First Aid: A Study Guide for Basic First Aid Class

First aid administration depends on the situation a patient is facing. You must have a fully stocked first-aid kit to deal with a wide range of medical emergencies. You also need to learn the correct actions to take in case of burns, bleeding, shock, frostbite, and other injuries.

This Basic First Aid study guide was created to give you an overview of what to learn in the First Aid Certification course and ensure that you're ready for your certification exam. This study guide provides a variety of visual aids and text-based information vital for your success on the course. It also includes the latest information from the American Heart Association and Emergency Cardiovascular Care.

Topics included are as follows:

  • What is First Aid
  • Emergency Action Steps
  • Scene Safety
  • Universal Precautions
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Types of Wounds
  • Bites and Stings
  • Foreign bodies
  • Chest Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Traumatic Tooth Loss
  • Shock
  • Burns
  • Poisoning
  • Seizure
  • Muscle Injuries
  • Fractures/Broken Bones
  • Sudden Illnesses
  • Stroke
  • Diabetic Emergency
  • Respiratory Emergencies
  • Frostbite
  • Hypothermia
  • Hyperthermia
  • Hypoglycemia

Key Takeaway

We take safety precautions in our lives every day, but emergencies can always arise. For this reason, it is essential to have first aid skills to be prepared to respond if an accident occurs. Anyone can apply First Aid skills in the home, the workplace, or public locations. Therefore, the more First Aid certified people there are in a community, the safer that society becomes. CPR Select offers online First Aid training typically completed in 1 hour, depending on which format you choose. Once you have completed the first aid class, you will be able to get a certificate that will allow you to respond to a wide range of medical emergencies.

Chapter 1: What is First Aid?

What is First Aid: First Aid is the medical attention given to an ill or injured person before the emergency medical services team arrives on the scene.

Many accidents occur daily, from minor cuts to fractures and muscle injuries. Understanding the Different First Aid procedures will not only prepare you in the case of an emergency but could perhaps mean the difference between life and death.

The First Aid Certification course aims to provide participants with basic First Aid skills that will allow them to make sound decisions in the face of an emergency. At CPR Select, we always follow the most recent and updated American Heart Association and Emergency Cardiovascular Care guidelines to help you acquire the skills needed to respond to an emergency effectively.

Chapter 2: What are the Emergency Action Steps?

As a first aid provider, you must approach a situation with calm and systematic actions. Preparing an emergency action plan in advance gives the rescuer a structure to follow when emergencies arise. The rescuer controls the situation, keeps them out of danger, and prevents further injuries by following this sequence.

First Aid responses should follow this sequence:

  1. Assess the situation.
  2. Make the area safe
  3. Assess the victim
  4. Seek medical attention
  5. Provide first aid

Chapter 3: Scene Safety

Scene safety is crucial when responding to an emergency because the last thing you would want to do in such a situation is to become a victim yourself. So before you attend to any victim, you must ensure that the scene is safe. If a scene is considered "safe," there are no obvious potential threats or hazards that could impede the rescuers.

Here are some of the situations that you should look for when determining if the scene is safe for you to enter:

  • Fire or smoke
  • Traffic, for road accidents
  • Risk of an explosion
  • Chemical spills/fumes
  • Downed electrical wires
  • Potential collapse of a building or structure
  • Storm or bad weather
  • Potential for violence towards yourself or others
  • Other dangers

It is also essential to know that just because a scene is initially "safe" does not guarantee it will remain safe. Regardless of the source of the threat or hazard, whether an explosion suddenly occurs or heavy rain, scene safety requires constant reassessment.

Chapter 4: First Aid Universal Precaution

A universal precaution is an approach to infection control that urges first aid providers to treat all human blood and other bodily fluids as infectious materials.

By observing universal precautions, you protect yourself against exposure to potentially disease-causing microorganisms in another’s blood or body fluids.

