Basic First-Aid

My mother’s basic first-aid was to kiss my boo boo and although that might not sound like much to you, it did wonders for me. But as I grew up and injuries became too severe for kisses, I realized how important it was to learn basic first-aid.

Basic first-aid encompasses much more than slapping a band-aid on a scrape. Whether you’re on a busy city street or in the middle of the wilderness, correct and quick basic first-aid treatment can mean the difference between life and death for the injured person. Let’s begin our learning venture into the world of basic first-aid.

Treating Children

I begin with children because they are the most vulnerable and will elicit a panic mode in adults quicker than the injury of an adult, which could delay immediate response and treatment. Additionally, even if you are experienced in administering basic first-aid, physical treatment of a child is different because their bodies are still developing and are much more delicate. Here are basic steps for administering basic first-aid to an unresponsive child.

Scenario: You discover a child with no visible injuries, yet there is something obviously wrong.

* Check the scene. Is there an opened medicine bottle or household chemical around? Tap the child on the shoulder and ask “Are you OK?” No response, Yell louder, “Do you need help?”

* For an infant, flick the bottom of the foot to illicit a response. Lay the child on their back, tilt their head back slightly in order to lift the chin, this is to insure there is an open airway. Check for breathing. Place your ear close to the child’s mouth for a few seconds, no more than 10, and listen. Gasping or an occasional guttering sound does not equal breathing.

* If the child is not breathing, immediately administer CPR. After 2 minutes of CPR call 911 for help. You may think calling 911 would be the first reaction, but you have no idea how long the child has been lifeless, the additional 5 – 10 second delay in calling 911 first could have deadly results. If a there are bystanders ask them to call 911 while you administer CPR.

* Continue CPR until EMT or other medical professionals arrive.

This is but one possible scenarios, choking and conscious, choking and unconscious, bleeding, seizures, and etc, all have different basic first-aid treatments which we will delve into, but I wanted to single out the worse case scenario.

Cleaning and Dressing a Wound

Properly cleaning & dressing a wound prevents infections and speeds the healing process, both important. Here are the basic first-aid steps to treating a wound.

  1. Maintaining your safety must be of utmost importance. Use universal precautions and wear protective equipment, at least latex gloves.

  2. A small amount of bleeding is not only normal, but beneficial as its natures’ way of cleaning debris from the wound. However, if the blood is bright red or squirting, deeper than 1 inch, a puncture to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis or back, call 911 immediately as these could be life threatening injuries. Clean the wound with running water and soap, washing a large area around the wound not just the wound. Use tweezers to remove any foreign objects that will not wash out and wash again. Rinse thoroughly. Some experts are now discouraging the use of hydrogen peroxide for treating open wounds, but I still recommend it if its available.

  3. If the cut is open, skin split apart, use surrey strips or adhesive surgical tape to pull the skin together and hold it in place until it heals.

  4. Cover the wound with an adhesive bandage.

Deeper lacerations are those that extend into the tissues below the skin and are much more serious an injury. Puncture wounds fall into this category and can be difficult to evaluate the seriousness of the wound. These wounds continue to bleed, as they are too large or deep for normal clotting to occur and must be compressed in order to stop the bleeding.

Follow the above noted procedure for cleaning the wound, cleanliness is imperative, however seek medical attention if:

It’s been more than 5 years since the patient had a tetanus shot;

It’s a laceration with jagged edges and will not close with tape alone;

The wound is either extremely tender or numb;

The wound is inflamed (Warm, swelling, redness of the area)

The wound is weeping pus (yellowish but can be clear, thick liquid


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Treating an Avulsion (aka DE-gloving)

You may ask what is an avulsion? Basically its a wound where chunks of tissue are torn from the body. These types of wounds, commonly caused by animal bites and motorcycle accidents, are highly prone to infection, on the level of burns.

Steps for treatment:

  1. Control the bleeding with direct pressure and elevation avoiding the use of a tourniquet unless absolutely necessary and professional medical help is non-existent. Use an absorbent clean dressing to apply direct pressure.

  2. Thoroughly wash the wound with water or a saline solution, as the more sterile the better.

  3. If the chunk of tissue, skin, fat or muscle, is not totally torn away, replace the flap to its original position and dress the wound, binding it tightly. If the chunk is separated, gather it and transport it along with the patient to an emergency room.

This injury requires more than basic first-aid, but I included it because of the increased wide range of ATV usages and this injury is prone to happen in these types of activities.

CPR Instructions:

Of all the basic first-aids treatments CPR is possibly the most important as it saves more lives than any other first aid treatment.


  1. Place the person on their back on the floor

  2. Tilt the head so the chin is pointing upwards. This is done by placing the fingertips under the jaw bone and lifting gently while pressing down softly on the person’s forehead. This is to insure the tongue is not blocking the airway.

  3. Check for signs of breathing. Place your ear close to their mouths for a few seconds, no longer than 10, and/or watch to see if their chest is rising and falling.

  4. If there is normal breathing, continue to hold head in current position to avoid the tongue from blocking the throat and call 911. If there is no breathing, start basic life support immediately.

  5. Place the heel of your hand in the middle of the chest above the breast bone. (not over the ribs or stomach.)

  6. Now place the heel of your other hand on top of the first. Keep your fingers off the chest by interlocking them together. Your pressure should be exerted by the heels of your hands only.

