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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.
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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.
Dehydration SlideshowDo you know the signs of dehydration? Dehydration can cause medical complications. Learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention tips to avoid dehydration.
Do You Need a Tetanus Shot?A bacteria called Clostridium tetani causes tetanus (lockjaw). Tetanus causes symptoms and signs that include severe muscle spasms and an inability to open the mouth. The tetanus vaccine is a toxoid that is 100% effective against tetanus. The DTaP vaccine is part of a child's routine immunization schedule. Doctors recommend the Tdap for children at their 11-year checkup. People should get a tetanus booster vaccination every 10 years.
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.
First Aid EssentialsAre you always prepared for a first aid crisis? See which basic first aid items to pack to treat minor scrapes, cuts, and stings when you're on the go.
Flea Bites (In Humans)
Flea bites are caused by the parasitic insect, the flea. The most common species of flea in the US is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. Signs and symptoms of flea bites in humans include itching, hives, a rash with bumps, red spots with a "halo," and swelling around the bite. Treatment for flea bites includes over-the-counter medicine and natural and home remedies to relieve and soothe itching and inflammation. The redness of a flea bite can last from a few hours to a several days.
Food PoisoningFood poisoning is common, but can also be life threatening. The symptoms for food poisoning are fever, abdominal pain, headache, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Food poisoning has many causes, for example, chemicals (from toxic fish or plants) and bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus or Salmonella). Treatment of food poisoning depends upon the cause.
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.
Heat rash remedies include OTC creams and sprays. Usually heat rash resolves when the skin is cooled sufficiently. Medical treatment may be necessary if the sweat glands become infected.
Heat Rash SlideshowDo you know what heat rash looks like? Prickly heat is an itchy skin problem. It can cause pus-filled papules (blisters), red bumps, discomfort, and itching skin rashes. Medical care may include anti-itch ointment and keeping the skin cool in an air-conditioned room.
NosebleedNosebleeds are common in dry climates during winter months, and in hot dry climates with low humidity. People taking blood clotting medications, aspirin, or anti-inflammatory medications may be more prone to nosebleeds. Other factors that contribute to nosebleed are trauma (including nose picking, especially in children), rhinitis (both allergic and nonallergic), and high blood pressure. First-aid treatments for a nosebleed generally do not need medical care. Frequent or chronic nosebleeds may require medical treatment such as over-the-counter (OTC) medication, and prevention of nose picking.
Skin 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.
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.
Why Is an Exploratory Laparotomy Done?An exploratory laparotomy is an open surgical procedure for visual examination of the abdominal organs, tissue and blood vessels. An exploratory laparotomy is often an emergency procedure for patients with acute abdominal pain from disease or injury to the abdomen.