Guidelines when providing first aid:

  • Wash hands before and after the provision of first aid
  • Cover any of your scrapes or cuts, as these can become a way of entry for microorganisms
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or eyes while providing first aid care until you have washed your hands well.
  • Avoid injury at the site by being aware of any objects that may cut or scrape your skin.

Chapter 5:What are the Types of Wounds?

Open Chest Wounds

Open chest wounds may be left open. Dress the chest wound with a sterile pad and apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding. Extreme care is needed when treating open chest wounds, so the dressing doesn't become saturated with blood.

Punctured Wounds

Punctured wounds refer to injuries that involve puncture of the skin, which can be severe. It would help if you took extreme care to avoid infection. Call 911 for emergency assistance with how to proceed if the wound has excessive bleeding. If the patient falls unconscious or becomes non-responsive without a pulse, contact 911 and perform CPR.

Amputations

Amputations involve the accidental loss of one or more limbs. It would help if you treated amputations promptly due to the risk of severe blood loss. Remember to remain calm and describe the nature of the amputation to the emergency response operator when calling for assistance.

Cuts and Scrapes

These wounds can be minor or severe, depending on the trauma to the skin. Typically, the biggest concern with cuts and scrapes is bleeding.

Chapter 6: Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction to a particular food, medications, insect bites, or stings that can cause death if not immediately treated. It causes a drop in blood pressure leading to shock, and it can also cause airway swelling, leading to the inability to breathe.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of lips, eyes, mouth, or throat
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives or rashes
  • Flushed or pale skin
  • Loss of consciousness

Treatment: If you are with someone experiencing anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately.

  • Check to see if the victim is carrying an epinephrine auto-injector.
  • If the victim is capable, have them inject themselves; if they are incapable, assist them in injecting.
  • Lie the victim with the legs and feet elevated, loosen tight clothing and keep them warm.
  • If the patient loses consciousness, start CPR until the emergency medical team arrives.

The epinephrine wears off quickly. So even if the victim feels better after receiving the epinephrine injection, they must go to the hospital if symptoms return.

Chapter 7: Bites and Stings

Bites and stings can be dangerous because they can be deep, and there is a high risk of infection.

Minor bite treatment: Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water and apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream. Cover with a bandage.

Deeper wound treatment: Apply pressure to stop the bleeding and seek medical attention immediately. While waiting for advanced treatment, clean the wound and apply a clean dressing until medical attention is available.

Rabies: If the animal that bit you carries rabies, cage the animal, and you must seek medical help immediately.

Human Bites: Human bites can be worse than animal bites. To treat a human bite, clean the wound with soap and water, apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream, and a clean bandage. Watch for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, and pain that don't go away. If the wound is very deep, go to the hospital right away.

Insect Bites or Stings: Bites and stings from insects can be a problem due to localized pain and swelling and the generalized systemic reactions that can occur.

Insect bites/stings treatment:

  • Move to a place with no risk of additional bites and stings.
  • Remove the insect if it is still stuck in the skin.
  • Cleanse the bitten area with soap and water.
  • Apply an ice pack reduces swelling and pain.
  • Take Ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain from inflammation.
  • A topical antihistamine may relieve pain and swelling, while calamine or caladryl lotion may help with itching. If you do not have these in your first aid kit, a paste from water, meat tenderizer, or baking soda may help reduce swelling and itching.

Snake Bite: Most snakes will only bite you if they feel threatened or surprised. So if you come across a snake, back away slowly and leave it alone to avoid getting bitten.

Snakebite Treatment:

  • Call 911.
  • Remain calm and remember what the color, marking, and snake looks like.
  • Remove any accessories that might constrict the area if swelling occurs.
  • Immobilize the affected area with a splint and keep the bite area lower than the heart.
  • The victim needs to be quiet as possible to keep the venom from spreading.
  • Clean the wound gently. Do not flush it with water.
  • Do not suck the venom from the bite.

Chapter 8: Foreign Bodies

Foreign body objects are most commonly seen in the ears, nose, eyes, and skin. They can cause pain, infection, and other problems.

