Our guide to first aid
First published date March 18 2014
Amended date September 10 2015
What would you do if the man standing behind you in the supermarket queue suddenly gripped his chest, gasped and sank to the ground? Perhaps you’d wish you had done first aid course. He probably would too.
First aid courses
teach you what to do should the unexpected happen. There’s a high chance that one day you’ll be called upon to save somebody’s life. Make sure you can be relied upon to do so.
What do you actually do on a first aid course?
First aid courses
consist of practical and theoretical activities needed for effective first aid treatment. You will learn how to deal with a range of extreme medical emergencies, including unconsciousness, choking, bleeding, burns, heart attack, stroke, broken bones, head injuries and hypothermia.
The majority of first aid courses are very practical, involving hands on experience with lifelike models of babies, children and adults. They vary in length but they are usually short, lasting around five hours. Most courses provide a first aid manual, so you can brush up on your first aid knowledge after the course and the best ones offer on-going support following the course.
You will normally be assessed during the course through practical observation and a multiple choice questionnaire. On completion of the course, you should receive a First Aid certificate, which is valid for three years. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend an update of your first aid skills once a year.
How can you decide on the best course for you?
When deciding which course to take, consider choosing a fully certified courses, such as those run by The Red Cross and St John Ambulance. Also, some course providers teach small groups and tailor the course content to the needs of the group. So if you would like to do the course with a group of friends, there will be a course that will let you arrange it.
There are not normally entry requirements and no previous knowledge of first aid is needed. So all you need is a desire to help adults and children in medical emergencies. But for those who hope to work as medical professionals, care workers, dentists or sports coaches a first aid course is often a compulsory health and safety requirement.
Myth or remedy?
Sucking venom from a snakebite or wasp sting. Doctors believe this is useless, even dangerous because it might contaminate the wound.
Peeing on a jellyfish sting. This isn’t an effective pain relief and the strange looks from fellow sunbathers definitely won’t make it worth the while. Vinegar is the most effective treatment.
Squeezing out the stinger after a wasp sting. This is a resounding no-no. It might burst venom in the stinger that has not yet been released. You should scrape the stinger out with something plastic, like artificial fingernails. Putting baking soda on the sting apparently works. It neutralises the acid in the sting.
Hold your head back when you have a nosebleed. This seems logical but potentially dangerous because you can breathe the blood into your lungs. You should press the fleshy part of your nose, not the bridge. Basically, make the universal ‘That stinks!’ sign.
A quick quiz on first aid
What should you do in the following scenarios?
1. You’ve gone to restaurant with your boyfriend. He’s eaten an oyster – but he’s also eaten the shell. He begins to choke. He can’t breathe. He’s turning purple.
a) Put your fingers down his throat to dislodge the shell
b) Do the Heimlich manoeuvre (abdominal thrusts) on him
c) Give five hard back slaps between his shoulder blades
2. Your grandfather is complaining of breathlessness and a pain in the chest. You think he’s having a heart attack.
a) Sit him in a comfortable position
b) Lay him down flat
c) Get him to stand up and walk around slowly
3. Your friend has walked through a glass door and cut her leg open. There’s a lot of blood.
a) Put her leg in very cold water
b) Give her a paracetemol
c) Apply direct pressure over the wound
4. You see a woman collapsed on the floor. She doesn’t respond when you ask if she’s OK.
a) Let her stay there because she might be asleep
b) Do CPR
c) Check her airway is clear
5. Your neighbour falls and stops breathing. You know you must perform CPR. How many compressions to rescue breaths should you do?
a) 30 compressions to two breaths
b) 15 compressions to five breaths
c) 10 compressions to three breaths
1. c – Give up to five back slaps between the shoulder blades. The Heimlich manoeuvre, or abdominal thrusts, should not be given until back slaps have been carried out.
2. a – A half-sitting position, with his head and shoulders supported and his knees bent will ease the strain on his heart.
3. c – Apply direct pressure on the wound with your hand.
4. c – Check her airway is open and clear by tilting the head and lifting the chin.
5. a – 30 compressions to two breaths.
By Nick Kennedy