First aid

Accidents always happen, whether one has taken preventive measures or not. If an accident is serious it is obvious that the help of someone who has undergone a first aid course is of value. Such a person literally can save lives.

When accidents are only minor, a knowledge of the principles of first aid is also important, because one then knows which treatment may be harmful and thus should be avoided.

Three points are important to remember in first aid. The first is to prevent additional casualties. For example, in the case of a traffic accident it is generally unwise to start by dashing to the victim with bandages. It is far more important to start by signalling to other road users that there is a dangerous situation. The second aim of first aid is to save lives. Sometimes – when the only thing that needs to be done is to staunch serious bleeding – this is relatively easy. In other instances, however, it may be necessary to give artificial respiration combined with heart massage. The third aim is to prevent deterioration of the casualty’s condition. One important rule is to help the victim at the site of the accident. A wounded driver, for example, should be pulled out of his car only when absolutely necessary.

Apart from learning what should be done in case of accidents, following a First-Aid course is also advisable for other reasons. One develops an awareness of potential dabger and can take measures in advance to prevent accidents. Because during these lessons specially trained people depict the role of victim very realistically, only sqeamishness felt in real life when one is confronted with the sight of blood soon disappears.

Simple first aid measures can save lives. However, particularly in an emergency, you need to be sure of what you are doing. Reading, although very useful, is no substitute for attending an approved course in first aid where you will be instructed and tested by qualified people. One particular technique, namely external chest compression, should only be attempted when you have had expert practical instruction.

Aims and principles of first aid

The aim of first aid is to give immediate assistance to someone who has been injured or taken ill. The objective is not to treat the injury or illness as such, but to preserve the casualty’s life, stop his or her condition getting worse, and ensure that he or she receives medical help as quickly as possible when necessary. In achieving this objective, two cardinal rules are to take good care of yourself and to prevent further casualties. The importance of extinguishing cigarettes and all naked lights wherever there is a danger of explosions from gas or petroleum fuels cannot be too strongly emphasized. In the case of a motor vehicle accident, for example, signal to other drivers to slow down to prevent further collisions. At the scene of the crash, someone who appears to be lying unconscious may have been overcome by gas, or electrocuted. Other people – including you – may be put in the same danger. Turn off all engines if you can, but if not, call the emergency services straight away and wait for their arrival. In general, wherever possible locate and neutralize the accident’s cause, smother fires, extinguish naked lights, turn off machinery and prevent fuel leakages. Always remember not to apply water to a fire when electricity is present or caused the fire. There is no point in being heroic if you are not fully qualified to help. Only a very strong swimmer trained in life-saving techniques would be able to go to the assistance of someone in difficulty in heavy seas, for example. For most people, the best help they can give in this situation is to call for professional help – the lifeboat or coastguard – as quickly as possible.

Calling for assistance

When calling the emergency services, state your own name and address and the exact location of the accident. Always give an estimate of the number of casualties, the cause of the accident and a description of the casualties’ symptoms. Ask for any special assistance that might be needed; mention, for example , if someone is trapped in a car, if there is a risk of fire or dangerous chemicals exploding.

First priorities

It is important to ascertain the cause of injury and, if there are several casualties, to attend first to those in greatest danger – who, bear in mind, may not be

Report succinctly: your name -the place of the accident the cause of the accident -the number of victims –

The number of people (per 100,000) who die as a result of an accident compared with the total number of deaths in a given age group. These are overall figures based on data from a number of European countries. Nursery school children run a higher than average risk (roughly one in three deaths is the result of an accident). Accidents are the leading cause of death in the case of young adults. As people get older other causes of death become significant, but there is also a sharp increase in the number of fatal accidents.

Shouting the loudest. Remaining calm in such circumstances may be in direct opposition to your instincts, but surrendering to panic is worse than useless. It is important to reassure a casualty that help is at hand; talk to him or her to give them confidence – and send away or make use of idle bystanders, who tend to unnerve injured people.

In your attempts to comfort a casualty, however, do not give him or her anything to eat or drink. A casualty who goes to hospital may need a general anaesthetic; this can be dangerous with food in the stomach, because the person may be sick and inhale the vomit.

In a life-threatening emergency, the most important points to attend to are the casualty’s circulation and breathing. The casualty may have stopped breathing because the airway is obstructed, but if breathing does not start once this has been cleared you should give artificial respiration to introduce oxygen intothe casualty’s lungs.

The circulation may be threatened, either because the heart has stopped beating, or because of severe loss of blood from a cut or other injury. The injury may be internal and therefore not visible – especially with injuries to the abdomen, pelvis and legs. If you cannot feel a pulse, external chest compression should be carried out (but only if you know how). This is done to massage the heart and move blood around the body to organs such as the brain, which is very sensitive to lack of oxygen.

If the casualty is bleeding heavily, you should take action to stop further loss of blood by elevating the relevant limb or part above heart level, and by applying pressure to the wound andor to pressure points.

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