Basic First Aid for Medical Emergencies

Four Basic Rules:

  1. Call for medical help immediately.
  2. Bring help to the victim, don’t bring the victim to help.
  3. Check the ABCs.
  4. Do no further harm.

Assess the Scene

  • Evaluate the scene.
  • Assess the safety.
  • Prioritize care.
  • Check for medical alert tags.
  • Do head-to-toe check.
  • Move only if necessary.



No breathing

  • Now let’s look at some specific medical emergencies. We’ll begin with no breathing. When a person is unconscious and not breathing, irreversible brain damage occurs within 3 minutes. You have to act very fast.
    • Someone trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, should lay the person on his or her back while someone else calls 911. Loosen the clothes around the neck and make sure nothing is blocking the mouth or throat.
    • First, give 30 chest compressions by placing both hands in the center of the victim’s chest with one hand on top of the other and pressing down with the heel of your hand 1½ to 2 inches. Press quickly at a rate of about 100 compressions a minute.
    • Next, open the airway by tilting the head slightly and lifting under the chin. Do not move the victim’s head back if you suspect a neck injury.
    • Form a seal around the mouth and pinch the nose. Use a pocket mask if you are trained in its proper use. Breathe two slow breaths into the person’s mouth—enough to make the chest rise and fall. Then, continue chest compressions.
    • Once you begin CPR, continue until EMS personnel arrive.


  • Heavy bleeding is another serious medical emergency. If a co-worker is bleeding heavily, you have to stop the flow of blood while you wait for EMS personnel to arrive.
  • Because of the risk of bloodborne diseases, you must wear gloves (from the first-aid kit, if possible) when administering first aid for bleeding.
  • Next, cover the wound with a clean bandage from the first-aid kit.
  • Then apply pressure with your hand directly over the wound.
  • Do the same thing if a finger, hand, or other body part has been amputated. While you are applying pressure to the wound, have someone else place the amputated part in a plastic bag with ice. Make sure to wrap the severed part so that it doesn’t directly touch the ice. Give the package to EMS personnel or rush it to the hospital. In many cases, severed limbs can be reattached.


  • In cases where a person has lost a lot of blood, a condition known as shock can develop. Shock is the body’s way of reacting to severe injury. A person in shock may appear stunned or confused. To treat shock:
    • Lay the victim down,
    • Cover the victim to keep him or her warm, and
    • Raise the feet slightly above heart level.

Anaphylactic Shock

Another type of shock is called anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction to insect bites, medicines, or certain foods. Symptoms include hives, overall weakness, and swelling of the throat.

  • Ask if the person has medication. If so, give it to him or her right away. People with severe allergies also usually wear a medic alert tag, so look for that, too, in order to help give EMS workers the best possible information.
  • Anaphylactic shock can be deadly, so call for help fast, and
  • Be prepared to start CPR.

Heart Attack

Signs that someone is having a heart attack include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; anxiety; pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest, radiating down either arm, or in the jaw; ashen color to skin, and perspiration, nausea, or vomiting.

  • First aid for heart attacks begins with calling 911,
  • Then make the victim comfortable, either lying down or sitting,
  • Loosen tight clothing at the waist and neck,
  • Ask the victim if he or she has heart medication,
  • Don’t let the victim move around, and
  • Finally, don’t give the person any stimulants like coffee or tea.

If the heart stops beating, begin CPR. However, if the heart is beating and the person is breathing, CPR is not necessary. Just keep him or her comfortable until EMS personnel arrive.


A person can choke to death in a couple of minutes.

  • The fastest way to find out if someone is choking is to ask, “Are you choking?” If the person can cough or talk, he or she is not choking.
  • But if the person can’t talk or cough, first deliver 5 back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
  • If the back blows don’t clear the object from the throat, perform abdominal thrusts:

–Stand behind the victim and wrap your arms around the waist.

–Make a fist with one hand. Place your fist, thumb-side in, against the victim’s stomach—above the navel but below the ribs. Grab your fist with your other hand.

–Pull in and up sharply and repeat if necessary to dislodge whatever is stuck in the throat.

  • Repeat the sequence of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until the object is cleared.

Do you know how to perform abdominal thrusts? Everybody should. It’s simple, and it can save a life.

Demonstrate abdominal thrusts without using force on a volunteer from the group, and then give trainees the chance to practice it on one another.

If the sequence of back blows and abdominal thrusts does not clear the object, and the victim becomes unconscious:

  • Call 911 and follow their instructions. If you can’t speak with anyone, further quick action is needed.
  • Try a “finger sweep” if the object in the throat is clearly visible and accessible with your fingers. Use gloves if possible. Use your index and middle finger to grasp the object. Don’t try the finger sweep if there’s a chance you’ll push the object further down the throat.
  • Lay the person down on his or her back, and perform 5 abdominal thrusts by placing your hands one on top of the other and push the heel of your hand in and up sharply on the abdomen just below the rib cage.
  • Once the object is cleared, check the “ABCs” (airway, breathing, and circulation).
  • If the person is not breathing, perform CPR until medical help arrives.

Electrical Shock

  • The first rule of dealing with electrical shock is not to touch a person who is in contact with a live electrical current. If you do, the current can pass right through the person to you and cause the same injury.
  • So the first thing you should do is to turn off the power to the electrical equipment involved.
  • Then call 911. Electrical shocks can be life threatening. You want to get EMS personnel on the scene quickly in case the victim has stopped breathing.
  • If you have to remove a person from a live wire, be very careful so you don’t get a shock, too. Stand on something that’s an insulator, like a rubber mat; wear rubber gloves; and use a dry stick, wooden broom handle, or board to push the person away from the wire. Don’t use anything metal, wet, or damp.
  • Once the victim is safe, check for breathing. Begin CPR if the person is not breathing.

