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    Not Just For Kids

    First Aid

    What if you found someone lying on the ground, noticed a child choking, saw a man having a heart attack, or witnessed an accident? Would you know how to save someoneís life if you had to? When a person stops breathing, or their heart stops beating, or they are bleeding profusely, they can die in less than 5 minutes. However, many deaths can be prevented by applying proper first aid on the scene.

    First aid is the immediate care given to a casualty victim before professional help arrives. The purpose of first aid is to preserve life and prevent the worsening of any injuries. First aid can come from a family member, a friend, or a stranger who happens to be on the spot. The help they give can literally mean the difference between life and death.

    In hospital emergency rooms, a triage system is used to handle casualties according to their seriousness. First aid should likewise be provided in the order of importance. Begin by checking for signs of breathing and a pulse. If an injured person is in distress but is breathing, call 9-1-1. If the victim is not breathing, help first and call as soon as you can, or get someone else to call.

    Do not move an injured person unless there is immediate danger. If you must move him, pull him by the shoulders or feet while others support the trunk and head, keeping him horizontal. Keep broken bone ends and joints from moving. Keep the victim lying down and comfortable. Stop any bleeding by pressing against the wound with a clean cloth.

    First aid can be more effective if you know how to recognize and respond properly to certain warning signs. For example, clot-busting drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes in progress, reducing disability and saving lives. But to be effective, these drugs must be given relatively quickly after heart attack or stroke symptoms first appear. Timeliness in recognizing the signs and symptoms of an emergency medical situation can make a big difference.

    Signs and Symptoms of Emergency Medical Conditions

    Emergency medical assistance is called for in conditions which pose an immediate threat to the life or safety of an individual (i.e., chest pain and seizures). Additional conditions could be considered emergencies if they require immediate treatment to prevent damage to organs or other serious complications (i.e., deep cuts and broken bones). If there is any doubt about what is an emergency situation, call 9-1-1.

    The following situations are always considered emergencies: bleeding that will not stop; severe injuries as a result of accidents; choking (not breathing and not coughing); difficulty breathing or unable to detect breathing; suspected heart attack or stroke; no pulse; electrical shock; major burns; drowning or near drowning; loss of consciousness; seizure lasting over five minutes or continuous seizures; asthmatic attack when prescribed medications do not work; severe allergic reactions; poisoning including overdoses of medicine (call 9-1-1 and then call Poison Control).

    Dial 9-1-1

    Don't delay - get help right away! When dealing with life-and-death emergencies, every second counts. So it's important to take immediate action. Ideally, while someone is giving first aid, another person should be dialing 9-1-1. When you dial 9-1-1, tell them what has happened, where you are, when it happened, who you are, and stay on the phone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up. Stay with the sick or injured person and follow first aid and/or CPR procedures. If possible, send another person to watch for the ambulance and quickly guide the emergency personnel to the scene. This provides the fastest possible response for emergency medical assistance. Emergency medical personnel can begin lifesaving treatment as soon as they arrive, and can continue treatment in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

    Heart Attack

    A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, results from a clot in the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle. Some heart attacks strike so suddenly and intensely that no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. The following are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

    Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, and radiating up into the neck or jaw. Shortness of breath often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can occur before the chest discomfort.

    Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack. Sometimes they go away and return. But if you or someone you're with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don't wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling 9-1-1 for help.

    Cardiac Arrest

    A heart attack will lead to a cardiac arrest if left untreated. Cardiac arrest means that the heart has stopped beating. These are the signs: Sudden loss of responsiveness; no movement; no response to gentle shaking. No normal breathing; the victim does not take a normal breath for several seconds. No signs of circulation or pulse. If cardiac arrest occurs, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR immediately, because brain cells begin to die within about four minutes after the heart stops. If an automated external defibrillator is available and someone trained to use it is nearby, call them.


    CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) is administered to someone whose heart and breathing have stopped. This technique keeps oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and may jump-start the heart and respiratory system. Following a prescribed pattern, would-be rescuers pump the victim's chest and do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If CPR is started within 4 minutes, the victim has about a 28 percent chance of survival; after 4 minutes, it goes down to about 8 percent.

    CPR isnít just for adult victims of heart attacks. A number of medical emergencies common among children call for CPR - including suffocation, drowning, unintentional poisoning, severe allergic reactions, and electric shock. But CPR methods for infants and children are different than those for adults. During mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, for example, air is forced into the lungs more frequently, with smaller breaths.

    If you donít know CPR, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Someone will guide you through the life-saving procedure until paramedics arrive. If the victim is small, you can carry him with you to the telephone. If you know how to perform CPR, do it and then call 9-1-1. If you start CPR right away and continue until paramedics arrive, you have greatly increased the chances of saving the personís life. Even when a victim responds to your first aid treatment, paramedics should still be called to check on their condition.

    CPR courses emphasize that you must also protect yourself as you try to save others, by using a handkerchief or inexpensive face mask to guard against communicable diseases. Drug stores and first-aid supply stores sell specially-designed masks folded into the size of a credit card that can be carried in a wallet so it will be handy in case itís ever needed.


    A stroke is a clot in an artery leading to the brain which prevents blood and oxygen from reaching their destination. Within 4 minutes of being deprived of essential nutrients, permanent brain damage can occur. Therefore, every moment counts! The faster treatment is given, the more likely damage can be minimized, while the longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the damage and potential disability. Stroke warning signs are as follows: sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Sudden trouble speaking or slurred speech. Sudden confusion or lack of understanding. Sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision, especially in one eye. Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness, loss of balance or coordination. Sudden, severe headache with no apparent cause.

