ANY first aid is better than nothing in an emergency because even a little basic knowledge can save lives.
Something as simple as encouraging a person with a suspected heart attack to lie down and rest can limit damage to the heart muscle, calling an ambulance at the first signs of a stroke can prevent further brain damage.
“What you do as a first aider in those first few minutes is absolutely vital,” St John Ambulance first aid trainer John de Boer said.
“It is one of those times that seconds do count. We need people to do the vital stuff immediately: If a person is bleeding and we don’t stop that bleeding they will die and that can be very rapid.
“With a heart attack a person’s airway will be pretty severely compromised and the longer a heart attack is going on the more serious the damage it does … so by resting the person, the heart works less and therefore it is not using as much oxygen and it is not causing as much damage to the heart.”
If you suspect someone is having a stroke sitting them up helps to decrease pressure on the brain and keeping them calm helps to lower blood pressure.
“Everything you do as a first aider in keeping a person calm and relaxed makes it better for them,” Mr De Boer said.
If you are not confident, call 000 and the operator will talk you through the response required for your emergency and advise whether you need an ambulance. It is better that it be a false alarm than not making the call in the first place and someone losing their life.
The worst thing you can do is attempt to drive yourself or someone else to hospital in an emergency rather than calling an ambulance.
Emma Trace, Fiona Stanley Hospital emergency department consultant, said she had witnessed some terrible outcomes from people deciding to do that.
“Particularly with chest pain it is a big no-no for people to drive themselves to the hospital,” Dr Trace said.
“If something is life threatening or you think it might be life threatening then you should be calling triple zero for an ambulance.”
This meant medical assessment and treatment could start as soon as paramedics arrived and there was a more direct path to medical treatment at the hospital.
Dr Trace said it was common for people to worry about doing more harm in an emergency.
“But to be honest at that point, unless something is done quickly, then the likely survival rate for the patient is actually very low, so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done a resuscitation course for 10 years or you have never done one, just something simple like calling for help and doing chest compressions and trying to help with breathing can save someone’s life.”
“But unfortunately there is a big lack of understanding in some areas: People who don’t even attempt CPR or don’t know how to manage choking or burns. I do think there needs to be some wider response to improve your basic first aid knowledge because it can make a difference at home.”
Life-saving steps: DRS ABCD
It’s an acronym that could save a life and will guide you through those first frantic minutes in an emergency situation — DRS ABCD. Here’s what the letters stand for:
Danger — ensure the area is safe for yourself and the patient.
Response — check for a response from the patient, ask their name, squeeze their shoulder.
Send — Call for help on 000 or ask someone else to call.
Airway — Open the patient’s mouth and check for foreign material — if there is any obstruction, put the person in the recovery position and clear the airway. If there isn’t, leave them on their back and tilt head back to keep the airway clear.
Breathing — If the patient is not breathing or not breathing normally, place them on their back and start CPR. If they are breathing well put them in the recovery position and monitor breathing and responsiveness.
CPR — Start CPR giving 30 compressions then two breaths. The heel of hand should be placed on the lower half of breastbone in centre of chest with the other hand on top of first. For children, use the heel of one hand only and for infants use two fingers. Press down one third of depth of chest and do about two compressions every second.
Defibrillation — Apply a defibrillator, if one is available, as soon as possible and follow the voice prompts.
At Canberra First Aid we will give you a detailed run down of the first aid action plan as seen above and then get you doing the process in a comfortable environment. We train all of our participants in all aspects of first aid and this can be the difference in an emergency. Please get yourself trained in first aid soon so that you learn all of the updated procedures. The first aid course has changed greatly over the last 10 years and it is important to learn the updated strategies for first aid. Book in to one of our $100 first aid courses on our website now.