Eye Injuries

Eye injuries are a common workplace medical emergency. Eye protection can prevent most injuries. But just in case, you should be familiar with first aid for different kinds of eye injuries.

  • For chemical splashes, flush eyes for at least 15 minutes with water, and then close the eyes and cover them with a clean cloth. Get immediate medical attention.
  • For solids (particles, dust, powders, etc.) in the eye, flush with water until particle comes out. If it won’t come out, cover the eye and seek medical attention. Don’t let the victim rub the eye.
  • For a blow to the eye, apply cold compresses for 15 minutes to reduce pain and swelling. Get medical attention.
  • For cuts near the eye, bandage loosely and get medical attention. Don’t let the victim rub the eye.
  • For objects that penetrate the eye, don’t try to remove, move, or put any pressure on the object. Immobilize it by placing a paper cup or soft, bulky dressing around it, secured with tape. Bandage the other eye so that the victim will keep the injured eye still. Get immediate medical attention.


Burns are another common workplace hazard. You can be burned by hot surfaces, hot materials, or by the properties of certain materials. First aid for burns depends on the degree of the burn.

  • First-degree burns are the least severe. They just involve the top layer of skin, which becomes reddened and painful.
  • Second-degree burns are more serious and include blistering in addition to reddened skin and pain. First- and second-degree burns may be treated with cold, running water for relief of pain. Then cover the burned area with a moist, sterile dressing. Don’t break blisters on second-degree burns.
  • Third-degree burns are the most serious and can even be life threatening. With third-degree burns the skin is destroyed, you see charring and deep tissue damage. You may even see exposed bones. For third-degree burns, call 911 immediately, and keep the victim comfortable until help arrives.

Always get immediate medical attention for all burns, especially those that are severe and those that cover large areas of the body.

Exposure to Hazardous Materials

Unprotected exposure to hazardous materials can sicken or even kill a person. These are the basic first-aid procedures for these exposures.

  • For exposures to the eyes, flush with water for 15 minutes and get medical attention.
  • For exposures to the skin, flush with water for 15 minutes and get medical attention for burns and other damage.
  • For inhalation of vapors or gases, move the victim to fresh air immediately. Administer CPR, if necessary.
  • For ingestion, have a co-worker call 911. Another employee can also call your local poison center for more first-aid information, if necessary. Then follow the first-aid instructions in the material safety data sheet, or MSDS.

The MSDS is an excellent source of first-aid information. Be sure you know where MSDSs are located and how to find the necessary first-aid information.

Broken Bones

The rule for treating people who may have broken bones is never to move them unless it’s necessary for their safety. Neck and back injuries are especially risky. The wrong move could cause paralysis or death. If you suspect broken bones, call for emergency medical assistance, and instruct the victim not to move.

  • Then look for swelling and deformity.
  • Ask the victim to rate the pain, explain how the injury happened, and if he or she can move the injured limb.
  • Treat for shock if the person shows symptoms.

If it seems that a person might have a broken bone, apply ice wrapped in a towel or cloth to the area, and keep the victim comfortable until help arrives.

Heat Exhaustion

Working in a hot environment or on a hot day can be very stressful for your body, especially if you’re not used to the heat.

Heat exhaustion may start out as discomfort and fatigue but can quickly develop into something more serious. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include pale or flushed appearance, weakness, heavy sweating, headache, moist and clammy skin, dizziness, and sometimes, nausea or a slight fever.

First aid for heat exhaustion involves these steps:

  • Move the victim to a cool place;
  • Have the person lie down;
  • Elevate feet 8 to 10 inches;
  • Loosen clothing;
  • Give the victim water and encourage him or her to drink slowly; and
  • Apply cool compresses to the head and body.

Do not administer “salt tablets,” as these are a high blood pressure risk.


If a person suffering from heat exhaustion is not treated promptly, it can turn into heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition in which the body gets so hot that it can’t cool down. Signs of heatstroke include very hot and dry skin, extreme tiredness, and confusion.

  • You have to act fast in cases of heatstroke. Immediately call 911.
  • While you’re waiting for help to arrive, cool the person down by hosing his or her body with cool water or by fanning the body.
  • Monitor the victim to make sure the airway remains open, the person is breathing, and the person has a pulse.

If you work in a hot environment or if you exercise or work outdoors on hot days, you should recognize the symptoms of heatstroke and take precautions to prevent overheating.

Describe precautions for preventing heatstroke, such as drinking lots of fluids, pacing yourself while you work, taking rest breaks in a cool place, and so on.


Fainting can occur when blood pools in the legs, reducing the blood flow to the brain. People may faint when they are standing for a long time in the heat. Fainting can also be brought on by stress.

  • Check a person who has fainted for breathing.
  • If the person is not breathing, begin CPR.
  • If the person does not regain consciousness within a few minutes after fainting, call for emergency medical assistance and continue to monitor breathing.
  • Otherwise, if the person quickly regains consciousness, have the person lie down with feet slightly elevated. Loosen any tight clothing. Then allow the person to rest for 10 or 15 minutes until normal blood flow is restored, and the person feels all right again.

Epileptic Seizures

A person having an epileptic seizure may fall to the ground and have convulsions. If a person appears to be having a seizure:

  • Remove victim from any dangerous objects or hazardous situations;
  • Check for breathing;
  • Don’t put anything in the victim’s mouth;
  • Try to keep the person as comfortable as possible; and
  • Call for emergency medical assistance if the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes without signs of slowing down, if the person has trouble breathing afterwards, or if the person is in pain or other injury is present.


Click on the link for download of PDF. First Aid


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