First aid is a critical skill that everyone should learn if at all possible. Coincidentally, first aid training is some of the most available and least expensive training out there – most every community center offers low or no cost first aid training of some sort, and there really is no excuse for taking it. Most first aid training, however, focuses primarily on cardiopulmonary resuscitation – CPR.
The advent of modern CPR has saved countless lives during its mass adoption in America, but the main reason CPR works is not so much techniques like chest compressions or rescue breaths, but the fact that it keeps a person alive until help arrives. Help usually comes in the form of the fully stocked and ultra-modern rolling hospital known as the modern ambulance; within are paramedics, EMTs, radios, life-saving equipment and more – and the whole assembly is roaring towards the hospital at 60 miles per hour the whole time.
Not to take anything away from CPR, but what if there is no ambulance available? What if disaster has struck and first responders are busy tending to a natural or manmade catastrophe? At that point, a dilemma presents itself – how long do you keep doing chest compressions and rescue breaths? More importantly, what if the nature of the injury is such that CPR is inappropriate?
The crux of CPR lies in the fact that it is primarily performed upon dead people. Think about it for a moment – either the person who just collapsed is dead before he or she hit the floor, or will be dead moments after unless someone performs CPR. But then again, CPR only works in the presence of more qualified help arriving…the key, then, is to have alternate first aid skills, ones that don’t require an emergency room. Here are some areas that you need to focus on in the absence of emergency medical care:
1. Heart conditions. The best way to not have heart issues is to take good care of yourself beforehand. But if a loved one suddenly collapses, you have two options available to you in addition to chest compressions – aspirin and cayenne pepper. Aspirin is a century old drug that is a fantastic blood thinner, and many times, giving it to a person who is having a heart attack can save their lives. Just four baby aspirins, chewed in the presence of acute chest pains can thin the blood enough to overcome arterial blockages. Similarly, cayenne pepper is a powerful vasodilator, meaning it rapidly dilates blood vessels. A tincture of cayenne pepper mixed in a cup of hot water and swallowed stops heart attacks in their tracks. If the patient is unconscious, you can even put a teaspoon of cayenne under their tongue for the same effect.
Story continues below video
2. Uncontrolled bleeding. Disasters tend to cause much bleeding in the form of incisions (neat, clean slices) and lacerations (jagged tears in the skin and muscle). Either one could be a potentially life-threatening event; cut in the right spot, an adult person can bleed out in seconds. The military is acutely aware of the dangers of bleeding out – to whit, most combat deaths are a direct result of bleeding out, and thus they looked to an age-old solution to help: the tourniquet. While you can make a tourniquet out of just about anything, there are many purpose built, inexpensive, and highly effective tourniquets on the market. Application is simple – place the tourniquet two inches above the wound – if a joint interferes, place the tourniquet upstream of the joint by 2 inches. Cinch the tourniquet down until you don’t feel a pulse downstream of it. Treat the wound normally, applying a compression or gauze bandage, and wait 15 minutes. Slowly release the tourniquet – if the blood starts flowing again, cinch it backup. Repeat this process for up to two hours. Tourniquets left on for greater than two hours should be removed by a medical professional.
3. Burns. Disasters cause burns both from the original disaster and the events afterwards. Most people are not accustomed to cooking over fires and carting around boiling water, and there will be many burns that result from people’s close proximity to open flames. The immediate treatment for burns involves cooling the burned area as rapidly as possible. As a matter of fact, the quicker you cool the burn area, the less tissue damage will result. Make sure you don’t cover the burn site with bandages or coverings of any kind – burn cream is sufficient. Never pop or lance blisters on burned flesh as doing so will increase the chances of infection. Lastly, ensure the casualty is well hydrated — even a modest burn over a relatively small area of the body can leave the casualty critically dehydrated.
While the above three points represent the “big three” of survival first aid, keep one last thing in mind, and that’s scene safety. Before you rush in to save a loved one, survey the scene and make sure whatever injured them will not injure you as well. This means looking for live electrical wires, clouds of gas, open flames, and other hazards. The goal with first aid is to save a casualty, not create a new one. By taking a few simple steps, you could save the life of someone important, even in the absence of medical care.