An accident is an unfortunate, unexpected, and unintentional event resulting in damage or injury. An emergency is a situation requiring urgent assistance. Accidents can occur anywhere and anytime. What do you do in case of an accident or emergency? Time is crucial in these situations. Knowing what to do and what not to do in these situations saves the life of an individual. First aid is the first line of action needed during accidents or emergencies that happen at home, offices, schools, and laboratories, etc. which require immediate attention before taken to the hospital.

What is First Aid all About?

First aid is the first and immediate assistance given to an injured or sick person before the arrival of full medical attention or before taken to the hospital. It aims to preserve life, prevent further injury, and promote recovery. First aid is generally performed by someone with basic medical training. However, it does not necessarily require any particular equipment or prior knowledge and can involve improvisation with materials available at the time often by untrained people.

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Certain skills are considered essential to the provision of first aid and are taught universally. Particularly the ‘ABCs’ of first aid, which focuses on critical life-saving intervention, must be rendered before treatment of less serious injuries. ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, and CirculationAttention must first be brought to the airway to ensure it is clear. Obstruction (choking) is a life-threatening emergency. A first aid attendant would determine the adequacy of breathing and provide rescue breathing if necessary. Assessment of circulation is now not usually carried out for patients who are not breathing, with first aiders now trained to go straight to chest compressions (and thus providing artificial circulation) Pulse checks may also be done on less serious patients.

Composition of a First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a strong, durable bag that is commonly identified with a white cross on a green background that contains a collection of supplies and equipment used to give medical treatment.

A typical first aid kit

Every house, workplace, vehicles, etc. should have a well-stocked first aid kit. The content of the first aid kit varies according to the emergency it will serve. Some of the contents include:

1. Sterile Dressings: A dressing is a sterile pad or compresses applied to a wound to promote healing and protect the wound from further harm. A dressing is designed to be in direct contact with the wound, as distinguished from a bandage, which is most often used to hold a dressing in place.

2. Bandages: A bandage is a piece of material used either to support a medical device such as a dressing or splint, or on its own to provide support to or to restrict the movement of a part of the body. When used with a dressing, the dressing is applied directly on a wound, and a bandage is used to hold the dressing in place.

Bandages, Dressings, and Adhesives

3. Triangular dressings: A triangular dressing is used as an arm sling or as a pad to control bleeding. It may also be used to support or immobilize an injury to a bone or joint or as improvised padding over a painful injury.

4. Adhesives: The adhesive bandage protects the wound and scab from friction, bacteria, damage, and dirt. Thus, the healing process of the body is less disturbed. Some of the dressings have antiseptic properties. An additional function is to hold the two cut ends of the skin together to make the healing process faster.

5. Disposable hand gloves: Disposable gloves offer an added barrier against infection in a first aid situation. First aiders must carry disposable, latex-free gloves at all times. The first aider should wear them whenever there is a likelihood of contact with bodily fluids.

Hand Gloves

6. Resuscitation Facemasks: A resuscitation face mask can be used to prevent the spread of infection when administering CPR on a casualty who has a bleeding mouth.

Face masks are useful in a first aid kit

7. Mouth valve: This valve allows for expired air ventilation. The film acts as a barrier to help prevent cross-infection when giving mouth to mouth resuscitation.

8. AED ( automatic external defibrillator): This is used to provide first aid to a person experiencing suspected sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack). Training is recommended before using them.

An automatic external defibrillator can be found in a first aid kit

9. Antiseptic or antibiotic cream: These soothes and heals wounds, protects against infection. They can also be used to treat cuts and grazes, minor burns and scalds, small areas of sunburn, dry chapped skin, nappy rash, insect bites, spots, and pimples.

10. Scissors: The most common use of scissors is for cutting gauze and sometimes even adhesive bandages to an appropriate length. They are also used for other tasks such as cutting away clothing to expose injured areas to be able to treat wounds better

Scissors found in a first aid kit

11. Cotton Wools: Cotton wool is ideal to use for dressings and wound care. Cotton wool is gentle on the skin and holds many times its weight in fluid. The cotton wool is suitable for padding and protection. However, due to the free fibers that can break away, it isn’t fully suitable for using directly onto open wounds.

