First Aid: What You Need to Know

Updated guidelines from the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association reaffirm previous recommendations and highlight other ways people can help save more lives.

Bleeding: Direct pressure is still the first line of defense, but the new guidelines acknowledge the important role tourniquets and homeostatic agents play when standard measures fail or are not possible in life-threatening bleeding situations.

Hypoglycemia in diabetics: For the early treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), the new guidelines recommend the use of glucose tablets to prevent responders from giving too much or too little sugar. The tablets are now considered more effective at resolving hypoglycemic symptoms than dietary forms of sugar.

Recovery position: Studies show respiratory improvement in a lateral side-lying position rather than in a face-up position. Turning an unresponsive person who is breathing normally and has no suspected spine, hip, or pelvis injury is recommended. The HAINES position is no longer recommended due to lack of scientific evidence.

Anaphylaxis: For treating anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), the first aid provider may give a second epinephrine injection from a prescribed auto-injector if symptoms persist beyond the initial dose and arrival of advanced care will exceed 5-10 minutes.

Recognition of stroke: First aid courses should now include information to promote early recognition of a stroke. Warning signs may include face droop (the person cannot smile), arm weakness (they cannot raise both arms), and speech difficulty (slurred or unable to repeat a simple sentence).

Use of aspirin with heart attacks: Aspirin should not be given if the first aid provider is unsure someone is having a heart attack. If aspirin is given, the guidelines now specify “there is no need to distinguish between enteric versus non-enteric coated aspirin as long as the aspirin is chewed and swallowed.”

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