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Nine first aid responses you need to know

Knowing what to do in an emergency situation means you could provide vital help for a person urgently requiring first aid.

Call 999 for medical help in an emergency. This article is meant to be a helpful aide-memoire rather than to replace medical advice or first aid training, which is offered by the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance.

Here is what you should do if someone is:

1. Bleeding heavily

  • First, check there’s nothing embedded in the wound. If there isn’t, put pressure on it with something clean, such as a dressing, to stop or slow down the flow of blood

  • If there is something in the wound, don’t put pressure directly on it, but press on either side of the object and build up padding

  • Call 999 as soon as possible or tell someone else to

  • Maintain the pressure until help arrives

2. Unresponsive and not breathing

  • First, check if the person is breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths

  • If they’re not, call 999 or get someone else to

  • Push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release. Keep pushing at a regular rate until help arrives

  • If you have been trained in CPR rescue breaths and are confident in this, do that

  • Read more advice for helping children and babies in this situation

3. Unresponsive but breathing

  • Check the person is breathing. Move them onto their side and into the recovery position, and tilt their head back

  • Call 999 or tell someone else to

4. Choking

  • Hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades to dislodge the object.

  • If necessary, call 999 or tell someone else to

For a baby:

  • Hold the baby face down along your thigh with their head positioned lower than their bottom. Hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades up to five times. If back blows do not dislodge the object, move on to the next step

  • Turn the baby over so they are facing upwards and place two fingers in the middle of their chest just below the nipples. Push sharply downwards up to five times. If the object does not dislodge, call 999 or get someone else to

5. Suspected heart attack

Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, usually in the centre or left side of the chest. It can feel like a pressure, tightness or squeezing. Some people might feel pain in other parts of their body such as down the arms, or into the jaw, neck, stomach or back.

  • If you suspect that someone is having a heart attack, call 999 immediately or get someone else to

  • If they’re conscious, sit them down and make sure they are in a position that is comfortable for them – for example, leaning against a wall or chair

  • Ask them if they have any medication for a heart condition such as a spray or tablets. Unless they are allergic or know why they shouldn’t take it, give the person a 300mg asprin tablet to chew slowly

  • Wait with the person until the ambulance arrives and give them constant reassurance

6. Suspected stroke

FAST (Face-Arms-Speech-Time) is the acronym to remember and will help you recognise the signs of a stroke.

  • Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile or is their mouth droopy?

  • Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?

  • Speech – is their speech slurred or are they unable to understand you?

  • Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs of a stroke. Or ask someone else to do it

Read more here

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7. Having a convulsive seizure

The Epilepsy Society offers the following advice:

  • Try to stay calm

  • Check the time to see how long the seizure goes on for

  • Only move the person if they are in a dangerous place – for example, on a road. Instead, move any objects, such as furniture, away from them so that they don't hurt themselves

  • Put something soft (such as a jumper) under their head, or cup their head in your hands, to stop it hitting the ground

  • Do not restrain them or hold them down – allow the seizure to happen

  • Do not put anything in their mouth – they will not swallow their tongue

  • Try to stop other people crowding around

After the seizure, help the person to rest on their side with their head tilted back.
If their breathing sounds difficult or noisy, gently open their mouth to check that nothing is blocking their airway and stay with them until they have recovered.

8. Hypoglycaemic/diabetic emergency

  • If they’re conscious: give them something sweet to eat or a non-diet drink, and provide reassurance. If in doubt, call 999
  • If they’re unconscious, they need to be put in the recovery position and given an injection of the hormone glucagon (if they have an injection kit). This will raise their blood glucose level. The injection should be carried out by someone who knows what they're doing, or by a trained healthcare professional. Dial 999 if a glucagon injection kit isn't available, there's nobody around who's trained to give the injection or the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes

9. Asthma attack

  • Help them sit in a comfortable position and assist them to take their medication. The inhaler helps the air passages to expand and ease the person’s breathing

  • Reassure them. If the attack becomes severe or they don't have their medication, call 999 or get someone else to

Sources NHS, British Red Cross and the Epilepsy Society

Call 999 for medical help in an emergency. This article is meant to be a helpful aide-memoire rather than to replace medical advice or first aid training, which is offered by the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance.