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Knowing first aid can save scores of lives

health and fitness Updated: Oct 10, 2012 00:28 IST
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Do you know what to do if someone collapsed in front of you? Up to 140,000 people per year die when they might have been saved if first aid had been available, says a new campaign. But fewer than one in five of us know even the basics.

Admittedly, it can be scary pounding on a stranger's chest, and can't you harm them by doing it wrong? The new campaign started in the UK says there are five main life-threatening events for which we should all be able to give first aid.

These are when someone is choking, has severe bleeding, is having a heart attack, is unconscious and breathing or is unconscious and not breathing.

The solution: As you are giving first aid, remember to talk to the person and not just treat them like a mannequin.

Giving first aid is about trying to keep someone alive until professional help arrives. For the severe problems listed here, you only have three to four minutes to start your first aid or the person could die.

If you think someone needs first aid because they seem to be unconscious, try calling out to them or rubbing the centre of their chest. Contact the emergency services. It is sensible to place a person in the recovery position (lying on their side with the upper leg's knee and hip bent at right angles and the casualty's head tilted back so the airway is open).

If the person is breathing and is unconscious, and you think they might have a spinal injury, then don't move them.

If someone is bleeding heavily from an arm or leg you should call for help and put firm pressure on the wound with your palm. Raise the arm or leg, gently, with support, higher than the heart to reduce blood loss.

If someone is unconscious and not breathing, you need to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Interlock your fingers and place the heel of one hand on the centre of the person's chest. Press down so you can feel the ribs move down and repeat at a rate of 100-120 a minute. Remember: in most cases you are more likely to help than do harm.