Basic First Aid Remedies

What to do in emergencies

Everyone at some time has to give first aid, if only for a nosebleed or a minor cut. In more serious situations, prompt and intelligent first aid may save a life and lessen the danger of shock or injury. 

Intelligent first aid is based on two things. The first is knowing what to do; the second, knowing what not to do. Anyone can learn the basic points described in this article and should learn them now to be prepared, because first aid is emergency treatment. You cannot stop to read about it when the time comes.

Emergency Situations

There are four general situations in which immediate aid may save life. They are heavy bleeding, severe shock, stoppage of breathing, and poisoning. 

Do  not move the victim of a violent accident until you know his kind of injury. If he has broken bones of if he is losing blood, you may harm him more by lifting or carrying him. If his spine is damaged, clumsy handling may cause paralysis or death.

Keep the victim warm. This is the best way to check the severe effects of shock. In cold or damp weather you will have to risk moving him gently to get coverings under him as well as over him. If the victim is conscious speak to him confidently. Do not show him his wounds or injuries because the sight of them might increase the state of shock.

Checking Heavy Bleeding

The average body has less than five quarts of blood. The rapid loss of half this amount always causes death. Even a much smaller loss may be fatal when accompanied by the shock of an accident. The first thing to do is to discover and check heavy bleeding.

Quickly take off or cut away any clothing that hides the wound. If the blood is coming in strong jets, in time with the pumping of the heart, an artery has been punctured or cut. If the flow of the blood is even and steady it is probably coming from a vein.

When Breathing Stops

Accidents and poisons can cause death by blocking the victim's breathing. Among them are drowning, electric shock, suffocation from smoke or gas, and overdoses of narcotics, ether, chloral hydrate, and "sleeping powders." Start artificial respiration at once. The mouth-to-mouth method resuscitation is recommended by the American Red Cross for reviving both children and adults. When used on adults, the victim's nostrils must be hel closed.


Children especially are likely to take poisons accidentally. Poisoning ranks third in the causes of home accidents fatal to children under 14 years of age. Wise parents plainly label and put out of reach such widely known poisons such as rat poison, insecticides, lye, and disinfectants. Many detergents, shampoos, and household polishes also contain poison.

Call a doctor at once if you think someone has swallowed poison. If a doctor is unavailable, call a hospital or the local health department for the location of a poison control center. Then, give the person an emetic - anything that will cause vomiting. Dilute the poison by giving him several glasses of warm water or milk, which act as emetics too. Warm water with salt or baking soda can also be used as emetic. If the person still does not vomit, have him put a finger down his throat or do it for him.

Shock and Treatment of Shock

In the state of shock all bodily functions slow down as a result of the slowing down of the circulation of blood. Nearly every injury causes some degree of shock. Severe shock can cause death.

The symptoms of shock are a pale face, cold or clammy skin, weak but false pulse, and irregular breathing. Often the patient is nauseated. These symptoms may not appear for several hours. Do not wait if the injury is at all serious. Treat for shock at once. 

The first thing is to prevent loss of body heat. Lift the patient carefully to place coverings over and under him. Use whatever you have - blankets, coats, newspapers. You may also add artificial, such as hot-water bottles or heated stones or salt bags. Put them at the feet and beside and between the legs. You must be cautious about the temperature, because a person in shock burns very easily. Test the heat with your wrist, then wrap the container before applying it. Never put directly on the person's skin. Keep him warm but not hot enough to sweat heavily.

Sunstroke and Heat Exhaustion

When a person collapses from heat, examine him most carefully. He may have sunstroke (also called heat stroke) or heat exhaustion (also called heat prostration). The right treatment for the one would probably be fatal for the other.

Despite its name, sunstroke may occur without direct exposure to the sun. The stroke usually begins with headache, dizziness, and dry mouth. The skin is dry, face flushed and hot, pulse fast and hard. The victim may fall unconscious or become delirious. Cool him off at once. Elevate the head and shoulders slightly, then pour cold water on the head and body. If possible, wrap him in a sheet and drench it with cold water or plunge him into a tub of cold water. Apply ice bags to his head. Rub the legs and arms up toward the heart. Give him cool drinks but no stimulant.

In heat exhaustion the face is pale and sweaty. The body may feel cold and the head warm. The pulse is weak and breathing is shallow. Keep the patient warm and treat for shock. A major cause of heat exhaustion is loss of salt from the body through very heavy sweating. Give the patient salt in small amounts.

If you want to learn more about first aid, you can read the American Red Cross First Aid Textbook.