It is of great help to know how to administer first aid Image Credit: iStock

It is important for people to be aware of first aid methods and take up courses on the same, said Dr Firas Annajjar, consultant at Rashid Hospital’s Trauma and Emergency Centre.

“In most minor cases such as simple bleeding, or twisted ankle, patients have better outcome if first aid is given early, provided the person administering it is aware of safety and administering first aid appropriately,” he said.

When it comes to providing first aid in severe cases such as heart attacks, drowning and loss of consciousness, Dr Annajjar advised that the  person doing it should call 999, ask for an ambulance and then speak to ambulance officials about steps he or she can take to help the patient. “In such severe cases, if the person administering first aid has undertaken a first aid course such as the heart saver course, he or she can do it directly until the time the ambulance arrives,” he said.

“However, if the person has not undergone any training it is not advisable to give first aid without consulting a healthcare professional as it can have adverse effects.” 

It is important for everyone to know how to administer basic first aid. The first and foremost rule is the safety of the first aid provider, so that he/she does not become a victim. Compromising the safety of the first aid administrator directly affects the safety of the victim.

The top three categories of major cases the hospital receives is road accidents, heart attacks, falls and work-related injuries. The top three types of moderate cases include sport-related injuries, abdominal pain and difficulty of breathing, while the three minor case categories include low back pain, headache and sore throats.

“It is important for people to understand that minor cases can be tackled by the primary healthcare centres, instead of the trauma centre,” said Dr Annajjar. “At the centre, we prioritise care according to the severity of the case and minor cases end up having to wait for longer periods. If they visit a PHC, it will be more convenient for them and it will reduce the number of unnecessary patient visits we receive.”

In terms of tips for patients, Dr Annajjar explained that in cases of minor burns, which is a common injury, the best thing to do is make sure the victim is away from the fire or the hot object, then wash the patient’s hands with tap water and seek medical advice. “It is better to keep a simple burn cream, which can be bought from the pharmacy at home, so that one can use it in such cases before taking the patient to the doctor,” he said.

One of the most common incorrect practices followed by patients, according to 
Dr Annajjar, includes application of ice or other things such as tomato paste or 
toothpaste over the area, which worsens the condition of the burn.

He said in cases of moderate or severe burns and in special circumstances (chemical or electrical burns), it is important to start basic interventions that you would do in case of a minor burn and immediately call 999 for rapid transportation to the hospital.

In case of nose bleeds, Dr G. Y. Naroo, Consultant, Emergency Medicine at Trauma and Emergency Centre, advised that the patient be kept in a sitting position. The patient’s head should lean forward, keep the nose pinched for around five minutes and then he/she should be asked to breathe through the mouth.

After five minutes, the pressure should be released gradually and if the bleeding doesn’t stop, keep the pressure on and rush the patient to the hospital. “This is not applicable for kids (less than two years), who do not know how to breathe through their mouth. They should be taken to the doctor straightaway,” cautions said Dr Naroo. “Application of ice over the bridge of the nose, is also another method.”

For cuts and mild abrasions, it is important that the first aid provider uses gloves, if possible, to prevent any transmission of infection. “If there is any active bleeding, apply a sterile dressing over the wound, clean the wound with a wound steriliser (savlon or diluted betadine, which can be bought from a pharmacy) or simply with tap water,” said Dr Naroo.

Application of coffee, garlic or any other food materials inside the wound is a bad practice and should be avoided. 

With regard to severe cases such as heart attacks, Dr Annajjar stressed that acting instantly without any delay is very important to save the life of the person. “In case someone around you is having a heart attack — signs include chest pain, jaw pain, pain radiating to the shoulder, shortness of breath and sweating — ask the patient to lie in his/her most comfortable resting position. Call 999 immediately and seek advice from the ambulance team,” he said. “If the patient has had a previous history of a heart attack and knows the medicine to take in such circumstances, the medicine can be given.”

Dr Annajjar said one of the main problems with heart attack cases is misdiagnosis by the patient and those around him. “Sometimes heart attacks are diagnosed as indigestion by the patient and family members, so if the patient has these signs or a previous history of a heart attack, it is important to immediately call the ambulance.”

He said driving the patient to the hospital in a car as opposed to an ambulance, which is fully equipped and has medical professionals onboard is another mistake.

In case of a stroke too, it’s absolutely important to act as fast as possible because time is very crucial. “Symptoms of stroke include difficulty or slurring of speech, weakness in one side of the body and droopy face,” said Dr Annajjar. “In such cases, call 999 and inform them that it is a stroke case.”

For those suffering from decreased level of consciousness due to high or low blood sugar, it is important to know that low sugar levels are more harmful. “First check the sugar levels. If you do not have the equipment with you at the time, it is advisable to give the patient any sugar source ( dark chocolate, dates etc.) provided that the patient is in a condition to swallow it,” said Dr Annajjar. “Otherwise (if the patient can’t swallow or is comatose) make the person lie down on the right side of the body, open the mouth and call 999 directly. “

People should avoid making the mistake of trying to give the patient a banana or a date when the patient is unable to swallow it as this leads to choking.

“In cases of drowning, if there is lifeguard, let him do his job,” said Dr Annajjar. “Otherwise, without compromising your safety, pull the victim away from the water and put him or her on the right side of the body. Open the mouth if the patient is breathing. Then call the ambulance right away.”

DHA medical education department holds life-saver courses. Call 800 342 for more information.

Top 3 major cases: Motor vehicle crashes/ Heart attacks/ Falls and work-related injuries

Top 3 moderate cases: Sport-related injuries/ Abdominal pain/ Difficulty in breathing

Top 3 minor cases: Low back pain/ Headache/ Sore throat

First aid home kit

- Sterile gauze
- Small Band-Aid
- Sterile wound solution such as Savlon or diluted betadine (available at the pharmacy)
- Pair of gloves
- Small scissors
- Adhesive plaster