How to save a life
March 3, 2017 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Paramedic filter: looking for step-by-step guides for re-learning first aid

Hi guys! I got first-aid certificate in high school but I've forgotten everything. I thought about doing another course but it's such a hassle and I remember being quite bored last time, I don't want to go back there!!

Do you guys any recommendations for first-aid step-by-step guides? In particular, I would like to know how to handle the following non-exhaustive list of situations:

- Heart attacks
- Hypo/hyperglycaemia
- Asthma attacks
- Unexplained fainting
- Allergic reactions
- Choking
- CPR (when is it not appropriate?)
- Wounds
- Broken bones
- Childbirth
- Poisoning
- Dislocated joints
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Education (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Take a course so you know that what you're doing is up to the current standard.

Liability issues in first aid are often exaggerated, but in some cases certification provides you with insurance.

Also, choosing not to learn the current standards of first aid - techniques used in life threatening situations by definition - nor to be evaluated by an external assessor, simply because it's too boring... morally, that's a bit difficult to defend and legally, I would expect it to be even worse.

There are apps out there, but I really wouldn't recommend you try to use them without getting retrained first.
posted by tel3path at 9:17 AM on March 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

I took this course when I needed and cert for a class I was taking. It should not take the place of a hands on Red Cross class in my opinion.
posted by tman99 at 9:17 AM on March 3, 2017

It's possible to do a lot of the training on-line and then do CPR in a class, if that works better with your schedule. I agree with tel3path; I've taken three or four First Aid classes in the last decade, and there's been some remarkable changes over that time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:22 AM on March 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

it sounds dumb, but unless you're in a remote area, the general answer is call 911 for most of those.

Are you looking what to do before the ambulance arrives, or what to do if there is no ambulance (and/or it's 30 minutes away) ?

I had an EMT-B license years ago (1994), and know generally what to do for those situations, but as a passer-by, step 1 is call 911. Beyond that, if you can find an EMT book, it would cover those situations. The EMT standard is usually "get patient stable enough to get them to the hospital ASAP" combined with recognizing different levels of ASAP. Broken bones are lower than profuse bleeding, etc. Higher levels of training deal with the medication you use in the field.
posted by k5.user at 9:22 AM on March 3, 2017

The action emphasized most often in my CERT training was to assess the situation and call 911.

The Red Cross does have mobile apps you can refer to in a pinch, but I would highly recommend getting properly trained and certified. Well-meaning but incorrect aid can do more harm than good.

Go look for a local CERT training and meet your neighbors!
posted by evoque at 9:23 AM on March 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Paramedic filter: looking for step-by-step guides for re-learning first aid

Paramedic training is very different from First Aid training. First Aid is basically "how do I keep the person alive until they can get professional treatment." Paramedics are the professionals.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:23 AM on March 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

@the corpse in the library: I know that first aid (a subject) is not the same thing as a paramedic (a professional). Just to clarify, I don't work in the medical industry, I just want to have the survival skill in case anything happens in my vicinity. Paramedic filter means I'm seeking advice from, preferably, someone who is experienced with emergency medical situations.

@tel3path: I agree, but I guess I'm looking for other resources too because I didn't retain anything from the last time I took a first aid course so I don't think it was a good fit for my learning style? I think I would go back if there was nothing available that worked better for me, but... I learn best by reading, so I would prefer some sort of text/visual resource? Would you have any suggestions?
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 9:45 AM on March 3, 2017

Okay, as long as you promise to go on a course! The UK St John Ambulance has a really good app which is so clearly laid out, I would almost say a child could use it.

Being an app, it also has the benefit of always being up to date.

I can't say enough though how valuable the course is, with live practice on other humans where appropriate, and resuscitation dolls otherwise.

Then, with a resource like the app, you can maintain readiness by testing and drilling yourself and memorizing stuff till you can't get it wrong. Probably in your case you should use the app to drill yourself before the course and then when you get into the more hands-on learning of the class, see how much you retained.
posted by tel3path at 9:56 AM on March 3, 2017

Look into wilderness first aid classes. They're so much more interesting that regular first aid classes. Here's an overview of the 3-day course offered by NOLS.

