Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Aid Recommendations Updates

The American Heart Association (AHA) together with the American Red Cross have published a series of updates in conjunction with the 2010 AHA and Emergency Cardiac Care (ECC) Guidelines on Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support.

Download the pdf file of this 2010 AHA first aid updates here.

NB: Please note that all the recommendations by AHA and American Red Cross stated below are for first aid setting and not in-hospital setting.

Positioning of Victim
As a general rule a victim should not be moved, especially if you suspect, from the victim's position or the nature of the injury, that the victim may have a spinal injury.

The indications to move the victim include
  • If the area is unsafe for the rescuer or the victim,
  • If the victim is face down and is unresponsive
  • If the victim has difficulty breathing because of copious secretions or vomiting
Place the victim in a modified High Arm IN Endangered Spine (HAINES) recovery position:- Extend one of the victim's arms above the head and roll the body to the side so the victim's head rests on the extended arm. Bend both legs to stabilize the victim
  • If the victim shows evidence of shock (e.g. pale, appears apprehensive, sweating profusely, confused. dizzy, etc)
If there is no evidence of trauma or injury, raise the feet about 6 to 12 inches (about 30° to 45°). Do not raise the feet if the movement or the position causes the victim any pain.

The evidence for a benefit to raising the feet is extrapolated from leg raising studies on volume expansion; there are no studies on the effect of leg raising as a first aid maneuver for shock.

Teboul JL, Monnet X. Prediction of volume responsiveness in critically ill patients with spontaneous breathing activity. Curr Opin Crit Care. 2008;14:334–339

Medical Emergencies

Chest Discomfort

1. All first aid providers should assume all chest discomfort is cardiac origin until proven otherwise. This is because it is very difficult to differentiate chest discomfort of cardiac origin vs non-cardiac origin.

The most important intervention is to CALL FOR THE EMS or AMBULANCE.

It is recommended to call for EMS to come rather than to drive themselves. This is because professional pre-hospital medical help could be rendered in the ambulance. including the vital utility of defibrillator and cardiopulmonary resuscitation when called for.

2. While waiting for the arrival of EMS to arrive, the first aid provider may encourage victim to chew one tablet of aspirin (crushed aspirin), provided the patient has no allergy to aspirin or contraindication such as bleeding tendencies, recent bleeding, or a stroke.
ISIS-2 study clearly established the beneficial effects of aspirin within the first 24 hours to reduce mortality in patients with acute MI.

ISIS-2 (Second International Study of Infarct Survival) Collaborative Group. Randomised trial of intravenous streptokinase, oral aspirin, both, or neither among 17,187 cases of suspected acute myocardial infarction. Lancet. 1988;2:349–360

Zijlstra F, Ernst N, De Boer M-J, Nibbering E, Suryapranata H, Hoorntje JCA, Dambrink J-HE, Van't Hof AWJ, Verheugt FWA. Influence of prehospital administration of aspirin and heparin on initial patency of the infarct-related artery in patients with acute ST elevation myocardial infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002;39:1733–1737
. Click here for pdf download.

It has also been shown that early pre-hospital administration of aspirin reduces mortality in acute MI.

Barbash IM, Freimark D, Gottlieb S, Hod H, Hasin Y, Battler A, Crystal E, Matetzky S, Boyko V, Mandelzweig L, Behar S, Leor J. Outcome of myocardial infarction in patients treated with aspirin is enhanced by pre-hospital administration. Cardiology. 2002;98:141–147.

Knowledge Gap and Research Questions
Does administration of aspirin by first aid providers delay EMS involvement?
Can first aid providers recognize contraindications to aspirin?
What are the clinical results with treatment versus nontreatment with aspirin by first aid providers of patients with subsequently proven coronary events?

Poisoning Emergencies
1. Do not administer anything by mouth for any poison ingestion unless advised to do so by the Poison Center
(Note: In Malaysia, the National Poison Center is located in Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang. You can call in for help at +604-657 2924 from Monday-Friday: 8.10am-5.10pm.)

There is insufficient evidence that dilution of the ingested poison with water or milk is of any benefit as a first aid measure. In fact, possible adverse effect by administering water or milk is vomiting and aspiration.

Knowledge gap and Research Questions: There are no human studies on the effect of treating oral caustic exposure with dilution therapy.
Does early administration of milk or water vs nil by mouth improve outcome in patients with poisoning with caustic substance?

