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First Aid – A Critical and Essential Lifesaving Intervention

World First Aid Day 2019 | POLHN

A health crisis, sometimes, can be sudden and unforeseen. One can find themselves in such a situation that could be a matter of life and death. The basic knowledge of how to administer first aid can save precious lives.

Every year on the second Saturday of September, the World First Aid Day is observed around the globe to raise awareness regarding how first aid can prevent injuries, and save lives in everyday crises, as well as promoting the accessibility of the first aid.

First aid is the initial response given to a person suffering from a medical emergency, major or minor, before the professional help is made available, and largely depends upon simple procedures and common sense. One classic example of the first aid process is providing the cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while waiting for an ambulance to arrive and could be vital in saving that patient’s life.

The person can be trained in first aid techniques (even if they do not have a medical background), that are simple yet have critical significance as lifesaving interventions. POLHN provides various free online training courses with certificates including a course on Emergency Drug Guidelines. However, it should be kept in mind that the first aid is not classified as a medical treatment, and by no means should it substitute a health intervention by medical professionals.


The major goal of first aid is to prevent a medical condition from worsening, and ultimately, avert death. The aims of first aid can be well explained by way of the ‘3Ps’.

  1. Preserve life: Like all the medical treatments, the prevailing aim of first aid is to save lives and prevent death.

  2. Prevent further harm: Every effort is made that the injured person is being kept in as stable a condition as possible, and consequently prevent it from deteriorating further. For instance, moving the person away from danger, or applying pressure on the wound to minimise blood loss.

  3. Promote recovery: Initiation of the healing process is also a part of the first aid, even if it may be as simple as applying a bandage on a bleeding wound.


A certain set of skills are taught ubiquitously, and which are necessary for practising the first aid. Of particular significance, are the ‘ABCDEs’ of first aid which emphasises critical life-saving interventions.

ABCDE stands for Airways, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure.

AIRWAYS: The first step is to make sure airways are clear. Choking represents a serious medical emergency which should be attended right away.

BREATHING: Once the airways are secured, it should be determined whether the person can breathe or otherwise, chest compression rescue breathing should be administered.

CIRCULATION: Assessment of circulation is not carried out in patients who are not breathing; the first aid provider should go straight for chest compressions which will promote circulation. The pulse of less serious patients should be checked.

DISABILITY: If the patient appears to have any signs of a disability (coma/convulsion), airway management is of the utmost priority.

EXPOSURE: Finally look for signs of a rash, trauma, burn, wound or a swollen abdomen by physically examining the patient carefully.


Knowing how to use an adhesive bandage or applying pressure on a bleeding wound, are passive skills learned through life experiences. However, to provide efficient, life-saving first aid service, certain instructions, and practical training are required. This is especially true in the case of potentially life-threatening situations. First aid training programs are initiated and conducted by community organisations such as the Red Cross, or commercial training centers. The commercial training is usually used for the first aid training of the employees, with the focus for it to be executed at their workplace. POLHN’s Emergency Drug Guidelines online course for nurses provides critical first aid guidelines for health workers for free, and in the form of self-paced modules.

There are many first aid services which require explicit training. For instance:

  • Marine first aid: Usually practised by professionals such as lifeguards, mariners or in frogman rescue, this first aid strategy addresses the problems faced post-water-based rescue or delayed medical evacuations.
  • Hyperbaric first aid: Practiced by underwater diving professionals to treat conditions such as decompression sickness.
  • Wilderness first aid: Applicable under the conditions where the emergency responders or the evacuation of an injured person is delayed due to various reasons. In such situations, the injured person may have to be subjected to first aid services for several hours.
  • Oxygen first aid: Providing oxygen to patients suffering from hypoxia because of some underlying medical emergency.
  • Battlefield first aid:  Specific training regarding the treatment of wounded individuals during armed conflict.
  • Mental health first aid: This kind of first aid is different from physical first aid. It teaches how to identify and support someone suffering from a mental health problem, and provides guidance for seeking proper help.


Bandage: Adhesive bandages are commonly used to dress minor cuts or scrapes. However, to protect and stop bleeding from a larger wound, roller bandage or gauze bandage is used. To apply roller bandage, gently but firmly wrap the bandage around the wound, and fasten it with a safety pin or a sticky tape. The bandage should be firm enough to stay put, but at the same time, not so tight as to cut off the blood circulation.

Burns: For third-degree burns, or the burns covering large/sensitive areas of a person, urgent medical attention should be sought. However, minor burns should be subjected to basic first aid. Run cool water over the burnt area or apply a cold compress to that area. Ice should not be applied directly to the tissue, as it causes more damage. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers can be given to alleviate pain. Antibiotic ointment should be applied to prevent infection.

CPR: CPR is applied to an unconscious person until professional help arrives. Place both hands at the center of the patient’s chest, and compress it repeatedly at the rate of 100 - 120 compressions per minute.

Bee Stings: Allergic reaction to a bee sting is a medical emergency and epinephrine auto-injector should be immediately administered. If the person is not allergic, gently remove the stinger from the skin (if present), then wash the area with soap and water and, apply cold compression to reduce swelling.

Heat Stroke: If someone has suffered a heat stroke, remove the excess layering of clothes, and cover them with damp sheets. Apply cool, wet towel at the back of their neck.

Cardiac Arrest: If someone around you is experiencing a heart attack, try to find nitro-glycerine tablets and put it under their tongue until the help arrives. If they become unconscious, start CPR right away.