Series 1

I want to write about some basic concepts of first aid. I have just recently renewed my first aid licence. Learning basic first aid techniques equips a person with an important life skill by improving knowledge of what to do in an emergency situation at home, in the workplace or out in public.

The role of a first aider is defined as the ‘help given to a sick or injured person until full medical treatment is available’

More people are now aware of what to do in an emergency and there are more defibrillators in phone booths and on the walls of public buildings, however how many people don’t know how to use them or have forgotten the basics of first aid skills due to under use of the skills.

I worked as a scuba diving instructor in Egypt and taught many first aid courses keeping it light hearted and fun to help retain the importance of basic first aid, however it always surprised me how often people could not do the basics of CPR or how to handle an emergency scene.

Working as an osteopath and being first aid trained is important particularly in cases where a person may suffer a stroke or seizure to a nasal bleed whilst being treated. We need to know how to deal with such a situation quickly. It’s also chiefly important for osteopaths to take a full medical case history of any patient to be mindful of any serious illnesses the patients may have.

Learning a new skill can help you to build up your self-confidence by taking on new challenges and furthering your knowledge and abilities therefore helping you improve both your personal and professional development.

The Basics: Aim of first aid are the 3 P’s

Preserve life
Prevent the situation worsening
Promote recovery

All anyone can do is to act within your skill level, get help, reassure the patient, treat what you can and get someone to call for help. The priority of a first aider is to ensure your own safety. An injured first aider is no help and just adds to more work for someone else.

Prioritising treatment – the primary survey

First aid training is full of mnemonics, and the most important one is the DR ABC

D – Danger (make sure you, the bystander and casualty are safe – don’t put your life at risk)
R – Responsiveness of patient (are they awake or unconscious)

A – identify and treat any life-threatening airway problems
B – Breathing (regular and effective) if casualty is unconscious and not breathing normally, perform CPR.
C – Circulation (check pulse and any major bleeding with pressure)


In a resuscitation situation, we do CPR without wasting time trying to find a pulse. Every second counts, so do all the above checks within seconds to establish the status of the patient.

If casualty is not breathing, get help by dialling 999/112 and send for a defibrillator (AED) if available. If you are on your own and the AED is not nearby, don’t leave the casualty, start CPR.

• Kneel at the side of the casualty, shake and say “can you hear me” in both ears
• Tilt casualty head back slightly and lift chin

• Look in mouth to check for and remove foreign bodies
• Look, listen and feel for breathing by holding your ear next to their mouth and looking down their chest (10 seconds max)
• If casualty lips are blue, then they are not breathing
• If you are certain that the casualty is breathing normally, place them in a recovery position and complete the primary survey.

You can now do a quick head to toe check of injuries…

Look for bleeding, bruising, deformity in limbs, foreign bodies sticking out, blood from ears or nose
Check the neck and wrist for medic alert jewellery which may tell you about illnesses or allergies casualty suffers with.
Cover the wounds as best you can and stop bleeding with direct pressure
Keep the casualty warm, ask bystanders if they saw what happened and prepare to hand over to emergency service personnel.
If the patient regains consciousness, keep them calm and reassure them that help is on the way.

Resources: – the UK resuscitation guidelines.

Next series we look at resuscitation

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