Foreign bodies found in the ears can cause severe discomfort, infections, and even permanent damage to the hearing.
Treatment:

  • Do not stick anything in the ear because it may push the foreign body deeper and damage the ear.
  • If you see the foreign object, grab it with tweezers.
  • If the object in your ear is an insect, then you can remove it by heating some baby lotion and putting it inside the affected ear.

Foreign objects in the eye can cause severe discomfort, infection, and even blindness.
Treatment:

  • Wash your hands before you attempt to remove the object.
  • You may remove the foreign object by washing the eye with saline solution or clean water.
  • If the object is inside the eyeball, don't remove it. Instead, put clean gauze on top of the affected eyeball and call an ambulance immediately.

Foreign body objects in the nose can lead to pain and infection.
Treatment:

  • Do not stick anything in the nose because it may push the foreign body deeper and may result in damage to the nose.
  • If you see the object, you may remove it using tweezers.
  • Ask the victim to breathe through the mouth to avoid the object entering the windpipe or lungs.

Foreign bodies in the skin can lead to infection and pain.
Treatment:

  • Wash your hands before removing an object from the skin.
  • Don't let the object get wet; otherwise, it will swell up, making it harder to remove.
  • If the foreign object is above the skin, you can grab it with tweezers.
  • After removing the foreign body, gently press down on the wound and allow it to bleed for several minutes so that any remaining pieces of the foreign body can be washed away.
  • If it’ll be exposed to dirt, apply an antibacterial ointment to the affected area.
  • Consult your medical provider to know if you need a tetanus shot.

Chapter 9: Chest Pain

Chest Pain may feel like a sharp, stabbing pain accompanied by dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting. It may or may not be a life-threatening heart problem. Without a medical check-up, you cannot tell whether the chest pain is life-threatening or not. For this reason, if chest pain lasts more than a few minutes, it is critical to be checked by medical professionals.

Treatment:

  1. Encourage the patient to chew one adult or two low-dosage aspirins if the patient doesn’t have allergies to aspirin.
  2. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with giving aspirin to the victim, wait for guidance from 911 personnel.
  3. If the victim becomes unresponsive, begin CPR.

Chapter 10: Bleeding

Most bleeding injuries are not life-threatening, but severe bleeding incidents can result in death if not controlled immediately. Here's how you can control the bleeding:

  • First, identify the source of the bleeding.
  • If blood is spurting, an artery has likely been cut.
  • Next, apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • If the wound is in the victim's belly and organs are visible, do not try to put the organs back into the abdomen.
  • Cover the wound with a clean dressing
  • Apply pressure to control the bleeding and get the victim to medical care.

Chapter 11: Traumatic Tooth Loss

Traumatic tooth loss often occurs due to an accident or sports injury. Most of these injuries are minor, chipped teeth.

Treatment: Traumatic dental injury treatment depends on each injury's type, location, and severity. If you lost a tooth due to trauma, you should do the following:

  • Avoid touching the tooth's roots and rubbing the tooth when trying to clean the debris.
  • If there is debris, gently swish the tooth for less than 10 seconds in a bowl of lukewarm water. Do not rinse it under running water.
  • Try to put the tooth back in the hole where the tooth has been removed. Bite down gently on a piece of gauze if it will not go all the way in.
  • If the tooth won't go back into the hole, put it in a glass of milk or a mild saltwater solution.
  • See your dentist immediately for a better chance of successful reimplantation.

Chapter 12: Shock

Shock can be caused by blood loss or loss of body fluids, as may occur following untreated severe vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms of shock may include disorientation, loss of consciousness, confusion, dazed look, dilated pupils, paleness, weak pulse, shallow breathing, extreme thirst, nausea, and vomiting.

Treatment for Shock:

  • Call 911 if you notice any shock symptoms.
  • Keep the victim still, and don't move unless necessary.
  • Elevate the victim's feet about 12 inches unless the head, neck, or back is injured.
  • If the person shows no signs of life, begin CPR.
  • Don't let the victim eat or drink anything.

