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First aid: Dealing with Meningitis

Meningitis may be caused by a virus or by bacteria. It can affect anyone, but babies and young children are most at risk.

If you suspect meningitis, call 999 or 112 immediately. If treated early, most people make a full recovery.

Here’s what to look for if you suspect someone has meningitis:

  • Flu-like symptoms with a temperature
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pain in joints and limbs
  • Pale, blotchy skin

If left untreated this can also lead to:

  • Severe headache
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Drowsiness
  • In babies, a high-pitched moaning or whimpering, floppiness, and a bulging soft spot on the head

You may also notice a rash of red or purple spots that doesn’t fade when pressed.

If you suspect meningitis, here’s what you should do:

  1. Call 999 or 112 immediately.
  2. Check to see if there’s a rash and press the spots with the side of a glass. If they don’t fade, it could be meningitis.
  3. While waiting for help to arrive, keep them calm, cool and reassured.
  4. Continue to check their breathing and level of response.
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First aid: Dealing with Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below 35C degrees. The most important thing to remember is to try to stop them from losing any further body heat.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Handle the person carefully and gently.
  • If possible, move them indoors or somewhere warm.
  • Remove wet clothing and dry the person’s body.
  • Starting with the head and torso, wrap them in blankets, towels, coats or whatever is available.
  • If appropriate, hug them to use your body heat to warm them up.
  • Give the person a warm drink or high-energy foods to warm them up. Make sure they are able to swallow.
  • Keep them warm and dry until their body temperature returns to normal.

Things you should NOT do:

  • Do not massage their limbs or body.
  • Do not put them into a hot bath.
  • Do not encourage them to drink alcohol.
  • Do not  try warming them with heat pads or lamps.

In cases of severe hypothermia you should call 999 immediately. Watch out for these signs:

  • They’re distressed or confused
  • Their breathing is slow and shallow
  • Their skin feels cold
  • They’re unconscious after having been exposed to the cold
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First aid: Dealing with Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which the body can’t produce enough insulin, a chemical that regulates your blood sugar (glucose) level. For diabetics, these levels can get too high or too low. These are serious conditions that may need treatment in hospital.

When blood sugar levels are too high (hyperglycaemia), the body is getting too little insulin. When blood sugar levels are too low (hypoglycaemia) it’s getting too much insulin.

People with high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) may have:

  • Warm, dry skin
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Fruity sweet breath
  • Excessive thirst
  • Drowsiness which can lead to unconsciousness if not treated

If you suspect hyperglycaemia, call 999 immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, continue to check their breathing and responsiveness. If they lose consciousness, open their airway, check their breathing, and administer CPR.

People with low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) may be:

  • Weak, faint or hungry
  • Confused and irrational
  • Sweaty with cold, clammy skin
  • Trembling
  • Less and less responsive with time

Check for a medical warning bracelet or necklace. They may carry glucose gel, an insulin pen or tablets and a glucose testing kit.

If you suspect hypoglycaemia, sit the person down. Help them take their own glucose gel or alternative. If none is available, give them something sugary like fruit juice or sugary sweets.

If this improves the situation, give them more sugary food or drink and let them rest. Help them check their glucose levels using their testing kit, and stay with them until they feel completely better. If they do not improve, call 999 or get someone to do it. Continue to check their breathing and responsiveness.

If you aren’t sure whether their blood sugar is high or low, give them something sugary anyway. If their levels are low it will help raise them, and if they’re high it won’t do any harm. If there’s no improvement, call 999 or get someone to do it.

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First aid: Dealing with burns

To treat someone who has suffered a burn to their skin, follow these 3 steps.

1. Immediately cool the affected area under cold running water for a full 10 minutes. This helps to relieve the pain, reduce the swelling and prevent scarring. The faster the burn is cooled, the less likely it is that there will be any lasting damage to the skin.

2. After cooling the skin for 10 minutes, cover the affected area with cling film or a clean plastic bag. This keeps the wound clean and prevents it from getting infected. Plastic is ideal because it doesn’t stick to the burnt area. It also reduces pain by keeping air away from the skin’s surface.

3. As soon as you can, call 999 or get someone to do it. Burns may need medical treatment, and in any case you should always call 999 when a child has been burned.

Remember NOT to put any creams, lotions or any other solutions on the skin. Use ONLY cold running water and a plastic wrap to treat and cover the burnt skin.