Personal comment:
My personal opinion is that while the guideline says there is insufficient evidence to suggest for or against dilution therapy, it is just too broad to make a recommendation to administer water or any other fluid for that matter to "dilute" the poison.

This is because even though water is inert, and in most cases, would be safe to be mixed with other substances; there are certain chemicals which are exothermic when mix with water. Examples include sodium hydroxide (or caustic soda) and sulfuric acid that can release considerable amount of heat to the point when mix with water although it is often said that household caustic soda as in cleaning solutions, metal polishes, etc are often less concentrated compared to commercial ones. Many literature also suggest that sips of water (not large quantity) may be helpful.

Therefore, my practice would be - sips of water to ease the discomforting taste, yes (the distaste can by itself induce vomiting!); large amount of water to "dilute" poison - no.

2. Do not administer activated charcoal to a victim who has ingested a poisonous substance unless you are advised to. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the administration of activated charcoal in first aid setting although 2 small studies suggest that it may be safe to administer.

Spiller HA, Rodgers GC, Jr. Evaluation of administration of activated charcoal in the home. Pediatrics. 2001;108:E100.

Lamminpaa A, Vilska J, Hoppu K. Medical charcoal for a child's poisoning at home: Availability and success of administration in Finland. Hum Exp Toxicol. 1993;12:29–32

Nevertheless, another study showed that majority of children will not take the recommended dose of activated charcoal.

Scharman EJ, Cloonan HA, Durback-Morris LF. Home administration of charcoal: Can mothers administer a therapeutic dose? J Emerg Med. 2001;21:357–361

In fact, extrapolated from other case reports and studies, activated charcoal is not without harm. It can cause harmful effects such as obstructive laryngitis, pulmonary aspiration, etc.

Knowledge gap and Research Question: As there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against charcoal administration, the research question to answer is:
Does prehospital administration of charcoal by first aid responder improve outcome? On the other hand, does the administration of activated charcoal actually cause harm?

Bleeding Control Control of bleeding is a basic skill of first aid and one of the few actions with which a first aid provider can critically influence outcome.

1. Bleeding is best controlled by applying pressure until bleeding stops The amount of pressure applied and the time the pressure is held are the most important factors affecting successful control of bleeding. Control by applying manual pressure on gauze or other cloth placed over the bleeding source. If bleeding continues, do not remove the gauze; add more gauze on top and apply more pressure.

Unfortunately, there is actually no studies done evaluating the effectiveness of direct pressure as a first aid for bleeding. All our knowledge about direct pressure hemostasis is extrapolated from cardiac catheterization experience and the battlefield

Knowledge Gap and Research Questions:
Because of the lack of studies on the direct pressure as bleeding control in an actual first aid setting, such studies of bleeding control in civilian settings by first aid providers are needed.
Do first aid providers apply sufficient pressure?
Do first aid providers apply pressure for a sufficient amount of time to control bleeding?
How often does properly applied pressure fail to control bleeding, and which alternative method works?

2. The aim of a tourniquet to control bleeding of the extremities is not for first line use; it is indicated only if direct pressure is not effective or possible

Potential dangers of prolonged tourniquet application include temporary or permanent injury to the underlying nerves and muscles, and systemic complications resulting from limb ischemia, including acidemia, hyperkalemia, arrhythmias, shock, and death.

3. Pressure Points and Elevation
Elevation and use of pressure points are no longer recommended to control bleeding.

This new recommendation is made because
  1. the hemostatic effect of elevation has not been studied. In other words, there is no evidence for or against elevation of extremity.
  2. no effect on distal pulses was found in volunteers when pressure points were used.
  3. most important, these unproven procedures may compromise the proven intervention of direct pressure, and so, indirectly, they could be harmful.
Electric Injuries
In managing electric injuries, do not put yourself in danger! Remember in high voltage electrocution, all materials, including wooden materials, can conduct electricity if the voltage is high enough.

Wounds and Abrasions

Superficial wounds and abrasions should be thoroughly washed.
Irrigate with a large volume of warm or room temperature tap water from a reliable source (with or without soap).

Higher irrigation pressures are more effective than lower pressures, that higher volumes are better than lower volumes (within a range of 100 to 1000 mL), and that tap water is as good as (or better than) any other irrigation solution in reducing infection rates.