I've had a lot of wilderness first aid training and even got my regular EMT-B, although I never worked in an ambulance. In the front country, I think your best course of action for all of those things is:

1. Call 911.
2. Survey the scene and make sure you're not going to turn yourself into another patient.
3. Check the ABC's in this order: airway (is it clear), breathing (are they breathing), and circulation (are they bleeding heavily from somewhere).
4. Deal with the ABC's (which are immediate threats to life) and based on your first aid training, and then wait for the professionals to get there.
posted by colfax at 10:27 AM on March 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Take a damn class, and then buy the current Boy Scout merit badge books for First Aid and Emergency Preparedness to use for frequent review.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:15 AM on March 3, 2017

(And good for you for doing this!! The more people who are prepared to help others, the better chance you have of getting help when you need it. HERD IMMUNITY WHOOP WHOOP.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:16 AM on March 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You may be able to convince your supervisor or employer that offering yearly CPR or First Aid training would be a benefit for your workplace. As far as what someone who isn't currently trained and wants to help in an emergency situation, gather information and provide as much information to the 911 dispatcher as possible and stay calm. I've been a firefighter and EMT-I since 2007 and we're not super keen on untrained folks providing interventions before we or EMS arrives on scene unless it is a person who is intimately familiar with the patient and their health problems (such as a spouse or partner providing juice for their hypoglycemic partner or a child of a parent who has had TIAs in the past making that parent comfortable and going through the stroke scale).
posted by sara is disenchanted at 11:44 AM on March 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

All current EMT-B/I, Wilderness First Aid, and even Paramedic classes that I'm familiar with are taught from textbooks. You could, I suppose, get one of those books and just read it, if you wanted to. But then I'd go and take a class if you think there's any real chance of actually wanting or needing to put that information into practice.

The most commonly-used books in my experience for EMT-B courses are the "Brady books". Current Brady EMT-B book.

You're very unlikely to learn anything that's totally wrong from reading the book, but I am made fairly nervous by the thought of someone who has only ever read the book, and not done any sort of practical class thinking that they are really prepared for having any of those situations actually happen.

It's sort of a cliche among EMTs and Paramedics that the first thing you do after you get done with your training class and passed the test is forget everything you learned the "book way" and then re-learn it the "street way". It's not so much that the books are wrong as they prescribe such a checkbox-driven, mechanistic approach to care that if you actually tried to do things that way in reality, you'd be doing perfect skills on a lot of stone-cold corpses or really pissed-off injured people. The most common reaction among people the first time they work a CPR call is "holy shit that was madness" or something to that effect; there's typically no time, and you either know what you're doing or you're just in the way. So, bear that in mind.

But I am very much against the idea of healthcare providers of any stripe being possessors of some sort of esoteric knowledge. The information is all out there and should be available to anyone—just don't overestimate the value of what can be learned from a book. I probably learned more in my first three ridealong shifts as a college student than I did from my practical class, and more in two sessions of the practical class than I ever learned from a textbook.

Also, there are other books and curricula that are more geared towards people who just want skills in case TSHTF than the EMT or other prehospital care-in-transport certification guides. Maybe a Wilderness First Aid book would be better?

You could also consider a CERT class, if there is one offered in your area. They are a short class (generally only a few sessions) and geared towards basic uncertified/bystander first aid, and then some interesting disaster response stuff that varies based on the area where the course is taught (at least, I believe that's how it works). They get into some basic urban search and rescue stuff that's pretty cool. And they do the usual basic first aid, CPR, airway blockage / Heimlich maneuver stuff too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:07 PM on March 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

This series of posts written by an author and paramedic are vivid and interesting and terrifying and educational. They cover a bunch of your topics.

The main thing to do is almost always to call 911 or tell someone else to, and to carefully follow any stated instructions. A current CPR and AED training along with a CPR keychain mask are a good idea.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:15 PM on March 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Get certified in CPR/basic life support. Yes, it's a course, but it's very practical, short, hands-on, and can legitimately save someone's life. You can't learn good technique from a guide; you need practical feedback as to depth and rate of compressions. It's a lot deeper and a lot slower than you think. Most courses come with a pocketcard that you can use for review later.

Learn your way around an AED while you're at it. They are pretty fool-proof, but I've seen people so anxious they forget to turn it on. Know where the nearest ones are in the places you frequent (workplace, church, library, train station etc).

You asked when CPR is not appropriate. Learn how to take a carotid pulse. If you can feel a carotid pulse, CPR is not appropriate.
posted by basalganglia at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2017

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