    Heimlich Maneuver

    A choking victim can't speak or breathe and needs help immediately. If the person can talk, cough, or breathe, they will probably be okay. But if someone is coughing only weakly and having difficulty breathing, first aid is needed. If he points to his throat and turns pale or bluish or collapses, you must help at once. Back slaps are no longer recommended for any choking victim, although these instructions are still sometimes taught. It has been found that this can actually force an object deeper into the throat.

    If the victim is in a chair or standing, follow these steps:

    From behind, wrap your arms around the victim's waist. Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim's upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into their upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Pull hard and quickly back and up (toward you). Repeat until object is expelled.

    If the victim is unconscious, or rescuer can't reach around the victim:

    Place the victim on their back. Facing the victim, kneel astride the victim's hips. With one of your hands on top of the other, place the heel of your bottom hand on the upper abdomen below the rib cage and above the navel. Use your body weight to press into the victim's upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Repeat until object is expelled. If the victim has not recovered, proceed with CPR.

    The Heimlich Maneuver for choking infants:

    Lay the child down, face up, on a firm surface and kneel or stand at the victim's feet, or hold the infant on your lap facing away from you. Place the middle and index fingers of both your hands below his rib cage and above his navel. Press into the victim's upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust; do not squeeze the rib cage. Be very gentle. Repeat until object is expelled. If the victim has not recovered, proceed with CPR.

    The Heimlich Maneuver to save yourself:

    When you choke, you can't speak or breathe. Follow these steps to save yourself if you are alone: Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against your upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into your upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Repeat until object is expelled. Alternatively, you can lean over a fixed horizontal object (table edge, chair, railing) and press your upper abdomen against the edge to produce a quick upward thrust. Repeat until object is expelled.


    As soon as you discover a drowning victim, begin screaming for help. With luck, a neighbor or passer-by will hear and aid in the rescue. Pull the victim from the water and lay them down on a flat surface. Always perform the Heimlich Maneuver on any drowning victim before you do CPR. Air cannot enter water-filled lungs and breathing almost always resumes automatically once water is expelled from a victimís lungs.

    Victim Lying On Ground:

    Place victim on his back. Turn face to one side to allow water to drain from mouth. Facing victim, kneel astride victim's hips. With one of your hands on top of the other, place the heel of your bottom hand on the upper abdomen below the rib cage and above the navel. Use your body weight to press into the victim's upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Repeat until water no longer flows from the mouth.

    Standing In A Pool Or Shallow Water (Bouyancy of the Water Lightens Victims' Weight):

    Stand behind the victim and wrap your arms around victim's waist. Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim's upper abdomen, below the rib cage and above the navel. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into the victim's upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Do not squeeze the ribcage; confine the force of the thrust to your hands. Repeat until water no longer flows from the mouth. If the victim has not recovered, begin CPR.

    Daisy Mountain CPR Class

    CPR classes are held monthly from 5:00-9:00 pm at the Daisy Mountain Fire Administration building, 43814 N. New River Road (at the intersection of Circle Mountain & New River). It only costs $5 per person and you never know when the lessons you learned may help save someone's life. My husband and our 12-year-old son, Peter, took the class together last summer and earned their official "Heartsaver" cards. Then Peter got to take the CPR class again in 4-H!

    A local homeschool 4-H club led by Helene and Steve Charles went to the Daisy Mountain Fire station on November 23. Those attending a Fire Safety presentation by firefighter Mike Mattingly were: Emily Blasco, Evelyn Blasco, Allison Blasco, Nick McHatton, Ryan McCoy, Kyle McCoy, Jon Olsen, Peter Olsen, Caleb Taylor, Amy Charles, and Heather Charles. Then the 4-H Juniors took a CPR class. The participating homeschoolers, ranging from 10-15 years of age, included: Tim Blasco, Elizabeth Blasco, Talitha Blasco, Hannah Blasco, Ariel Taylor, Jacob Taylor, Peter Olsen, Heather Charles and Amy Charles.

    Here is Amy's view on the CPR class: ďOn November 23rd, we started out to the fire station in New River, with the entire Roadrunners 4-H group, to receive valuable education on giving CPR to victims of choking and cardiac arrest. An experienced man told us what the symptoms of this was first, and then, after giving us lessons on doing CPR, let everyone try working on dummies. We had a great time pretending to give plastic babies and adults CPR. He taught us many important facts to remember about this: for example, how many chest compressions and rescue breaths to give, signs of revitalization, and the chain of survival. We also watched a video that displayed what can happen when a person chokes or has cardiac arrest. Finally, we became certified to give CPR. I am sure all of the members of 4-H were pleased to be present at our exhilarating meeting!Ē

    If they can learn CPR, so can you! For information or to register, call 623-465-7400.

    When it comes to emergencies, itís too late to receive adequate training afterwards. You never know when an emergency will happen, so make a new yearís resolution to take a first aid class at a college, community center or fire station near you. Remember the ABC's of first aid: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Regularly review the above steps to refresh your memory so you will always be prepared to save a life.

    Important Note: The instructions given in this article were provided by the American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association, and the Heimlich Institute. This article provides general information only. It cannot replace real CPR or first aid training. Please attend a CPR training course. Someday you may help save a life!

    Additional References

    First Aid and Safety Handbook, by the American Red Cross and Kathleen A. Handal, M.D. (Learn CPR: You Can Do It! CPR info, facts, history, games, printable pocket guide, video demo, quiz, choking info, and CPR for cats and dogs, from the University of Washington School of Medicine.) (A First-Aid Guide online from the Mayo Clinic.) (First aid and safety for parents: learn how to protect your child around the house, outdoors, and away from home; what to do in an emergency; how to stock a first-aid kit, and more.) (The Police Notebook: this award-winning site from the University of Oklahoma Police Dept. contains info about first aid, safety, emergencies, and health issues.)


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
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