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Basic First Aid: The First Step is Action

IN THE BEGINNING: The first step is always the most important.

Yet, often times, we fail to recognize what that first step is… and in all truth, the first step in basic first aid is ACTION.

I have been in the medical field for some time now and throughout that time I have seen (and been part of) mistakes that could have been avoided simply by taking action. The failure to act is just as bad as doing something wrong. In the event of medical complications, ignoring the problem can often times become the worst problem. In the matters of survival, ignoring the scrape, the small cut, the little tingle in the back of your throat or the cough can easily lead to a world of hurt in the long run.

So what is the correct plan of action? First, and foremost, do not OVERreact. Although it is critical to acknowledge the complication in front of you; it is equally important to control the situation. If you allow yourself to lose control by becoming frantic, others around you will quickly follow suit. Whereas, if you are approaching the situation calmly, with a collected train of thought, those around you will see that, and feel reassured that the situation will be handled. There are many things that may come up from a medical standpoint what will lead to complications and each one may have a different treatment modality, but all will start with a clear head and a solid plan.

Here are some examples of first step scenarios:

Now this may be obvious for some, but others, not so much… The first thing you should do with cuts and scrapes is clean the area with clean water and soap. In the event clean water is hard to come by, an anti-bacterial soap should be used without question. If soap and water is not available, then hand sanitizer will do the trick, despite being a bit more painful. In the event you have neither of the two previous means of cleaning, you should have prepared much better.

Large wounds will of course need cleaning as mentioned above, but one critical factor to address is bleeding. There are many schools of thought when it comes to bleeding control and given that there are different types of bleeding, multiple methods of control should be understood. Pressure dressings and bandages are usually your first line of defense against a large hemorrhage, and are in most cases the most effect way of control. In the event a large bleeding wound is not controlled with such methods, the tourniquet will be your only next step. In previous times the idea of elevation and pressure points were always considered, but at the cost of much blood loss in the event those methods were ineffective. Thus, in today’s medical field we fore go such methods and cut straight to the chase… Tighten the tourniquet and move forward.

This instance is plain and to the point… Immobilize the area that is suspected to be fractured. In most cases you will not have premade splint boards, so you will have to improvise often. The key thing to consider will be supporting above and below the fracture site. For example, if the forearm is fractured, the splint should have support from the palm of the hand, all the way up to the elbow. Once a suspected fracture is splinted, it will be in the best interest of the patient to not allow any other movement of the effected area.

Another “obvious” one for some, but not so “obvious” for the majority of the public. This one is simple… In the event of a serious eye injury, no matter what cause, cover BOTH eyes. In case you were not aware of human’s binocular vision traits, let me explain. If one eye moves, the other moves also. Eye movement is an invitation to further damage of a eye that already has problems. Eye covering can be as simple as a bandanna, so long as both eyes are covered.

Although vomiting is usually not traumatic in nature, it still can cause a world of hurt. The loss of body fluids can lead to all sorts of medical complications. Without getting too in depth with the medical biology, let us understand the body requires fluid in everything for everything to function. Vomiting is the loss of fluid prior to proper processing by the body. So the first thing you will need to do is drink more water and electrolyte fluids when available.

Another, non traumatic complication that will lead to long term issues… Diarrhea can also be viewed as a massive loss of body fluid, thus rehydration is vital, it is not the first thing to consider. The worst part of diarrhea is that it is a powerful vector to spread whatever illness is causing you to have diarrhea. Containing your diarrhea to an area that it will not be exposing the rest of your group to smells and potential illness is the key here. You do not want to the guy, or gal, that gets everyone else on the road to chaffed butts and a possible slow dead.

Now these are not the only scenarios you will encounter and these first steps of action are not to be viewed as the ultimate fix… Many other things can, need and should be done in the event of a medical complication. The next step in all of these scenarios is always the same… GET PROPER MEDICAL ATTENTION!

About Sam Dominguez

One comment

  1. Taking action is so important….and taking action calmly and rationally. When it happens to you, and you are your only “field doctor”, staying calm allows you to think and suss out a helpful scenario.
    Very good point about the eye injury, covering both eyes. Just moving your eye with a foreign object in there could do irreparable damage….worse than the original injury! As one who wears glasses, I have learned first hand about getting foreign objects blow into my eye. I caused a scratch on my cornea after getting something in it….and I only covered one eye. Had I covered both, I would not have moved my eye and caused damage. Great tip, thanks!
    I learned a really great tip for storing bandages, cloth, pills and other items in a first aid kit. Store all of these items in Ziplock Freezer bags. These bags have a dual zip to lock out moisture and then, when the necessity arises, you have storage bags! Use different sizes of bags as well. It’s a great way to carry storage devices that serve a dual purpose.