Cotton wool are useful in case of an accident or emergency

12. Safety pins: This has several uses in first aid. It can be used to immobilize an arm by pinning the cuff of a long sleeve shirt to its chest to fashion a makeshift arm sling. Safety pins can be used to secure a bandage over a wounded and bleeding arm or leg.

13. Antiseptic lotions like hydrogen peroxide: This can be used to prevent skin infections. It is also used to ease pain from skin irritations. It is used to treat minor cuts, scrapes, or burns.

Qualities of a Good First Aider

A good First Aider should possess the following qualities;

  1. Quick thinker
  2. Resourceful
  3. Composure
  4. Skillful
  5. Decision maker
  6. Efficient
  7. Reassuring
  8. Sympathetic

How to Act in an Emergency

Here’s what to do in case of an accident or emergency. Where there is no trained personnel to help, one can easily save a life in 5minutes. This is what you need to do.

  1. Make sure the environment is safe for both you and the casualty.
  2. Check for life-threatening conditions, check the ABCs ( airway, breathing, and circulation) while checking the level of consciousness of the casualty.
  3. Stop bleeding immediately; by using a clean cloth and apply pressure.
  4. Get others to help.
  5. Call for an ambulance.
  6. Gently check for other injuries or large wounds, immobilize fractures and do not move individuals unnecessarily.
  7. Place casualty in the recovery position, in cases of neck or spinal cord fracture; do not move the casualty.
  8. Check for medical identification tag that may indicate special medical care e.g hypertension,
  9. If the casualty is conscious, ask questions like; where pain he/she is feeling pain, etc.
  10. Stay calm and reassure the casualty until medical attention arrives.

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Basic principles of first aid such as knowing the use of adhesive bandage or applying direct pressure on a bleed, are often acquired passively through life experiences. However, to provide effective, life-saving first aid interventions require instruction and practical training. This is especially true where it relates to potentially fatal illness and injuries, such as those that require CR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation); these procedures may be invasive and carry a risk of further injury to the patient and the provider. As with any training, it is more useful if it occurs before an actual emergency. 

Training is generally provided by attending a course, typically leading to certification such as the Red Cross.

Common Accidents and Their First Aid

1. Burns

Burns can be caused by thermal heat or corrosive chemicals or radiations. The first line of action is to immerse the affected area in clean cool water or running water to reduce heat or eliminate the chemical, remove soaked clothing carefully before the area starts to swell, immobilize the affected area, and give small cold drink or fluid at intervals if conscious.

A Burn victim

Lastly, immediately transfer the casualty to the nearest health facility.

2. Cuts From Sharp Objects

These can be caused by a knife, broken bottle, and sharp ends of metal, wood, or a nail. First, remove the object, wash the area with clean water under a running tap.

A bleeding hand with a nail

Use a clean cloth to and apply pressure to the area to stop bleeding, elevate the injured part and lastly, transfer to a nearby health facility.

3. Epistaxis

This can be caused by a blow or a sign of the medical condition. First, support the casualty in a sitting position with his head slightly forward(for fear of aspiration). Then instruct him to breathe through the mouth, and pinch firmly the soft part of the nose for few minutes. Loosen tight clothing around the neck and chest, if bleeding continues, transfer to the nearest health facility.

4. Asthma

Sudden attacks of difficulty in breathing. First, move the casualty away from the trigger, loosen tight clothing around the neck and chest, position the casualty in a comfortable position usually sitting up.

Inhaler for Asthmatic Patients

Reassure the casualty and provide plenty of fresh air. Lastly, transfer to a nearby health facility.

5. Stings and Bites

Remove the sting using sterilized forceps, tweezers, or the point of a needle. Apply antihistamine cream immediately if available or apply a cold compress to alleviate pain and quickly seek medical help.

A sting

In conclusion, the main purpose of first aid is to save lives and minimize the threat of death. First aid done correctly should help reduce casualty’s pain during the evaluation and treatment process. It is important to note that first aid is not a medical treatment and cannot be compared with what a trained medical professional provides. First aid involves making common-sense decisions in the best interest of an injured person. If you’re looking for what to do in case of an accident or emergency, first aid it is.

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