Chapter 13: Burns

Burns are classified into three categories, with increasing seriousness.

  • First Degree Burn - It affects only the epidermis or outer layer of the skin. This burn causes mild redness, swelling, and pain.
  • Second Degree Burn - It affects both the upper layer of the skin and the skin underneath it. Some specific symptoms of this burn include redness, swelling, pain, and blistering.
  • Third Degree Burn - This is the most severe type of burn that destroys the deep layers of the skin. This can lead to numb skin and white or blackened skin.

Treatment for Burns:

  • Remove clothing or any material covering the injury.
  • For minor burns, flood the area with cool water for at least ten minutes.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile dressing, free from oils and
  • Prevent foreign materials from entering the burned area.
  • Treat pain associated with the burn.
  • Monitor the victim for signs of shock.
  • Use cool, moist gauze or bandages to treat the injury in minor thermal burns.
  • Use a tape to secure moist gauze over burned eyes. Use dry bandages for more severe thermal burns.
  • Seek additional medical attention for severe burns.

Chapter 14: Poisoning

Poison can cause injury, illness, or death if it enters the body. Some poisons are harmful if you breathe or swallow them, while others are harmful upon direct contact. Signs and Symptoms of poison include burning around the eyes, lips, and tongue, irregular pupil size, chest or abdominal pain, diarrhea, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, skin color change, seizures, headache, dizziness, weakness, and troubled breathing.

Treatment:

  • Keep an eye out for signs of poison like leaking containers, gases, etc.
  • Get a First Aid kit and wear PPE.
  • Call 911 and the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Remove the poison if possible.
  • Remove any contaminated material or clothing and brush off solid substances.
  • Rinse the contaminated area for at least 20 minutes.
  • If CPR is required, wear a breathing barrier to protect yourself from possible exposure to the poison.

Chapter 15: Seizure

Seizures are common and can be startling if you have never seen one before. Seizures are not an illness but rather a symptom of disorders affecting the brain, including epilepsy. Some seizures are severe, while others are not noticeable unless you know what you are looking for.

Most of the time, a patient with a seizure doesn't need to provide first aid unless it is a grand mal seizure, where the patient loses consciousness and experiences jerking and stiffening of the muscles.

Treatment for Seizures:

  • Loosen tight or restrictive clothing that may hamper breathing.
  • Do not restrain the victim or hold them down to avoid further injury to the victim.
  • Do not try to put anything in the victim's mouth, like a spoon, to prevent them from biting their tongue. The victim may choke on the object or injure their mouth.
  • Remove any dangerous objects or furniture from the victim's space that could cause injury.
  • If the victim is semiconscious or unconscious, place the victim on their side to prevent choking on any secretions from the mouth, especially if the victim bit their tongue and it is bleeding.
  • Monitor breathing and pulse until help arrives.
  • Call 911. Most seizure patients will not require transport to a hospital if the seizure is their usual pattern, but it is wise to allow medical personnel to make that decision.

Children will sometimes experience febrile seizures when they have a high fever. The first aid treatment is the same as for an adult victim. Controlling fever will often prevent these types of attacks. Most children outgrow these types of seizures as their brain develops.

Chapter 16: Muscle Injuries

Muscles can be injured in three ways. There can be strains, ruptures, or deep bruising.

  • Strain: occurs when a muscle is overstretched, resulting in a small tear or pull.
  • Ruptures: occur when a muscle is completely torn.
  • Bruising: occurs when blood pools into a muscle. Seek medical attention if the injury seems serious.

Use the RICE procedure to treat Muscle Injury:

  • Rest the injured area.
  • Ice the injury.
  • Compress the injured muscle with a soft towel or elastic bandage.
  • Elevate the injury to reduce blood flow and minimize swelling and bruising.

Chapter 17: Broken Bones/Fractures

Immediate first Aid is crucial for broken bones. Moving the injured bones may increase pain and bleeding. Also, it may lead to tissue damage.

