It can take just a few minutes to save someone’s life

Your daughter has a nosebleed. Your father chokes on a piece of meat. Your toddler swallows some floor cleaner. Would you know what to do?

First aid is the care given before the emergency services arrive. A blocked airway can kill someone in three to four minutes yet it can take 8 – 12 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Knowing how to open someone’s airway could mean the difference between life and death.

Almost 4,000 people per year die because of accidents in their homes and statistically you are far more likely to be called upon to administer first aid to someone you know than to a stranger.

The top ten injuries or accidents in the home are:

Falls

Strikes and collisions

Cuts and abrasions

Foreign bodies

Over exertion e.g. moving heavy furniture

Burns and scalds

Crush injuries

Bites and stings

Puncture wounds e.g. stepping on a child’s toy

Suspected poisoning

There are many myths and misconceptions about injuries. Here are the most common:

Butter or cream is good for a burn NO, immerse the injured limb in cool water.

If you can move a limb it’s not broken NO, the only sure way to tell if a limb is broken is to x-ray it.

Put a bleeding wound under a tap NO, by all means clean the wound if required but water will wash away the body’s own clotting agents, so compression with a clean dressing is the best way to staunch the flow.

Make someone sick if they’ve swallowed poison NO, this can block their airway or, if the substance is corrosive, damage it further.

Most first aid is common sense but learning some simple skills such as chest compressions (CPR) and the Heimlich manoeuvre will increase your confidence if an emergency arises. There are many organisations which provide short courses; most last just half a day. Your employer might provide training but if not you could enrol the whole family on a course and make an event of it. Even young children will feel empowered to learn new skills and you never know when they might come in useful!

By Louise Addison