In daily life you should know these life-saving skills, however when you go travelling or to foreign lands it can become even more imperative that you know these. Hopefully none of these skills will be needed and none of the events occur but it is very important that you understand what to do when you are faced with a situation from a minor first aid scenario to a full blown emergency. Below you will find our top skills and later read about some of our real-life scenarios we have been unfortunate to find ourselves caught up in.
I first learned first aid when I was sixteen and working in a children's play centre, now being cabin crew every year I have first aid courses and exams to sit.
The basic first aid that everyone should know is immediate care, bandages, stemming blood flow, performing CPR and how to treat someone choking.
The principe of immediate care is to assess the situation and ensure you do no further harm and to give treatment within the scope of your skill level.
Know your ABC's- Always apply DRS ABC before treating any casualty.
D Danger assess the scene for any risks and safety of yourself, casualty and by-standers
R Response assess the casualty’s response by shaking their shoulders and loudly asking 'are you alright?'
(don't shake if spinal injury is suspected)
S Shout for help, by-standers can call emergency services
A Airway assess the casualty’s airway- The most common cause of upper airway obstruction is the tongue, other causes include fluids, debris or swelling. Tilt the casualty's head back and with your thumb open their mouth to their neck
B Breathing assess the casualty’s breathing. If the casualty is not breathing get them on the floor and start CPR
C Chest compressions (CPR)
CPR is the technique which could make all the difference for someone who has collapsed under cardiac arrest. Watch the video below for a full understanding, but basically, you want to apply 30 chest compressions to 2 rescue breaths. To do chest compressions, tilt the casualty's head back and give 2 breaths through their mouth, kneel next to the unconscious casualty on a hard surface and place both your hands on top each other on his or her chest. Use your upper body weight (not just your arms) to compress the person's chest about two inches. Perform compressions at a rate of about 100 per minute until paramedics arrive or the person regains consciousness.
Open wound- A wound is bruising, grazes, lacerations, cuts, puncture or burns. When treating a wound, if possible wash your hands and use gloves, if not available then a plastic bag will suffice. For a minor wound If you can clean the wound with water then do and cover with a sterile dressing or even clothing. For a major wound after washing area, apply direct pressure to wound use clothing towels anything to hand to cover wound. When bandaging cover once, if blood soaks through apply a second bandage, if it soaks through again re-bandage. Lay the casualty flat with legs elevated and elevate the injured part above their heart. Leave any foreign body that may be embedded in a wound, as removing it may result in further bleeding or tissue damage.
A nose bleed can occur as a result of injury or spontaneously for no apparent reason, sit casualty down, leaning forward pinching the fleshy part of their nose.
Burns- Immerse the area in cold water for a least 10 minutes longer if possible (do not use ice). Gently remove any jewellery or constrictive clothing from the affected area before it begins to swell. Seek medical advice.
Fainting- Someone could faint due to dehydration others may be prone to fainting. If the casualty feels faint they should put their head down between their legs. If the casualty faints elevate their legs and take sips of water when they come around.
Choking- If an adult is choking and cannot breathe, the Heimlich maneuver can dislodge the foreign body responsible for the victim choking. Stand to the side of the casualty and slightly behind them, support the chest with one hand and lean the victim well forwards, give 5 sharp back blows between the shoulders blades with the heel of your hand, if back blows ineffective give abdominal thrusts by wrapping your arms around the back of the casualty and form a fist below the victim’s ribcage but above their navel, put the other hand on top of fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards 5 times, if ineffective keep repeating the cycle, if the casualty becomes unconscious begin CPR. (Note that infant and child Heimlich techniques differ from adults). Watch the video below for a clear guide on the Heimlich maneuver.
Rest - steady and support the injured area.
Ice - cold compress for at least twenty minutes.
Compress – use padding or bandage to apply gentle, even pressure.
Elevate - support the injured area and raise the injured limb.
Sharps- If you encounter a sharps injury apply warm soapy water and squeeze the area to rid of blood.
Anaphylaxis- Anaphylactic reaction is caused by a hypersensitivity to a substance to which the individual has previously been exposed.The body’s reaction causes the release of large quantities of histamine which makes the vessels leak resulting in sudden fluid loss and shock. Nut allergies and bee stings are the most common cause of an attack. I am allergic to animals and if in an enclosed area for a prolonged period of time I also can have bad attacks, if I haven't taken anti-histamine tablets. Signs and symptoms include a red blotchy skin rash, Noisy breathing and tightening of the chest (wheezing). A rapid weak pulse. Swelling of the upper body. Altered levels of consciousness. Loosen tight clothing at the neck, chest and waist. Position the casualty flat with legs raised. Keep the casualty warm. The medication for Anaphylactic Shock is the drug Adrenaline. It should be carried by the casualty in the form of an Epi-pen. To use take off the safety cap and push the pen into the casualty's thigh for 10 long seconds. I mention this one as if you are allergic to nuts it can be life threatening to be served dishes containing nuts, when abroad and there may be language barriers involved.
