Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Health Care and First Aid

First Aid is an important aspect of saving lives. Knowing how to render it is critical in the case of life threatening situations or in cases where someone is injured. Accidents happen. Someone chokes on an ice cube or gets stung by a bee. It is important to know when to call 9-1-1 -- it is for life-threatening emergencies, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While waiting for help to arrive, you may be able to save someone's life. It is important to have a first aid kit available. Keep one at home and one in your car. It should include a first-aid guide. Read the guide to learn how to use the items, so you are ready in case an emergency happens.

First aid is the emergency care and treatment of a sick or injured person before professional medical services are obtained, according to Brookside Associates. FIRST AID MEASURES ARE NOT MEANT TO REPLACE PROPER MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT, but will only consist of providing temporary support until professional medical assistance is available. The purposes of first aid are (1) to save life, (2) prevent further injury, and (3) to minimize or prevent infection. The knowledge of first aid, when properly applied, can mean the difference between temporary or permanent injury, rapid recovery or long-term disability, and the difference between life and death. While administering first aid, the three primary objectives are (1) to maintain an open airway, (2) maintain breathing, and (3) to maintain circulation. During this process you will also control bleeding, and reduce or prevent shock. You must respond rapidly, stay calm, and think before you act. Do not waste time looking for ready-made materials, do the best you can with what is at hand. Request professional medical assistance as soon as possible. A much more detailed overview about these procedures and more can be found at this site: http://www.brooksidepress.org/Products/OperationalMedicine/DATA/operationalmed/Manuals/Standard1stAid/chapter1.html

There are those mommy first aid skills where a Band-Aid and a kiss are all that's needed to make everything better. You can fix a cut finger or ice a twisted ankle or staunch a bloody nose, the skills you learn almost by osmosis from watching Mom or Grandma. Then there's stepping up during an emergency, the difference between life or death. Saving lives is a mindset. It's knowing how to do what you need to do and not being afraid to act, according to About.com. With the exception of using an Epi-Pen, nothing on this list requires special tools, just your brain, your hands and your quick action. Here are 9 First Aid Skills That Can Really Save a Life -- The Skills You Need to Have When Seconds Count:

1. CPR--It doesn't get any more deadly than dead. Cardiac arrest is what paramedics call the condition that is commonly known as death: the heart is no longer pumping blood. Whatever the cause, there is only one outcome if cardiac arrest is not treated with CPR - the victim stays dead.
2. Use an Epi-Pen--Anaphylaxis is a severe allergy that kills hundreds of people every year. Whether the allergy is to bees, peanuts, shellfish or antibiotics, anaphylaxis quickly progresses to death if left untreated. The best way to stop anaphylaxis in its tracks is to use an Epi-Pen.
3. Heimlich Maneuver--When somebody's choking on a piece of filet mignon, quick action is all that might stand between a minor dinner embarrassment and horrible death. Are you ready to force the offending meat out of the airway with a Heimlich Maneuver?
4. Treat a Choking Infant--Babies are built differently than bigger kids and adults. So, for the under 12 month crowd, getting something out of the airway has more options, which is good, since these guys are much more likely to have something in there in the first place. When your curious little one gets a chunk of whatever caught in his pipe, do you know how to treat a choking baby?
5. Stop Bleeding--With two steps, almost all bleeding can be controlled: pressure and elevation. Unfortunately, few things are as scary to us puny humans as letting our life-force leak out. In the midst of a nightmare, can you stop bleeding?
6. Treat Shock--After too much blood has been lost, the next step is too little blood pressure. People hear lots about how bad high blood pressure is, but while high blood pressure will kill you in a few years, low blood pressure can kill you in a few minutes. If you weren't able to stop bleeding fast enough, you'd better be able to treat shock.
7. Treat Heat Stroke--The most important step in treating heat stroke is recognizing heat stroke. Hot, dry and confused in the middle of a hot day is a combination that should make you shudder, then make you call 911 and start throwing ice on the victim.
8. Treat Low Blood Sugar--As bad as low blood pressure is low blood sugar. This is one of those special situations that doesn't affect everyone, but since diabetics don't always have their diagnosis written on them (some do, on a bracelet) it's a skill you should know. For most people, too much sugar is a problem sufferered all too often, but too little blood sugar is a killer. Everyone should know how to treat low blood sugar.
9. Treat Hypothermia--Like heat stroke, winning the battle against hypothermia starts with knowing hypothermia when you see it -- or feel it. Warming a victim of hypothermia is arguably the easiest skill on this list, but that doesn't make it any less important. In cold weather, you should know how to treat hypothermia.

