Friday, May 07, 2004

Neal's Safety Tip of the Month: A mnemonic for first-aid patient assessment

A is for Airway

B is for Breathing

C is for Circulation

D is for Damage

Discussion

Disclaimer: This isn't a substitute for medical training. Buy a good first aid manual. I have several. The Red Cross offers first aid training.

Caveat: Inspect the location before beginning first aid. Is there an obvious danger than needs to be managed? Is the mechanism of injury to the patient still in play (such as a running chain saw)?

A is for Airway

If patient is unconscious or a spine injury is suspected use the jaw thrust. Otherwise tilt the head back and the chin forward. If the person still doesn't breathe, sweep the mouth with your finger.

B is for Breathing

Listen and feel for breath. Is the patient breathing?

C is for Circulation

Feel their pulse. How is it? If it's not normal, keep checking them out.


If the person doesn't have a pulse and isn't breathing, summon an ambulance and begin CPR. Hopefully CPR can revive the person or prevent permanent damage before EMTs arrive and the EMTs will be able to revive. The person is dead at this point in some ways, so you can't make it that much worse for him or her. Doing nothing ensures brain damage within minutes.

A note on bacteria and CPR:

I would be hesitant to give CPR to a complete stranger without a mask of some sort. Antibiotic-resistant Tuberculosis is something to consider.

I carry a disposable breathing mask on my backpack. EMTs and firefighters carry the small hard masks. You can get both here.

D is for Damage

If the person is breathing but unconscious? Has the patient passed out from drugs or alcohol? If so, consider putting him or her in the recovery position. If a fall or spinal injury is suspected, don't move the patient except to remove them from a dangerous situation.

Turn the person over (careful with the neck) to see if they have any other injuries. Does he or she have bleeding under their clothes? Does he or she have an internal injury (especially a head or neck injury)?

In a medical emergency, it's important to stay calm. Take a deep breath and remember the ABCD's of patient assessment.

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