Hypothermia/ Hyperthermia- Hypothermia is when a body’s core temperature drops to the point where normal muscular and cerebral functions are impaired. People might be suffering from hypothermia if they start to shiver uncontrollably, lose coordination, become drowsy, or notice a slower breathing or heart rate. Treat hypothermia by bringing victims inside out of cold weather, removing any wet clothing, and wrapping them in blankets or a sleeping bag. Give them warm fluids without caffeine or alcohol to help stabilize their temperature.
Hyperthermia or heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature rises about 41°C. Move casualty to a cool environment and remove heavy clothing give sips of water.
Snake bite- Call the emergency services if there is a chance the snake is venomous, the person has difficulty breathing or if there is a loss of conciousness. Note the snakes appearance and be ready to describe it to emergency staff. Whilst waiting on help protect the person by moving away from striking distance of the snake, they should be lying down with the wound below the heart, keep them calm and at rest, and remaining still, this will prevent the venom from spreading. Cover the wound with a bandage if you have one, or with clothing. Try removing jewellery from the area and shoes if the leg or foot was bitten. DO NOT attempt to suck the venom out or cut it, don't use ice. At hospital if the snake was venomous an anti-venom shot will be given.
First aid kit- By having a basic first aid kit in your bag will feel like a life-saver, as when you are abroad the language barrier even in pharmacies can be daunting or even just embarrassing, have a small stock of plasters, bandages, immodium, bonjella, germolene, blister pads, tampons, paracetamol, anti-histamine always handy to stop a small issue becoming a bigger one.
Flight safety- "...In the unlikely event of ....'' After boarding every flight you will watch the flight attendants perform a safety demonstration ... this can save your life! Each aircraft is different and a few things you should be taking note are; where your emergency exits are- can you count the seat rows you are away from the exits- in a smoke filled cabin or if the aircraft crash lands at an unusual attitude this will help you. Ever wondered why they show you how to fasten your seatbelt? In most crashes the survivors mention the difference between watching the safety demo as aircraft seat belts differ than that of cars, people who struggled to exit a plane in an emergency said it was because they were trying to un-click their seat belt like a car. Also do not inflate your lifejacket inside the aircraft after landing on water, why? people have perished by inflating inside and bouncing to top of aircraft and getting trapped.
Drowning- One of the most common causes of accidental death. If you see someone struggling in the water then follow the list below from RNLI and call the Coastguard, or emergency services.
Reach: If the person is near the edge of a pool or dock, lie flat on the ground and try to reach the person. Use a tree branch, oar, or towel to lengthen your reach. If you have to, get in the water and hold onto the pool edge or dock while trying to reach the person
Throw: Throw a safety ring, if availableRow: Get a boat (again, if one's available)
Go: Swim out as the last resort. Bring a rescue safety ring, towel, or shirt with you so you can tow the person in.
If you find yourself struggling unexpectedly in the water then don't panic, and float to increase your chances of survival.
A rip current is a strong jet of water that quickly flows away from shore. Swimmers who are caught in rip currents can get sucked away from safety at speeds of nearly ten feet per second—far too fast for you to try swimming back to the beach. If you're a good swimmer and you find yourself getting pulled out to sea, you have to swim parallel to the beach so you can get out of the current. Once you escape the influence of the outbound water, you can start swimming back towards shore. If you're not able to swim out of the current, signal for help by waving (not flailing) your arms and calling out for help while you try to stay afloat. The current will eventually let up and you'll stop driving away from shore; by that point, it's a matter of being able to stay afloat long enough for help to arrive.
Rip currents also provide visual cues for you to identify potential hazard zones before getting in the water.
One of the best visual identifiers of a rip current is to look out for gaps between the waves. The calmer gap between waves may look safer for you to play without worry about waves washing over your head or overtaking little Timmy, but a small patch of calm water in an otherwise choppy sea is often a rip current.
Look out for discolored water near the shore. Rip currents tend to drag large amounts of sand and sediment back out to sea with them, so many rip currents are easily identified by a noticeable jet of crud in the water extending away from the shore.
Rip currents are also common in areas with sand bars (both surface and submerged), piers, jetties, groins, and anything else that sticks out from the beach that could catch a longshore current and cause it to start flowing away from shore.
If you're ever caught in one, don't panic. You'll start drifting away from the shore and your first instinct will be to panic and try to swim back as quickly as possible. Even the best swimmers can't swim against a rip current—since you can't fight the power of the water, you have to be smarter than the water.
