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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.
Broken ToeA broken toe is one of the most common fractures among individuals. There are many causes of a broken toe, whether it is the big toe, middle toes, or little toe (pinky). Common symptoms and signs of a broken toe include pain, swelling, stiffness, and bruising. A broken toe can be treated with buddy taping the toe. There are instances where a doctor should be consulted for a broken toe.
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 are a mite belonging to the Trombiculidae family. Chiggers are most commonly found in grassy fields, gardens, parks, forests, and moist areas around lakes or rivers.
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow into the skin. Chiggers insert a feeding structure into the skin and inject enzymes that destroy host tissue. The chiggers then feed on this dead tissue. The most common symptom of a chigger bite is itching. Treatment generally includes antihistamines and calamine lotion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spider Bites (Black Widow and Brown Recluse)
Most spiders in the United States are harmless; however, black widow and brown recluse spider bites may need medical treatment. Symptoms of a harmless spider bite generally include pain, redness, and irritation.
Signs and symptoms of black widow spider bite include pain immediately, redness, burning, and swelling at the site of the bite. Sometimes the person will feel a pinprick or double fang marks.
Brown recluse spider bite symptoms and signs are a mild sting, followed by severe pain and local redness. These symptoms usually develop within eight hours or more after the bite. Black widow and brown recluse spider bites have similar symptoms, for example, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and abdominal or joint pain.
Generally, brown recluse and black widow spider bites need immediate medical treatment. If you think that you or someone you know has been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider, go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department for medical treatment.
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.