Basic First Aid 1

In the time it takes to read this page, you could learn enough first aid to save a life. A blocked airway can kill someone in three to four minutes, but it can take more than eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive. So a simple procedure such as opening someone’s airway can save their life while they’re waiting for emergency medical help.

The latest government figures, from 2002, estimate 2.7 million people in the UK went to A&E because of an accident in their home. Of these, 910,000 were aged under 16. Sadly, almost 4,000 people in England and Wales died because of accidents in or around their home in 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics.

This means you’re more likely to give first aid to someone you know than a stranger. Knowing what to do will allow you to react rapidly if an accident does happen.

What Not To Do

There are many misconceptions surrounding first aid. Below are the “most popular” ones with details of what you should do.

Top ten first aid misconceptions:

  1. You should put butter or cream on a burn – FALSE. The only thing you should put on a burn is cold water – keep the butter for cooking. Put the affected area under cold running water for at least ten minutes.
  2. If you can’t move a limb, it must be broken (or if you can move a limb, it can’t be broken) – FALSE. The only accurate way to diagnose a broken limb is to x-ray it. If you suspect a broken bone try to support the injury with a cushion or items of clothing to prevent unnecessary movement. As soon as possible call 999.
  3. The best way to treat bleeding is to put the wound under a tap – FALSE. If you put a bleeding wound under a tap you wash away the body’s clotting agents and make it bleed more. Instead put pressure on the wound with whatever is available to stop or slow down the flow of blood. As soon as possible call 999. Keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.
  4. Nosebleeds are best treated by putting the head back – FALSE. If you put the head back during a nosebleed, all the blood goes down the back of the airway. Instead advise them to tilt their head forwards and ask the person to pinch the end of their nose and breathe through their mouth.
  5. If someone has swallowed a poison you should make them be sick – FALSE. This won’t help and with some poisons if it burnt on the way down, it will burn on the way up. The best thing to do is get medical advice and find out what poison was taken, at what time and how much.
  6. If you perform CPR on someone whose heart is beating you can damage their heart – FALSE. It’s difficult in emergency situations for non-medics to assess whether a person’s heart is beating. Although not ideal the evidence is that it isn’t dangerous to do chest compressions on a casualty whose heart is beating.
  7. You need lots of training to do first aid – FALSE. You don’t – what you mostly need is common sense. You can learn enough first aid in a few minutes to save someone’s life – whether it’s from a book, attending a course or watching videos online
  8. You need lots of expensive equipment to do first aid – FALSE. You don’t need any equipment to do first aid, there are lots of ways to improvise anything you need.

Remember: anyone can save a life

The British Red Cross last medically reviewed this article in January 2011.

Article taken in part from


All content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

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