  7. Keep your elbows straight, bring your body weight over your hands in order to make pressing down easier.

  8. Press down firmly and quickly to achieve downward movement, then relax and repeat the compression.

  9. Do this compression at a rate of about 100 times per minute. This is fast and hard work. It will help you gauge your speed by counting out loud, one and two, two and three, etc

  10. Do this 30 times

  11. Now be sure the airway is open by positioning the patient’s head with the chin pointing upwards

  12. Pinch the nostrils closed, to avoid air leakage, by squeezing them together with two fingers

  13. Take a deep breath, seal your mouth over the person’s mouth, a good seal is important

  14. Breath slowly but deeply into the person’s mouth, taking a minimum of 2 seconds to adequately inflate the chest

  15. Do this twice

  16. Check to see if the chest rises as you breathe into the patient’s mouth

  17. If it does you are blowing in enough air

  18. If it does not rise, you either aren’t blowing in enough air, or there is an obstruction. Hold the head back further and lift the chin higher

  19. Continue with 30 chest compression’s, then two rescue breaths, stopping only if the patient begins to breathe on their own or you are relieved by another person.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver

Choking is not an usual injury and can caused by many different reasons, but food that has not been thoroughly chewed is the most common cause. Should you encounter a person who appears to be choking ask them if they can talk. A person who is genuinely choking can not talk and will only be able to communicate with hand gestures. This is the time for action on your part.

If the person is conscious but struggling to breathe, first stand them upright and lean their head slightly forward. Encourage them to cough and with the flat part of your palm strike them forcibly between the shoulder blades in hopes the food can be coughed out. Repeat 4 to 5 times rapidly. If that fails, immediately perform the Heimlich Maneuver.

  1. Stand behind the person who is choking

  2. Place your arms around their waist, while having them bend forward as well

  3. Clench your fist and place it right above the person’s navel (belly button)

  4. Place your other hand on top of the fist, then thrust both hands backwards into the stomach using a hard and upward movement

  5. Repeat this until the object lodged in the throat is dislodged and expelled

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Treating Shock

Reasons for Shock: Shock normally occurs when not enough blood is reaching the brain, which creates oxygen deprivation. There are many reasons a person can go into shock such as: an accident involving blood loss, a serious infection, a serious burn, an allergic reaction, severe loss of body fluids.

Symptoms: A person going into shock will display one or more of these symptoms:

  1. going pale

  2. become sweaty, clammy and cold

  3. become dizzy

  4. become anxious or restless

  5. have a weak or fast pulse

  6. have low blood pressure

  7. have slow, shallow or weak breathing

  8. become lethargic or lose consciousness

Basic First-Aid Treatment:

  1. Have the person lie on their back and elevate their feet

  2. make sure the person stays warm, cover with a blanket

  3. avoid giving them anything to drink due to the risk of choking. If need be lift them to a sitting position before giving liquids

  4. should the person vomit or is bleeding from the mouth, place the person on their side to prevent choking

  5. Seek medical attention asap as shock can be deadly.

Above and Beyond Basic First-aid

There may be times you will encounter an injured person who will require treatment beyond basic fist-aid, but implementing first-aid must be performed in order to sustain life until professional treatment can be acquired. One such case will be a wound which will not stop bleeding such as an arterial wound.

Arteries carry oxygen rich blood from the heart to muscles and organs vital for life. Should an artery become cut or punctured, the wound will spurt bright red blood because its coming directly from the heart and each pump of the heart will create blood loss through the open wound in a squirting fashion. This type of wound, untreated, will result in death quickly, aka bleeding out. Call 911 immediately.

There are three primary methods for controlling bleeding of this nature, (1) direct pressure, (2) elevation and (3) pressure points. It must be noted, blood can carry dangerous blood borne pathogens therefore if possible, wear protective clothing, gloves, eye wear and a mask.

Direct Pressure is the most common and effective field method of controlling an arterial blood issue. Using a sterile dressing or any other material available, (this is an emergency) apply direct pressure to the wound, using your fingertip or hand if the wound is too large. Do not remove the bandage or rag even if it becomes saturated with blood because removing it will disturb the wound and destroy any clotting that may have occurred. Instead place an additional bandage over the wound and continue to apply pressure.

Elevation in conjunction with direct pressure can be utilized when possible. For example, raising the arm above the heart will help reduce pressure aiding in the possibility of the direct pressure clotting the wound. Be sure there are no broken bones before performing this action.


Pressure Points:

Should direct pressure and raising elevation does not stop the bleeding it indicates the wound is too large to clot and will require surgery. It’s time to temporarily abandon direct pressure to the wound and apply pressure to the pressure point which directly feeds blood to the injury, which can be located anywhere an artery passes over a bone.

***For an arm or hand injury apply pressure to the brachial artery which is located in the upper inside of the arm.

***The femoral artery is located in the crease of the groin area and will stop bleeding in leg and foot wounds. If possible continue direct pressure to the wound and continue elevation while applying pressure at these pressure points.

Damned if you do … damned if you don’t

Congratulations, you have applied enough force on the pressure point to stop the bleeding and have avoided an unnecessary death by bleeding out. Now you have created another dangerous situation. By stopping all blood from reaching the leg wound you have also deprived the foot of blood. Going too long without blood flow to the foot could result in tissue dying and the need for amputation. Ironic the uninjured foot becomes a causality of a leg wound. To avoid this tragic result periodically check the further most extremities, fingers and toes for signs of becoming cold, bluish or pale, which indicates danger of dying tissue. Reduce pressure allowing blood flow to reach these areas even if it results in the original wound to begin bleeding. This will allow the starved limbs to recuperate. Tourniquets should always be the last resort of any bleeding treatment. (It’s common practice to write the exact time a tourniquet is applied on the patient’s forehead)

Learning basic first-aid is extremely important for anyone, but especially a survivalist who by the very nature of their relationship with the outdoors and potential dangerous situations makes it a must do.


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