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Think First!
What to Do Before First Aid.

Jacqueline Todorov

Everyone has been in a situation where someone has been injured, and they are at a loss as to what needs to be done. For me, this was the incentive to learn First Aid. Not knowing what to do scared me.

On one occasion, when I was baby-sitting a child, he fell and hit his head. I had absolutely no idea of what to do, so I ran to the telephone and called my dad. My father grew up in a family of doctors and nurses, and had three children of own. He calmed me down enough to walk me through this crisis. Was the child crying? Yes. Was the child sleepy? Not really. Was he bleeding? No. When were the parents due back? 20 minutes or so. OK, the toddler was in no serious danger for the moment, but if he got sleepy then I should call him back.

When the parents got home, I advised them of their child's fall. They were relieved that I had acted sensibly by calling for help. All turned out well except the little boy had a bump on the head for a couple of days.

After this experience, I decided to learn some First Aid. I taught First Aid for 10 years before going into nursing. As a nurse I have learned that not everyone can think straight in a crisis, but that panic is the most dangerous factor in any emergency. The following are some basic guidelines in an emergency.

Stop and Think

First thing to do when someone is injured is to: Stop and Think. No-one can do two things at once and that includes running and thinking. Stop, look at the situation and think about what needs to be done first. Has this person been electrocuted, is the source of power still live? In a car accident, is there danger to you, the rescuer? No sense in becoming another victim, your being injured will only add to the chaos. The victims need your assistance, in whatever capacity you can provide. You cannot do this if you get hit by oncoming traffic. STOP AND THINK! Your safety is the first consideration.

Do Not Panic

Second important thing to remember is Do Not Panic. Panic is more contagious than the common cold, and spreads in a matter of seconds. It, too, will only add to the chaos and will not help anyone. Keep your wits about you. Evaluate and then decide what you feel you can do. If what you can do is call 911, then so be it. No one will expect you to do more than you are capable of doing. If you are not sure about what to do, then you should wait for assistance. DO NOT PANIC!

Where Is The First Aid Kit?

Have the equipment on hand. No use having the First Aid kit at home in the linen closet when you are on a road trip! Have a second kit in the car.

If you do have a kit, know how to use the equipment. Do not wait till something happens to open up the book. Take a course and familiarize yourself with the stuff in the kit. First Aid courses are offered at many locations; try the local high school, the local Public Health office, Saint John's Ambulance, or the YMCA. These usually only take an afternoon, and are inexpensive.

Add other material to your First Aid kid. The standard First Aid kit is just that: standard. It will not have everything that you need. If you have a large family you may want to double up on some of the supplies. There are never enough band-aids or safety pins. Also add medications necessary for your family. They are not included in the kits, because they are individual to each family.

A case in point, if one member in your family is asthmatic, you should always have a puffer available. Even if it's been three years since the last attack, you do not want to be unprepared if you are away from home, in a new environment, and encounter allergens that trigger an attack. Another vital medication to have on hand at all times is the Ana-Kit if a family member has an anaphylactic reaction to food or bee stings. If it has been prescribed, carry it with you at all times.

Other medications that may prove useful are pain relievers (Tylenol, Ibuprofen, ASA), and Benadryl or other antihistamines if anyone in your family has allergies. Gravol (anti-nausea, anti-vomiting) is always recommended for road trips. Include anything else you feel would be useful. You can never have too much when it comes to safety equipment.

Who To Call?

In your home, you should have a list of emergency phone numbers posted near the phone. These could include: the local hospital Emergency Department, Poison Control, your doctor's office, the fire department, an emergency dental office and some trusted relatives or friends. You don't want to spend precious time searching for a phone number. Baby sitters need to know how to reach you when you are out, children need to know how to get help if you are the one injured.

Passing It On

From the age of eight, your children may be interested in taking a first-aid course. Teach them the basics so that they too, will know what to do in an emergency.

Do what you can to avoid having emergencies. Make your home child-proof and kept it that way. I have no children at the moment but my nephew visits and I have pets. My home is child resistant. Medications and cleaning products are lethal to small children and animals. Keep them out of reach.

When you are visiting different homes and places, know where your children are and what they are doing at all times. Have properly installed gates at the top and bottom of stairs and keep them up a year longer that you think you should. Better the inconvenience of opening a gate every time than a mad dash to the hospital with a seriously injured child. Supervise children around fires and stoves. If a burn does occur, immerse the burned area in very cold water. Myths abound about butter and other such substances. These will worsen the injury by keeping the heat on the surface of the skin rather than getting rid of it. They also increase the risk of infection.

This is my first article on First Aid. In two weeks, I will have a complete list of what should be in a First Aid kit at home and in the car. In the meantime, if you have any questions about general first aid, health issues or home safety, please write c/o The Editor. I will be happy to answer your letters,

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