What is first aid and how to give it properly?
Accidents are an integral part of everyday life. Sometimes they may happen not directly to us, but to a complete stranger, for example in the street. It usually happens completely unexpectedly and, therefore, it is useful to know what to do. Failure to provide first aid can result in a prison sentence of up to three years. How should we react in such a situation in order to help effectively instead of making someone's situation worse?
The most important thing before first aid itself is:
- asking for support from those around you (you usually have to wait for medical help),
- assessing the safety of the environment (electric cables, flames, toxic gas or slippery ground),
- securing the rescue area (e.g. moving cars),
- making an emergency call or asking another witness to do so,
- taking care of your own safety,
- ask relevant questions to the casualty if he/she is conscious (allergies, illnesses, medication).
If all the elements are met, you should proceed to provide assistance. Accidents and their consequences may vary. For example, there may be consequences of accidents such as:
Assistance in case of unconsciousness, cardiac or respiratory arrest
In this case, it is necessary to carry out immediately cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in brief CPR. However, it is important to know exactly how to perform it. Improperly performed CPR risks breaking the ribs, which can then lead to a punctured lung. Such an action would significantly worsen the condition of the casualty. In addition, if the casualty were to choke on an object, poorly performed CPR could lead to dangerous displacement of the item, making it difficult to pull out. When there is a lack of circulation, the brain is at risk of hypoxia. Properly performed CPR has many components. In order for it to be performed correctly one should:
- kneel down beside the casualty and place your hand on the bottom of his sternum,
- place the other hand on the hand that is already lying down,
- bring both hands together to form a firm grip,
- straighten the arms and hold them stiffly without bending (the angle between the arms and the chest must be 90 degrees),
- perform compressions 100 - 120 times per minute with a depth of 5 - 6 cm.
Every 30 compressions, take 2 breaths.
To properly perform artificial respiration it is necessary to:
- first obstructing the airways and pinching the nose using the index finger and thumb (the hand must be on the forehead),
- take a breath and hold the mouth of the casualty,
- take one second's breath while watching your chest,
- checking that the chest falls when the mouth is released.
Immediate resuscitation increases the chances of survival by two or three times. This action can be stopped when:
- professional medical assistance will arrive on the scene,
- we spotted another danger nearby such as fire, fumes or a dangerous animal,
- the victim develops any reaction (coughing, eye opening),
- someone else will replace us to help,
- you will get tired and lose the strength needed to perform the compressions.
According to European Resuscitation Council guidelines, CPR should always be undertaken when the victim is breathless and the circumstances are not hazardous. Resuscitation also carries certain risks, such as:
- fatigue over time, which impairs the effectiveness of CPR,
- high physical exertion especially dangerous for people with cardiovascular diseases,
- psychological resistance due to fear of causing harm to the injured party,
- the risk of contracting a disease, for example through artificial respiration.
Assistance in case of shock
Symptoms of shock include heavy breathing and pale or frozen skin. In this situation there is a risk that the victim may lose consciousness. It is advisable to lay him on his side (only if his neck and back are intact) to help open the airways. It is also important to ensure that the victim is kept at a suitable temperature until specialist help arrives. Blankets of various kinds are useful here, if available of course.
Assistance in case of bleeding or haemorrhage
Bleeding occurs as a result of a break in the continuity of the skin and damage to small blood vessels. It usually subsides on its own, so there is no need for specialist help, as a clot is formed at the site of the injury, which heals after some time. A haemorrhage, on the other hand, is the result of damage to an arterial vessel or a large vein. In this case, the haemorrhage must be stopped immediately, as bleeding or shock may occur. The loss of one third of blood in an adult is a serious life-threatening event. Areas such as the femoral, brachial or carotid arteries are very vulnerable and damage to them can lead to rapid death.
We distinguish between the following types of haemorrhage:
- venous haemorrhage - arises when a vein is damaged and the outflowing blood is dark red due to large amounts of carbon dioxide; the blood flows out at an even rate,
- arterial haemorrhage - This type of haemorrhage is not easy to stop and professional help is recommended.
Haemorrhages can also be divided as follows:
- external haemorrhage - flows directly from the wound, is easy to spot, its symptoms are pale skin, faster heartbeat, tinnitus or cold sweat,
- internal bleeding - blood is invisible, oozing inside the body; some symptoms are similar to those of external haemorrhage, i.e. pale skin, faster heartbeat, tinnitus, cold sweat.
When it comes to injuries, it is necessary to apply a pressure dressing to cover the wound and stop the flow of blood. Significant blood loss can lead to shock or even death. In order to apply a dressing you need:
- Apply sterile gauze, or a piece of cotton or underwear to the injured area,
- Raise the wound above the level of the heart to help relieve pressure,
- apply a rolled-up bandage or other material to apply pressure to the wound,
- bandage the entire dressing carefully.
With head injuries, a pressure dressing is not applied, but a shielding dressing is applied, because compression of bleeding on the head creates a risk of internal haemorrhage.