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First aid is the assistance given to an injured or sick person in need of urgent medical assistance. First aid applies to a broad range of medical situations and consists both of specific knowledge and skills (for example, what to do for each type of injury or illness) and the ability to assess a situation and make appropriate decisions (such as when to call for emergency medical assistance).
First Aid Kit
Preparedness is a key element of first aid. While every home, auto, and boat should be equipped with a basic emergency kit that includes first aid supplies and a first aid manual, special circumstances may necessitate more advanced or specific degrees of preparation for an emergency. For example, residents of certain geographic areas where natural disasters (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, floods, landslides, or tsunamis) may occur should prepare for emergencies by assembling disaster preparedness kits such as earthquake kits, flood kits, andevacuation kits.
Travelers should also prepare to administer first aid in the region they plan to visit. In many developed countries, this may amount to packing a standard first aid kit and manual with your belongings. Medicines to prevent motion sickness and advanced awareness about the management of traveler's diarrhea are also helpful to travelers. In the developing world or in remote regions, a travel medicine kit should include medicines and supplies that may not be available for purchase as well as any specific products (such as insect repellant to prevent mosquito and tick bites) needed for your destination. It's also important for travelers in foreign countries to learn how to access emergency services by telephone.
CPR and First Aid Certification
Regardless of your level of skill or degree of first aid training, if you find yourself in a true medical emergency, always call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately. Likewise, if you are involved in any medical situation that is beyond your personal abilities to provide first aid, you should never hesitate to summon emergency medical assistance right away.
Quick Guide8 First Aid Kit Essentials for Scrapes, Cuts, Bug Bites, and More in Pictures
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Top First Aid Related Articles
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis often causes sings and symptoms such as abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant, nausea, vomiting, abdominal tenderness, fever, and loss of appetite.
Delay in surgery can result in appendix rupture with potentially serious complications.
Brown Recluse Spider BitesBrown recluse spider bites often go unnoticed initially because they are usually painless bites. See a picture of Brown Recluse Spider Bites and learn more about the health topic.
Bruises: Causes, Colors, and TreatmentsHow do bruises work? When is a bruise serious? Bruises are painful, colorful marks under the skin that appear after an injury, or after taking certain medications. Learn about treatments for bruises, and what to do if bruises last a long time. Find out when you should call a doctor about bruises.
Chiggers (Bites)Chiggers are a mite belonging to the Trombiculidae family. Chiggers are most commonly found in:
- grassy fields,
- forests, and
- moist areas around lakes or rivers.
Dehydration SlideshowDo you know the signs of dehydration? Dehydration can cause medical complications. Learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention tips to avoid dehydration.
First Aid for SeizuresSome seizures are caused by:
- brain diseases,
- genetic conditions, or
- other illnesses or disorders that can be diagnosed (symptomatic seizures).
- foods or medications,
- lack of sleep,
- dehydration, or
- sensitivity to light.
First Aid Sprains/StrainsView this First Aid slideshow on Care and Pain Relief. See how to get pain relief if you've bumped your head, sprained your ankle, or had a bruise, strain, or some other minor injury.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement fluids. Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting.
A person suffering from heat exhaustion should stop the activity are doing, move to a cooler environment, and rehydrate with liquids, for example, water or sports drinks. Complications of heat exhaustion are dehydration, muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting. Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke (a medical emergency) if not treated.
Heat RashHeat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It can occur at any age and it appears as a rash that itches or feels prickly, and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. Pictures of heat rash are included.
Heat Rash SlideshowDo you know what heat rash looks like? Heat rash (also called prickly heat) develops when the skin sweat ducts become blocked. Red bumps, discomfort, and itching are common heat rash symptoms.
HivesHives, also called urticaria, is a raised, itchy area of skin that is usually a sign of an allergic reaction. The allergy may be to food or medications, but usually the cause of the allergy (the allergen) is unknown.
Poison Ivy, Oak, and SumacPoison ivy, oak, and sumac contain a substance called urushiol, which causes a rash on people who come in contact with them. Symptoms and signs include a red, swollen, itchy, blistering, bumpy rash. Treatment involves rinsing the exposed area with water, taking antihistamines and over-the-counter pain medications, using topical treatments such as calamine lotion, and applying cool compresses.
RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Treatment focuses on pain management and shortening the duration of the illness with antiviral medications.
StitchesStitches or sutures are used to close skin wounds. After the wound is examined and cleaned, the health-care provider assesses the wound to decide how to repair the wound. Dissolvable stitches may be used if deep sutures are necessary. Nylon and polypropylene are the main choices of suture material. The length of time stitches must remain in place depends upon the location of the wound and how much stress is placed on the wound.
Trauma/First Aid QuizWhat should be in your first-aid kit? Take this quiz to understand trauma and learn the truth about how to administer first aid.