Sinking car- The car you are in is sinking you only have a second or two to try and open the door before most of the door is below the water level. If that doesn’t work, try to open the window; even if you can’t exit through the window, once enough water has entered the car to equalize the pressure, you will be able to open the door and swim to the water’s surface. The most important skill in this situation is the ability to remain calm.
Burning building- The first thing you should do upon arriving in a hotel room (after sizing up the bed, opening the balcony doors, carefully holding up the elephant made out of towels and running to see the size of the bathroom) is to look on the back of the door for their 'emergency exit maps'. It is good to familiarise yourself with an escape plan for any building you enter. If there is a fire, check to see if a door feels hot before opening, and never use an elevator during a fire emergency, as it may get stuck or take you to a floor engulfed by flames. You may have to crawl to avoid smoke inhalation, which is often more deadly than the fire itself.
A tsunami is a series of destructive and very dangerous waves that result from earthquake activity or some other type of underwater disturbance. In recent years, tsunamis have caused an incredible amount of damage. In order to survive a tsunami, you must be prepared, vigilant, and calm. Follow these steps to survive a tsunami. Learn about the potential for danger in advance. Hotels in Indonesia and Thailand that we have stayed at have an escape plan in stairwells, these are ones near a coastal region near the sea. If you are near the sea look out for a rapid rise and fall in coastal waters. If the sea suddenly recedes (draws back), leaving bare sand, this is a major warning sign that there is about to be a sudden surge of water inland. A loud siren will sound if local authorities had time to issue a warning.
Move inland and to high ground. Move until you are either 2 miles (3,200 m) inland or 100 feet (30 m) above sea level. If you cannot head inland because you are trapped, head up stairs to the roof of a sturdy building. If you can't get high, find a strong and tall tree and climb up it as high as you can. If you end up in the water use a floating object as a raft to keep yourself above the water. Note a tsunami could last hours.
Terrorism- Unfortunately there is a rise on terrorism in the world today. Be it vehicles used as weapons, or lone attackers, it is important to keep eyes peeled when in busy towns/ cities. Watch for unusual behaviours and follow the advice of the Metropolitan Police below.
Know your primary emergency code telephone number of where you are in the world. UK- 999 USA- 911 Australia- 000 New Zealand- 111 Europe- 112. The list is non-exhaustive and you should know the emergency code of which country you are visiting.
Self defence- Should you find yourself in a situation where you feel threatened by an attacker the following points may help save you.
*Thrust the sole of your foot towards attackers knee to incapacitate him/her, the knee is almost impossible to block, your attacker will be concentrating above your torso.
*A weak blow to the vagus nerve the area between ear and neck will result in intense pain, a stronger blow could result in loss of consciousness or death.
*Target your attackers nose with an upwards palm strike which will break it or be extremely painful giving you a few moments.
*You can use personal items as a defensive weapon, a pen can be used to jab the attacker particularly in the eye or neck, a comb pushed in attackers upper lip can cause pain, and if you feel in a dodgy situation then car/ hotel/ house keys placed in your fist with the sharp key protruding out can have a better effect than that of a pen.
*And a good kick into a male attackers groin should also work.
In Penang, Malaysia we found ourselves involved in an accident. We were crossing a road when a scooter ploughed into us. I suffered a sprained wrist and bruising to the lower back. Shan was dragged with the bike and sustained multiple wounds from his head, shoulders, legs and feet. I ran to his aid and done my DRSABC. The wound on his head was pouring of blood so I stripped off and used my top to apply pressure to his head. I also didn't want to move him as he may have sustained a head injury in which you shouldn't move the victim. He had passed out so when he came round I kept talking to him, encouraging him to talk back. Once I established his head was fine I put him in the recovery position and awaited help. At hospital we had x-rays and Shan had stitches in his head. (Shannon wants to add in the funny part of the story too, his shorts burst during the accident, so he was lying on the road with his bit hanging out, and by whipping off my top to use as bandage, I was sat there in my bra. By-standers kept giving me their jackets to wrap round myself but I was pulling it off me to cover up Shannon's bits)!
Below is a diagram of how to place someone in the recovery position.
Shan is a strong swimmer, I am not, I struggled for years learn and even now I can swim but not well. In Bali we were swimming in the sea with our feet touching sand when all of a sudden the waves came in, I couldn't touch the bottom, we tried to swim to shore but my arms and legs were failing me. I was drinking in salt water, Shan tried to put me on his back, we just weren't moving and I couldn't keep myself on the surface. Then a surfer shouted to stop swimming to shore and swim to the side- only then we clicked that we were in a rip tide. We quickly swam to the side and were back on land soon after. I was coughing up water and by-standers came over to check I was okay. We had learned all about rip tides when we were in Noosa, Australia surfing but actually when it feels like you're close to drowning you can't think straight and you don't realise what is happening.
Have you ever found yourself in a compromising situation? Do you have any other top life-saving skills which you can share?