The wounds actually heal better with less infection if they are covered with an antibiotic ointment or cream and a clean occlusive dressing but in first aid setting, this applies for abrasion or a superficial injury only. Ask to ensure that the victim has no known allergies to the antibiotic - if ever there is a slightest doubt, do not need to apply antibiotics.

Knowledge Gaps
What are the effectiveness and best method of wound irrigation in the home? Is there a benefit to using soap in addition to water in cleaning superficial wounds?

Snake bite
For snake bite, one can also consider applying pressure immobilization. For practical purposes , apply a pressure that is sufficient if the bandage is comfortably tight and snug but allows a finger to be slipped under it.

However, suction device as first aid for snakebites is not recommended in the AHA Guidelines because, although it does remove some venom, but the amount is very small to have no clinical benefit and in fact, it may aggravate the injury as the device may be conducive to a more rapid invasion of the venom (for a description of the suction device, click here.)

Soft tissue Injuries (musculoskeletal injuries - the sprains and strains)

RICE remains the main components of symptomatic treatment.
R= Rest (the affected extremity)
I = Ice (cold) compression
C = Compressive bandage
E = Elevate the extremity

  • Cold application is more effective than heat application
  • Cold application by mixture of ice and water is more effective than ice alone
  • Cold application by mixture of ice and water is more effective than refreezable gel pack.

Cold application decreases hemorrhage, edema, pain, and disability.

To prevent cold injury, limit each application of cold to periods ≤20 minutes.
If that length of time is uncomfortable, limit application to 10 minutes

Jellyfish Stings
First aid for jellyfish stings consists of two important actions: preventing further nematocyst discharge and pain relief.

1. To inactivate venom load and prevent further envenomation, jellyfish stings should be liberally washed with vinegar (4% to 6% acetic acid solution) as soon as possible for at least 30 seconds.

If vinegar is not available, a baking soda slurry may be used instead.

2. For the treatment of pain, after the nematocysts are removed or deactivated, jellyfish stings should be treated with hot-water immersion when possible.

The victim should be instructed to take a hot shower or immerse the affected part in hot water (temperature as hot as tolerated, or 45°C if there is the capability to regulate temperature), as soon as possible, for at least 20 minutes or for as long as pain persists.

If hot water is not available, dry hot packs or, as a second choice, dry cold packs may be helpful in decreasing pain but these are not as effective as hot water.

How does hot water immersion work?
  • Marine venoms consist of multiple proteins and enzymes, and there is evidence that these become deactivated when heated to temperatures above 50 °C. Direct heat application leads to inactivation of the venom and deactivation of heat labile proteins.
  • Hot water immersion causes modulation of pain receptors in the nervous system leading to a reduction in pain.
Reference: Atkinson PR, Boyle A, Hartin D, McAuley D. Is hot water immersion an effective treatment for marine envenomation? Emerg Med J. 2006;23:503–508. [FREE download. Click here]

Do not use fresh water!!!
Fresh water will cause the nematocysts to continue to release their toxin. For the same reason, do not rub the area, apply ice or hot water.


The Portuguese Man O’ War is actually a cluster of several organisms each highly specialized and cannot sustain themselves individually, dependent for survival on the others to do what the particular “zooid “ cannot do by itself .

The name Portuguese Man O’ War was given to this creature because of its resemblance to the Portuguese Warship known as the Man Of War or Caravela which has triangular sails much like the shape of the Man O’ War’s bubble sail.


SHAFIQUE said...

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out

First Aid Kits said...

I'm also happy that you share this article about first aid, because we all know that first aid is really important especially in crisis time.

emergency first aid said...

this is very helpful and informative article. First aid is very important in out life. we must know how to treat ourselves in the crises time period

Electronic Medical Records said...

I think every individual must learn the basics of first aid and be able to help another in times of crisis.This training should be compulsive in schools itself.

Unknown said...

Hello, I love reading through your blog, I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. Wish you best of luck for all your best efforts. Sterilization Equipment, Medical suction.


PLEASE NOTE: All contents in this blog are copyrighted materials, unless otherwise stated. Even if you encounter materials in this page without a copyright notice, it does not mean that it is not copyrighted (Click here to read TEN BIG myths on copyright explained). This is especially so as most nations are signatories of the Berne Convention on international copyright law (World Intellectual Property Organization). Nevertheless, I have licensed almost all the materials contained here under Creative Commons licenses strictly for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Kindly email me at should you want to use any of the materials for commercial purposes. Thank you.