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First aid: Dealing with Broken Bones

If you suspect someone has a broken bone, check to see if the person shows any of these signs:

  • Swelling
  • Difficulty moving
  • Unnatural movement
  • A twisted or bent limb
  • Grating noise or feeling when the limb is moved
  • Loss of strength in the limb
  • Shock

If one or all of these is present, follow the steps below:

  1. For an open fracture, cover the wound and apply pressure to control the bleeding.
  2. Support the injured area to ease the pain and prevent further damage.
  3. Call 999 or get someone to do it.
  4. While waiting for help to arrive, secure the wounded area to stop it from moving. Arms can be put in a sling, and legs can be tied to uninjured legs.
  5. Check for signs of shock, which include:
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  1. If the person loses consciousness, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to give CPR as you would to someone who’s become unconscious.
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First aid: Dealing with Bleeding

When you come across someone who is bleeding heavily, follow these steps:

1. Cut or remove any clothing that may be covering the wound. If there is an object in the wound, leave it alone. It may be helping to block the blood from spilling out.

2. Apply pressure to the wound. Your job is to try and stop the blood escaping from the person’s body. Use whatever clean material is available to stop or slow down the flow of blood, such as a towel, clothing or a facecloth. The pressure encourages the blood to clot which will eventually stop the bleeding.

3. Raise and support the affected area so that it is above the heart. This helps to slow down the bleeding.

4. If blood leaks through the material, leave it there and cover it with more clean material.

5. Call 999 as soon as possible or get someone to do it for you. Keep the pressure on the wound until help arrives.

Severe bleeding can lead to shock and loss of consciousness. Monitor the person’s breathing to make sure they stay conscious. If they lose consciousness, perform CPR as you would for someone who is unconscious.

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First aid: Dealing with an Asthma Attack

An asthma attack can occur when a trigger causes the air passages to the lungs to narrow. This makes it difficult for the person to get enough air into their lungs. They find it hard to breathe and may also panic if the situation continues for any length of time.

If you suspect someone is having an asthma attack, look for these signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Distress
  • Grey-blue colour on the lips, earlobes and fingernails

If any of these signs are present, here’s what you should do:

  1. Reassure the person and ask them to breathe slowly and deeply.
  2. Help them use their inhaler immediately.
  3. Sit them in a comfortable position.
  4. If the condition doesn’t improve, call 999 or get someone to do it.
  5. Check their breathing and responsiveness until help arrives.
  6. If they lose consciousness, treat them as you would any unconscious person. Open their airway, check their breathing, and prepare to give them CPR.
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First aid: Dealing with a Stroke FAST

A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain gets cut off. It is a medical emergency so you need to act fast. Here’s what you need to look for:

F.A.S.T.

Face – look at the person’s face. Ask them to smile and check whether they are only able to smile on one side of their mouth. If so, it’s a sign that they may have suffered a stroke.

Arms – ask the person to raise their arms. If they can only raise one arm, this is another sign that they may have suffered a stroke.

Speech – ask the person to speak. If they are unable to speak clearly in their usual way, this is also a sign that they may have suffered a stroke.

Time – if any one of these symptoms is present, you need to call 999 or 112 and say that you suspect the person is having a stroke.

A stroke interrupts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The faster the symptoms are recognized, the faster the condition can be treated.

While waiting for help to arrive, keep the person comfortable. Check their breathing and level of response. Avoid giving them anything to eat or drink as they might have difficulty swallowing and could possibly choke.

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First aid: Dealing with a Heart Attack

A person suffering from a heart attack may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Pain and/or tightness in the centre of the chest
  • Pain that spreads from the chest to the shoulders, neck, arms, face, stomach and back
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea

If you suspect a heart attack, follow these steps:

1. Call 999 immediately or get someone to do it.

2. Make the person comfortable. Sit them on the floor and lean them against a chair or wall. This eases the strain on their heart and makes it less likely that they’ll hurt themselves if they faint or lose consciousness.

3. Provide reassurance while you wait for help to arrive. This also makes it easier for you to gauge their level of responsiveness. If the person stops breathing, place the palm of your hand flat on their chest over the lower part of the sternum (breast bone), place your other hand on top and pump once or twice.

4. If the person fails to start breathing again, begin CPR right away.

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First aid: Dealing with a Head Injury

Head injuries are serious because they can lead to brain damage. They may result in concussion, internal bleeding, skull fracture or spinal injuries. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Sit the person down and place something cold against the injury, such as a bag of ice or frozen peas wrapped in a towel or cloth.

2. Apply pressure to any scalp wounds as if they were bleeding.

3. Check the person’s responsiveness using the AVPU scale below:

Alert – Are their eyes open? Do they respond to questions?

Voice – Do they answer simple questions and follow basic instructions?

Pain – If they’re not alert and not responding to your voice, do they respond to pain when you pinch them? Or when you shake them gently?

Unresponsive – If there is no response at all, then you must assume the person is unresponsive or unconscious.

If they are alert, the injury is probably a mild one. Stay with them until they recover completely.

If they’re neither alert nor responsive, the injury could be severe. Call 999 and explain the situation. Continue to monitor the person and if they lose consciousness, open their airway, check their breathing, and prepare to give them CPR until help arrives.

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