Treatment for Open Fractures:

  • Cover the wound with a clean dressing and apply pressure to control bleeding.
  • Do not attempt to push fractured bones back inside the limb.
  • Immobilize the injury.
  • Use a sling to support an arm injury against the trunk. Additional bandages can be used to support the sling.
  • Bandages can be used to support an injured leg against the uninjured one.
  • If the injured limb is bent in a way that prevents immobilization, traction is necessary.
  • Be sure to support the injury while the splint is being applied. Breaks in the lower leg bones require two splints, one on each side of the leg.
  • Elevate the injury to prevent swelling.
  • Call 911 and monitor for signs of shock.
  • Do not move the victim until the wound is immobilized unless the victim is in a dangerous location. Do not allow to eat or drink.

Treatment for Closed Fractures:

A closed fracture involves a damaged bone that is contained within the skin. Although the break is not visible, the internal injury may cause swelling.

  • Keep the victim still and calm.
  • Immobilize the injury.
  • Apply gentle pressure to minimize internal bleeding.
  • Call 911.
  • Monitor for open circulation below any bandages. Loosen bandages if necessary.
  • Do not move the victim until the wound is immobilized unless the victim is in a dangerous location.
  • Do not try to put a dislocated bone back into its socket.

Chapter 18: Sudden Illnesses

Some common sudden illnesses are seizures, diabetic emergency, stroke, allergic reaction, and poisoning. These sudden illnesses require rescuers to act fast to discover the cause of the illness and begin treatment.

Treatment for Sudden Illness:

  • Make sure the victim is safe. Move dangerous elements away from the victim.
  • Call 911.
  • Assess the victim to gather information about their symptoms.
  • Monitor the victim's airway, breathing, and circulation. Be prepared to resuscitate.
  • Treat other symptoms, such as vomiting, as they occur.
  • Keep the victim comfortable. Prevent the victim from becoming chilled or overheated.
  • Do not give food or drinks unless the victim is fully conscious.

Chapter 18: Stroke

A stroke is when blood flow to a brain section is seriously interrupted by a ruptured artery or blood clot. Older adults, those suffering from high blood pressure, and those with circulatory disorders are at a greater risk for stroke. Major strokes can be fatal, while many people recover from minor strokes. The severity depends on the location of the brain and the size of the affected area. If you noticed any signs and symptoms of stroke, remember FAST:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Look for droopiness on one side of the face.
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms to check for limb weakness.
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Listen for distorted speech.
  • Time: If the person has difficulty with the above tasks, note when the symptoms began.

Chapter 20: Diabetic Emergency

Millions of people worldwide have diabetes, and diabetic emergencies are common. Therefore, knowing the signs and symptoms of an emergency and what to do if one occurs is crucial.

Type 1 diabetes: the person's body produces no insulin, and the person must use artificial insulin to survive.

Type 2 diabetes: the person's pancreas produces insulin, but the person's body cannot utilize it properly.

Signs of Hyperglycemia:

  • Fatigue
  • Thirst
  • Warm and dry skin
  • Sweet or fruity breath
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness

Hyperglycemia treatment:

Call 911. Tell the operator if you know or suspect the victim has diabetes. Monitor breathing and pulse and prepare to act if the person becomes unconscious.

Chapter 20: Respiratory Arrest

Respiratory arrest is the stoppage of oxygen throughout the body. Failure of the lungs to deliver oxygen can result in death if left untreated. In addition, a lack of oxygen to the brain will cause a loss of consciousness and lead to death.

Treatment: Immediate action is essential for the chances of survival in Respiratory Arrest. Artificial ventilation treatment is the standard emergency action. Call 911 and perform CPR immediately.

Chapter 22: Frostbite

Frostbite is a serious medical condition that occurs when exposed to extremely low temperatures or freezing weather, causing the freezing of the skin or other tissues, affecting the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chin areas.