A first-aid kit well stocked with the basic essentials is indispensable. According to Scouting.org, choose one sturdy and lightweight, yet large enough to hold the contents so that they are readily visible and so that any one item may be taken out without unpacking the whole kit. Keep a list of contents readily available for easy refilling. Keep the kit in a convenient location. Make one person responsible for keeping the kit filled and available when needed. Quantities of suggested items for your first-aid kit depend on the size of your group and local conditions. Here are the items that should be contained in a well stocked first-aid kit: Bar of soap, 2-inch roller bandage,
1-inch roller bandage, 1-inch adhesive, 3-by-3-inch sterile pads, Triangular bandage, Assorted gauze pads, Adhesive strips, Clinical oral thermometer, Scissors, Tweezers, Sunburn lotion, Lip salve, Poison-ivy lotion, Small flashlight (with extra batteries and bulb), Absorbent cotton, Water purification tablets (iodine), Safety pins, Needles, Paper cups, Foot powder, Instant ice packs. Because of the possibility of exposure to communicable diseases, first-aid kits should include latex or vinyl gloves, plastic goggles or other eye protection, and antiseptic to be used when giving first aid to bleeding victims, as protection against possible exposure. Mouth barrier devices should be available for use with CPR.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT A VICTIM HAS THE RIGHT TO REFUSE FIRST AID CARE AND IN THESE INSTANCES YOU MUST RESPECT THE VICTIM'S DECISION. YOU CANNOT FORCE CARE ON A PERSON WHO DOES NOT WANT IT ... REGARDLESS OF THEIR CONDITION! THERE SHOULD BE LITTLE, IF ANY, CONCERN ABOUT LEGAL CONSEQUENCES INHERENT IN PROVIDING FIRST AID. YOU NEED ONLY HAVE THE VICTIM'S CONSENT AND THEN OFFER THE LEVEL OF CARE FOR WHICH YOU ARE QUALIFIED.

According to Survival-Center.com, there are legal and ethical concerns to take into consideration when rendering first aid:
1.) DUTY TO ACT -- No one is required to render first aid under normal circumstances. Even a physician could ignore a stranger suffering a heart attack if he chose to do so. Exceptions include situations where a person's employment designates the rendering of first aid as a part of described job duties. Examples include lifeguards, law enforcement officers, park rangers and safety officers in industry. A duty to provide first aid also exists where an individual has presumed responsibility for another person's safety, as in the case of a parent-child or driver-passenger relationship. While in most cases there is no legal responsibility to provide first aid care to another person, there is a very clear responsibility to continue care once you start. You cannot start first aid and then stop unless the victim no longer needs your attention, other first aiders take over the responsibility from you or you are physically unable to continue care.

2.) NEED FOR CONSENT -- In every instance where first aid is to be provided, the victim's consent is required. It should be obtained from every conscious, mentally-competent adult. The consent may be either oral or written. Permission to render first aid to an unconscious victim is implied and a first aider should not hesitate to treat an unconscious victim. Consent of a parent or guardian is required to treat a child, however emergency first aid necessary to maintain life may be provided without such consent.

3.) LEGAL CONCERNS -- Some well-meaning people hesitate to provide first aid because they are concerned about being sued. This need not be a concern! Legislators in almost every state in the country have passed GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS which are intended to protect good people who offer first aid help to others. Most of the Good Samaritan Acts are very similar in their content and usually provide two basic requirements which must be met in order for the first aider to be protected by their provisions:
--The first aider must not deliberately cause harm to the victim.
--The first aider must provide the level & type of care expected of a reasonable person with the same amount of training & in similiar circumstances.

Good Samaritan laws are meant to protect lay people who, for no reason other than kindness, come to the aid of fellow human beings in need. According to About.com, in today's litigious society there can be a reluctance to help out in emergency situations. Fear of liability for any misstep can paralyze even the most helpful Good Samaritan. It's also true that not every victim wants help. In order to care for someone in need, you must have permission. In the medical field, permission is called consent. There are important considerations for would-be rescuers. Not every victim wants to be saved and not every life saved will be grateful. Know the issues before you render first aid. Good Samaritan laws protect the general public from undue liability during good faith rescue attempts. Even in medical emergencies you need to be aware of certain legal and liability considerations.

However, in most cases those to whom you provide first aid will welcome your attempt to help them; and in a life and death situation, the vast majority of people will certainly want you to assist them in staying alive. You may be their only hope until emergency services arrive on the scene. Remember to take your own safety into consideration, especially for critical cases. When you put on a bandaid for a scratch, your first aid remedy is simple. When you are kneeling on the side of the road helping a car crash victim who is bleeding to death, the stakes are alot greater. Being the hero means using your head in a crisis. Be responsive, but be careful!

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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