First aid essentials

Knowing what to do when a crisis strikes can prevent undue panic and mean the difference between life and death.  In emergencies it is vital to keep the victim warm and comfortable and to reassure them that everything is going to be all right and that you are getting help if it is necessary.



Airways: tilt back the head to ensure mouth and throat are not blocked;;
Breathing: put your ear to their nose and mouth to listen for breathing and see if chest is going up and down – if not breathing do mouth to mouth resuscitation;
Circulation – if there is no pulse apply chest compressions to force blood to circulate.

RECOVERY POSITION: If unconscious but breathing, put them on their side so that they cannot swallow their tongue, or choke on vomit or blood.

Learn these techniques on a short First Aid course. Contact St John Ambulance,
08700 104950, ; or Red Cross – for details


Minor burns or scalds can be treated at home but urgent medical attention is needed when several layers of skin have been penetrated, for chemical and electrical burns and when large areas of skin are affected.
• Apply plenty of cold water – or other cold drinks – for at least 10 minutes.
• Put on burn creams or gel only if skin is unbroken.
• Cut away clothing gently around the burn and remove other items such as watches, belts or jewellery.
• Cover the burn with non-fluffy sterile dressing to prevent infection.
If they are pale and sweaty with an irregular pulse they may be in shock:
• Lie them down with their legs higher than their head and loosen clothing.
• Call 999 or take to hospital or doctor.


Insects: although a bee or wasp sting hurts it isn’t serious unless there are multiple stings or the person is allergic to them.
• If you can see a sting in the wound try to pluck it out with tweezers.
• Place a wet compress over it to reduce swelling and pain.
• Neat tea tree or lavender oil on any bite or sting helps it to heal quicker.
• There is a risk of infection so visit the doctor for a tetanus jab.
• Stem bleeding by applying a clean dressing on the wound and raise the injured arm or leg in the air.


Minor injuries occur all the time particularly when there are young children around!
• A cold water compress can prevent serious bruising and swelling.
• Arnica gel or cream directly on unbroken skin helps it to heal fast.
• Homeopathic Arnica tablets are safe for children and can be taken regularly to help the body to heal itself.
• Clean cuts by running under tepid water or use an antiseptic wipe.
• If bleeding is severe apply direct pressure over the wound or either side of a protruding object, and lift an affected arm or leg up to control bleeding.
• Cover an open wound with a sterile dressing or plaster to prevent germs getting in.


Fainting can occur as a result of hot weather, hunger, shock or upset, or after standing still for a long time, but it may indicate more serious illness. Unconsciousness usually lasts for just a few seconds but urgent medical treatment is necessary if it lasts longer.
• Lie them down and raise their legs above their head to send the blood back to the brain and loosen any restrictive clothes.
• Open windows to ensure there is plenty of fresh air.
• If they are still unconscious follow ABC and place in the Recovery position.
• Ring 999 for an ambulance.


Exposure to cold for long periods of time can cause hypothermia with symptoms of shivering, cold, pale and dry skin, disorientation, irrational and lethargic behaviour, a weak pulse and slow, shallow breathing, or loss of consciousness.
• Make them warm and remove wet clothes.
• Bathe them in a warm bath but avoid the sudden shock of a hot bath for an old person.
• Call a doctor.
• Follow ABC if they are unconscious.


Symptoms include difficulty with breathing, wheezing, distress, coughing and inability to speak. Asthma attacks can be very frightening for the victim and others, so it is important to stay calm and reassure them.
• Locate their reliever inhaler and give it to them.
• Ask them to breathe slowly and deeply and remind them to keep doing so.
• Sit them down in a comfortable position.
• If symptoms aren’t better after 10 minutes call 999 for an ambulance.


When a piece of food gets stuck at the back of the throat it causes a blockage bringing on muscle spasms.
• Encourage coughing to clear the blockage.
• Slap them hard on the back between the shoulder blades to dislodge the food.
If they are still choking:
• stand behind them;
• put your arms around the abdomen;
• bend them slightly forward;
• put a fist below the base of their breastbone;
• place the other hand on top of it;
• pull sharply inwards and upwards five times.

If choking persists or they stop breathing call 999 for an ambulance.


Specks of dust, small flies and pollen often fly into the eye making it water, but if something sticks to the eye or penetrates the eyeball, help is required.
• Rubbing can make it much worse.
• Put their head back while you gently separate eyelids with clean fingers to see what is in it.
• If something is stuck on or in the eye put a bandage or eye pad over it and take them to hospital.
• Use an eyebath or glass of clean water to wash out a foreign body on the white of the eye.


You can recognise an epileptic fit or convulsion when someone stares blankly ahead, slightly twitches their lips, eyelids, head or limbs and makes involuntary movements such as chewing or lip-smacking.
• Find a quiet place for the person to sit down, talk calmly and reassuringly and remove harmful objects.
• If there is loss of consciousness, severe convulsions, and frantic movements they may fall suddenly, so try to break the fall.
• If unconscious follow ABC and place in the Recovery position.
• If unconsciousness lasts for more than 10 minutes or convulsions for five minutes, ring 999 for an ambulance.


Potentially life-threatening major allergic reactions can be caused by particular foods such as peanuts, insect bites or stings, or an injection. Chemicals are released into the blood which make blood vessels swell blocking the airways, blood pressure drops, and breathing becomes difficult.
• Call an ambulance immediately.
• Sit them up to ease breathing.
• If they are unconscious follow ABC and place in the Recovery position.

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