Frostbite Treatment:

  1. Soak the area for 30 minutes. Continue to warm the water as it cools to keep it at a consistent temperature. If you don't have access to water, wrap the skin gently with clothes or a warm blanket to help get warm.
  2. For deep Frostbite, daily water therapy in a 104-degree Fahrenheit whirlpool bath will be done to remove any dead tissue.
  3. Depending on the damage, warming the skin can be very painful as the numbness fades. You can give an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen to help with symptoms until you can get advanced medical treatment.
  4. The skin may start to blister during the warming process. Do not rupture any of them to avoid infection.
  5. Apply a bulky sterile dressing to the skin once the area is dried. Make sure that the bandages are not tight.
  6. If the Frostbite is severe, give the person warm drinks to replace lost fluids.

Chapter 23: Hypothermia

Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to cold water or a cold environment. It starts with mild symptoms that progress and potentially become life-threatening. A person experiencing a late stage of severe hypothermia may go into a coma or suffer sudden cardiac arrest.

Hypothermia Treatment:

  1. Call 911
  2. Move the person to a warmer place, and replace any wet clothing with loose, dry clothing.
  3. Warm the person, based on the means available, such as foil or a space blanket, and warm compresses on the chest, neck, and groin.
  4. Give warm, sweet fluids that are nonalcoholic or caffeinated, as alcohol interferes with the blood's circulation.
  5. Do not immerse the victim in hot water because warming too quickly may cause lethal heart rhythms.
  6. If the victim becomes unconscious, monitor breathing and pulse and prepare to perform CPR if necessary.

Chapter 24: Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is when the victim's body reaches abnormally high temperatures because it cannot regulate its internal temperature. It can be heat exhaustion (mild) or heatstroke (severe). Heatstroke can lead to a Seizure, a coma, or death if left untreated.

Hyperthermia Treatment:

  1. Call 911 and move the person to a cooler area (shady or air-conditioned space)
  2. Lie the person down and elevate their legs and feet.
  3. Remove tight clothing and cool the victim by fanning the person and applying cool compresses to the armpits, neck, and groin areas.
  4. If the victim is conscious enough to drink and is not vomiting, try giving cool liquids to drink.
  5. Do not give alcohol caffeinated drinks.
  6. If the victim loses consciousness, prepare to perform CPR if necessary.

Chapter 25: Hypoglycemia

Hyperthermia is when the victim's body reaches abnormally high temperatures because it cannot regulate its internal temperature. It can be heat exhaustion (mild) or heatstroke (severe). Heatstroke can lead to a Seizure, a coma, or death if left untreated.

Hypoglycemia results from low blood sugar. Symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, heart palpitations, hunger, irritability, pale skin, shakiness, sweating, and a tingling sensation around the mouth. Symptoms may vary from person to person. As it worsens, a victim will feel abnormal behavior, unconsciousness, seizures, blurred vision, confused state of mind, and unable to perform routine tasks.

Treatment:

  • For symptomatic victims, provide rapid clinical relief with oral glucose tablets.
  • If no glucose tablets are available, give the victim other foods and liquids containing sugars such as fructose, sucrose, and oligonucleotides.
  • These can effectively reverse mild symptomatic hypoglycemia.

Frequently Asked Questions

What questions should you ask before giving first aid and why?

First, tell the victim who you are, how much training you have, such as First Aid or CPR/AED, what you think is wrong and what you plan to do. Then ask if you may give emergency care.

Why is airway the first priority?

The airway is the priority in managing severely injured patients to allow free air access to the distal endobronchial tree. 

How wide should a tourniquet be?

A tourniquet should be wide and thick enough to prevent injury to the limb. It should be two to four inches wide to distribute the pressure around the limb evenly.

What is the OSHA requirement for first aid kits?

OSHA does not require specific first aid kits for the general industry but states, "Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available."

Do First Aid Kits expire?

Items in First Aid Kits have expiration dates and must be replaced once they reach that date. Expired tapes and bandages may no longer be able to stick to the skin and may no longer be sterile.

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