doctor before using the medication if you have health problems, such as asthma, glaucoma or urine retention.
  • Eat dry crackers or drink a carbonated beverage to help settle your stomach if you become ill.

What is the treatment for motion sickness?

There are several medicines available which can reduce, or prevent, symptoms of motion sickness. You can buy them from pharmacies or get them on prescription. They work by interfering with the nerve signals described above. Although they are best taken before the journey, they still may help even if you take them after symptoms have begun.

Some medicines used for motion sickness may cause drowsiness. It is advisable not to drive or operate heavy machinery if you have taken them. In addition, some medicines may interfere with alcohol or other medication; your doctor or the pharmacist can advise you about this.


Hyscine is the best effective medicine for motion sickness. It works by preventing the confusing nerve messages going to your brain.


Antihistamines can also be useful, although they are not quite as effective as hyoscine.

Alternative treatments

These can be useful and also used with medicines if required:

  • One technique that has been shown to work in a clinical trial is to breathe deeply and slowly and, while focusing on your breathing, listen to music.
  • Ginger can improve motion sickness in some people. It can be eaten in a biscuit or as crystallised ginger, drunk as tea or taken as tablets before a journey.


First Aid

Minor Cut Management

Minor cuts and scrapes usually don’t require a trip to the emergency room. These guidelines can help you care for such wounds:


  1. Wash your hands. This helps avoid infection. Also put on disposable protective gloves if they’re available.
  2. Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If not, apply gentle pressure with a sterile bandage or clean cloth and elevate the wound.
  3. Clean the wound. Use clear water to rinse the wound. Also clean around the wound with soap and a washcloth. Keep soap out of the wound, as it can cause irritation. If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles. If debris still remains, see your doctor. Thorough cleaning reduces the risk of infection and tetanus. There’s no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or an iodine-containing cleanser, which can be irritating to tissue already injured.
  4. Apply an antibiotic. Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment to help keep the surface moist. These products don’t make the wound heal faster. But they can discourage infection and help the body’s natural healing process. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.
  5. Cover the wound. Bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out. If the injury is just a minor scrape, or scratch, leave it uncovered.
  6. Change the dressing. Do this at least once a day or whenever the bandage becomes wet or dirty. If the injured person is allergic to the adhesive in tapes and bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze held in place with paper tape, rolled gauze or a loosely applied elastic bandage. These supplies generally are available at pharmacies. After the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, you can leave it uncovered, as exposure to the air will speed healing.
  7. Get stitches for deep wounds. A deep — all the way through the skin — gaping or jagged wound with exposed fat or muscle will need stitches. Adhesive strips or butterfly tape may hold a minor cut together, but if you can’t easily close the wound, see your doctor as soon as possible. Proper closure within a few hours minimizes scarring and reduces the risk of infection.
  8. Watch for signs of infection. See your doctor if the wound isn’t healing or you notice any redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth or swelling.
  9. Get a tetanus shot. If the injured person hasn’t had a tetanus shot in the past five years and the wound is deep or dirty, he or she may need a booster shot, as soon as possible.