Most of us are not first responders, those heroes who come on the scene of an emergency and handle it with just the right action to save lives. But there are some critical skills that we all can learn to apply in life-threatening situations. These will help keep the victim alive until the first responders arrive.
How to help someone who is not breathing and unconscious
When someone stops breathing, the brain and cells are deprived of oxygen. The brain, in particular, is dependent on oxygen to perform its basic functions. When it doesn’t receive oxygen, damage begins to set in. According to SpinalCord.com, the following occurs:
- Between 30-180 seconds of oxygen deprivation, you may lose consciousness.
- At the one-minute mark, brain cells begin dying.
- At three minutes, neurons suffer more extensive damage, and lasting brain damage becomes more likely.
- At five minutes, death becomes imminent.
- At 10 minutes, even if the brain remains alive, a coma and lasting brain damage are almost inevitable.
- At 15 minutes, survival becomes nearly impossible.
So it is of the utmost importance to help an unconscious person who is not breathing with CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). CPR can be done two ways, depending on the circumstance and the person involved: chest compressions with rescue breath and just chest compressions by themselves. There are also different procedures depending on whether the person is an infant, a child or an adult.
How to help someone who is choking
It can happen that a particle of food or other small item accidentally gets lodged in a person’s respiratory tract and blocks the air flow into the lungs. The person cannot breathe, and if the particle isn’t quickly removed, he will go into respiratory arrest, which means he will stop breathing. The main symptom for someone who is choking is an inability to breathe or talk. He may also cough, or, in very severe cases, start turning blue from lack of oxygen.
When you observe these symptoms, you can help dislodge the particle by alternating between 5 blows between the shoulder blades and 5 thrusts of the Heimlich Maneuver, which is strong pressure applied to the person’s abdomen to help dislodge the particle from his windpipe.
How to help someone who is bleeding severely
Severe blood loss can result from serious cuts, puncture wounds or blunt trauma. According to Healthline.Com: “If too much blood volume is lost, a condition known as hypovolemic shock can occur. Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency in which severe blood and fluid loss impedes the heart to pump sufficient blood to the body. As a result, tissues cannot get enough oxygen, leading to tissue and organ damage.” And death.
It is particularly important to recognize when someone is bleeding from an artery because he could bleed out and die within minutes. You know that the blood is coming from a ruptured artery when it is bright red and seems to spurt out in pulses.
Severe bleeding is stopped by putting pressure on the wound, ideally by holding a sterile cloth or gauze on it. But anything made out of fabric will do in an emergency. If possible, raise the wounded limb over the heart to help slow down the blood flow. In the case of an arterial bleed, do not remove the pressure until medical professionals arrive.
You can help
You may not be a first responder, but you can help even in these life-threatening emergencies. All it takes is willingness to help and some training. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer a variety of courses that teach you how to perform CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver and Emergency First-Aid. Check them out to see which ones fit your needs.
Proper training and preparation will give you the skill and the self-assurance to perform these procedures. And having a well-stocked emergency kit will ensure that you have the necessary materials, such as sterile gauze pads or a CPR mask, to hand.