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Basic First Aid

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Unless you’re in the medical profession, chances are your kids know more about basic first aid than you do at this moment. Kids usually get some basic first aid training and refreshers as part of their school curriculum but adults rarely have the opportunity to learn or refresh their skills – and some things have changed. Did you know you’re supposed to sing the Bee Gee’s tune “Stayin’ Alive” while doing CPR now? I’m not making that up! A few new basics skills or a refresher on what you learned years ago could mean the difference in life or death for you or someone you love. Remember, in a disaster or emergency it’s going to be harder to get medical care.

Here are some basics:

CPR – keeps oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and vital organs. Without it, brain damage can happen in minutes. Untrained responders (like most of us) should only attempt chest compressions at rate of 100 per minute – that’s where you get to sing the “Stayin’ Alive” to keep the right rhythm. This site is a good refresher for simple CPR procedures.

Severe bleeding – get the person to lie down and lay still. Apply pressure over the wound and to a main artery (just above the elbow and just below the knee) if necessary. Immobilize the affected part and get help if you can. Incidentally, this is the same procedure for snakebite.

Burns – it’s nearly impossible to treat 3rd degree burns (burns that involve all layers of the skin) without qualified medical help. However, the list of what you shouldn’t do might be more important than what you should do. Don’t use ice, butter, ointment or anything to the wound – it will only cause infection. Don’t break blisters and don’t remove burned clothing if you’ll be able to get medical help that day. Do cover the wound with clean, soft cloth – loose sterile bandages if you have them.

Food poisoning – chances for food poisoning skyrocket during emergencies. Hygiene can slip and food and water supplies can be easily contaminated. Time and liquid are the remedies – don’t take an anti-diarrheal – it will only slow the elimination of the toxin from your body.

Broken bones – immobilize the area, stop any bleeding and apply ice at regular intervals until you can get medical help. For breaks that involve the neck or spine, don’t move the person.

Hypothermia – your first instinct may be to get the person as warm as possible as fast as possible, but this can be dangerous or even fatal. Remove wet clothes but don’t rub the skin if there is a possibility of frostbite. Instead, begin to warm the center of the body first. Warm drinks and warm compresses are helpful. Get the person into a dry sleeping bag if possible. And yes, body heat of another person (in our out of dry clothing) can be very effective.

GotoAID has a nice app for your smartphone and they also have a series of posters you might want to keep handy with your emergency supplies. The American Red Cross site also has a good deal of basic first aid resources.

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