First Aid: What you should know

November 7, 2011

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

A man ran into my emergency room covered in blood. He was surrounded by five family members, all screaming at the staff to do something immediately. Noticing a miniature fountain of bright red blood spouting from the top of his head, I placed a latex gloved index finger on the bleeder and stopped the hemorrhage.


Brushing up on basic first aid could save your life. Image courtesy of Double--M/Flickr

We wiped off the blood, uncovering a mildly intoxicated 23-year-old male, and calmed his family.

The story they gave was that he had bumped his head on a cabinet in the kitchen during a party. The sharp cabinet corner opened a small artery in the scalp, which showered him in blood, confusing him and terrorizing the family. In a frenzy they all ran to the ER, which was thankfully nearby.

After holding direct pressure on the artery for 10 minutes (the time it normally takes for blood to clot), the bleeding stopped.

The lesson here is that while first aid training is not a substitute for professional care, it can help you know what to do until medical help is available. It can, on occasion, even be life saving. Children should learn basic first aid tips at around age 10, and every adult should certainly know the following: CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, treatment of wounds and fractures, and how to stop bleeding.

Buy a book on first aid and read it. Keep it in the medicine cabinet at home. Storing another copy in your car (along with a first aid kit) is not a bad idea.

Take a course. A course with first aid tips will also help you to identify life-threatening emergencies and understand when and how to get emergency care.

Mark L. Friedman MD FACEP FACP is an emergency physician working to revolutionize the delivery of health care.

Originally published Nov 7, 2011 2:39:58 PM.