Everyone should have a basic knowledge of first-aid. It could mean the difference between life and death for you or someone else, and its usefulness isn’t restricted to a survival situation. Here are our recommendations for starting your basic first-aid education. We’d recommend readers do more than just read the books or online courses recommended on this list.
CPR is short for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation; it is a life-saving procedure used when a pulse and breathing rate cannot be felt. The easiest ways to check for breathing is the rise and fall of the chest, or by holding a mirror up to the mouth and nose. Often, CPR is performed when waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Your first step is to make sure the airway is clear and that there is nothing obstructing the throat.
Hands are placed over each-other in the middle of the chest, and chest compressions are performed. The Red Cross recommends compressions of “at least two inches deep”. Interestingly, the perfect beat for CPR is 100 beats per minute – which matches songs like Another One Bites the Dust by Queen and Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees. Rescue breaths are performed in-between, while keeping an eye on the rise and fall of the chest and continuously feeling for breathing and a pulse.
Arterial blood is bright red due to its high oxygen content, while venous blood is darker. In many first-aid situations you might need to put a stop to severe bleeding. Close the wound, if possible, and apply pressure until medical help can be found. Elevate the area above the heart if necessary and possible. It’s vital that wounds are always kept clear of infection: Washing wounds with salt is painful, but often the most effective thing you’ve got when there’s nothing else around.
Some severe cuts and wounds might require stitches. (Some, it’s worth noting, don’t – don’t attempt to close up an open bone fracture yourself as you’ll do far more harm than good.) Always have several types of needles (including curved), sterile thread and cotton balls as part of your kit at the very least. Always sterilize your equipment, hands and the wound before you start: You don’t want to stitch any infections up inside the wound.
Remember that you’ll have to create a knot to hold the stitching together.
Fighting Infection & Cleaning Wounds
Infection is often the greatest battle when it comes to first-aid, and a lot of it is down to after-care. As part of your first-aid kit, include gloves, alcohol, sterilized water, cotton balls, needles and thread and bandages at the very least; many over-the-counter antibiotics can be purchased and stored – keep in mind that many are penicillin-based and watch out for those who are potentially allergic.
Wounds can be cleaned with a saline solution: Salt is one of the cleanest substances known to man and does far more than just add flavour to your food: It could, in dire circumstances, save your life.
It’s fairly easy to sprain a wrist or ankle. Symptoms of sprains include immediate swelling and pain, bruising and impaired movement in the affected joint. (Yes, if you can still move it, it’s sprained and not broken.) Immediately stop and rest the affected area; if you can, place a hot or cold compress on it and then compress the joint – though not enough to cut off circulation and do any tissue damage. The key-word is avoiding further strain as much as possible and waiting for the swelling to subside. In some cases, you might be dealing with a dislocation; basic guides to anatomy will teach you which bones should (and shouldn’t) be where.
Concussions occur as an (often minor) brain injury; symptoms can include a headache, dizziness, disorientation, vomiting and nausea and migraine-like response to light or sound. In severe cases, memory loss or unconsciousness could accompany concussions. Pupils might respond differently to light, or one might be different in size to the other.
Immediate treatments for a concussion include fluids, a healthy diet and rest; according to Marshfield Clinic, it’s fine to sleep after a concussion providing that the person is able to hold a coherent conversation and symptoms like disorientation and change in pupils have disappeared.