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California State University, Long Beach
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First Aid

First aid is temporary help given to someone who is injured or sick before professional medical treatment is available. It can be life saving and may only consist of simple techniques.

It is important to know the basics of what to do in case of an emergency. These topics will include the preventive measures of items to include in a home first aid kit, and first aid situations (e.g. unconsciousness, strains, poisoning).

Breathing Difficulty


  • Coughing
  • Gurgling, wheezing, or whistling sounds
  • Labored breathing, tense chest muscles
  • Shortness of breath; inability to breathe deeply
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • High pitched sounds while breathing

First Aid:

  1. Call 911 immediately. Check the victim's circulation, airway, and breathing (CAB).
  2. Begin CPR and rescue breathing, if necessary.
  3. If necessary, control bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound or by pressing the artery closest to the wound.
  4. Loosen any constricting clothing.
  5. Assist the victim with any prescribed medication (such as an asthma inhaler or home oxygen).
  6. Continue to monitor the victim's breathing and circulation until medical help arrives. Do not mistake drowsiness for an improvement in the victim's condition.
  7. Do not assume that the victim's condition is improving if you can no longer hear wheezing.
  8. If there are no open wounds but the victim's chest moves in an uneven way while breathing, suspect broken ribs. Firmly support the injured side.
  9. If there are open wounds in the neck or chest, they must be closed immediately, especially if air bubbles appear in the wound. Bandage these wounds immediately.
  10. A sucking chest wound allows air to enter the victim's chest cavity with each breath; this can cause a collapsed lung. Bandage the wound with plastic wrap, a plastic bag, or gauze pads covered with petroleum jelly, sealing it except for one corner. This allows trapped air to escape from the chest but prevents air from entering the chest through the wound.

Seizures or Convulsions

Epilepsy is a common cause of seizures; however, seizures that start suddenly without any prior history of epilepsy may be caused by a high fever, head injury, or electric shock. Stroke, tumor, and toxic substances can also cause seizures. In young children with high fevers, convulsions may be due to febrile seizures (convulsion in a child triggered by a fever) or diseases such as meningitis. Most seizures last only a minute or two and stop spontaneously.  However, anyone suffering a seizure for the first time should be brought promptly to a hospital emergency room.


  • Part or all of the person's body may stiffen or jerk.
  • The person may urinate and/or defecate.
  • Saliva or foam may come out of the mouth.

First Aid:

  1. Protect the person from injury - (remove harmful objects from nearby).
  2. Cushion their head Look for an epilepsy identity card after convulsions have ceased.
  3. Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once the seizure has finished.
  4. Be calm and assure the person.
  5. Stay with the person until recovery is complete.

What not to do:

  1. Don’t restrain the person.
  2. Don’t put anything in the person’s mouth.
  3. Don’t try to move the person.
  4. Don’t give the person anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered.

Call 9-1-1 if:

  • You know it is the person’s first seizure
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes.
  • One seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness between them.
  • The person is injured during the seizure.
  • The person needs urgent medical attention.

The Recovery Position:

The recovery position enables the victim to recover from the incident in a position that won't cause choking.

  1. Kneel beside the victim, turn his or her face toward you, put the victim's near arm at his or her side and place it under his or her buttock.
  2. Place the victim's other arm across the chest.
  3. Move the victim's far leg over the near leg so the ankles are crossed.
  4. While supporting the victim's head with one hand, grab the clothing at the hip and pull the victim toward you.
  5. Bend the victim's top arm to support the upper body.
  6. Bend the victim's top knee to support the lower body. Gently tilt the victim's head back to make sure the airway is open.


Poison SymbolPoisoning

Every day, nearly 82 people die from unintentional poisoning, and another 1,941 are treated in the emergency room. Unintentional poisoning death rates have been rising steadily since 1992.

The first aid you give before you get medical help can save a victim's life. In a poisoning emergency, immediate first aid is critical.


  • Medicines (such as an aspirin overdose)
  • Household detergents
  • Household plants (eating toxic plants)
  • Insecticides
  • Animals (exposure to the toxic substances produced by some animals)
  • Paints (swallowing)
  • Cosmetics (incorrectly used)
  • Drug overdose (accidental or intentional)
  • Occupational gaseous poisoning
  • Food poisoning (such as botulism)

Call 9-1-1 immediately if:

Someone has been poisoned. Call your local poison control center.  In Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Regional Drug and Poison Information Center number is (213) 222-3212 or the State Poison Control Center at (800) 876-4766.


First Aid for Swallowing Poison:

  1. Check and monitor the person's airway, breathing, and pulse. If necessary, begin CPR, then rescue breathing.  
  2. Confirm that the person has been poisoned. It may be hard to tell.
  3. Some signs include chemical-smelling breath, burns around the mouth, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or unusual odors on the person. If possible, identify the poison.
  4. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
  5. Call your local poison control center at (213) 222-3212 or National Capital Poison Center at (800)222-1222
  6. If the person vomits, clear the person's airway. Wrap a cloth around your fingers before cleaning out the mouth and throat. If the person has been sick from a plant part, save the vomit. It may help experts identify what medicine can be used to help reverse the poisoning.
  7. If the person starts having convulsions, give convulsion first aid.
  8. Keep the person comfortable.
  9. The person should be rolled onto their side, and remain there while receiving or waiting for medical help.
  10. If the poison has spilled on the person's clothes, remove the clothing and flush the skin with water continuously.

First Aid for Inhaling Poison:

  1. Call for emergency help.
  2. Never attempt to rescue a person without notifying others first.
  3. If it is safe to do so, rescue the person from the danger of the gas, fumes, or smoke.
  4. Open windows and doors to remove the fumes.
  5. Take several deep breaths of fresh air, and then hold your breath as you go in.
  6. Hold a wet cloth over your nose and mouth.
  7. Do not light a match or use a lighter because some gases can catch fire.
  8. After rescuing the person from danger, check and monitor the person's airway, breathing, and pulse. If necessary, begin chest compressions, then rescue breathing.
  9. If necessary, perform first aid for eye injuries.
  10. If the person vomits, clear the person's airway. Wrap a cloth around your fingers before cleaning out the mouth and throat. Even if the person seems perfectly fine, get medical help.

Unconsciousness or ComaFirst Aid Books


The person may not be totally unconscious. Symptoms before or after an unconscious episode may include; disorientation, drowsiness, and stupor.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if:

  • The victim has a sudden, noticeable change in their level of consciousness.
  • The victim has one sided weakness.
  • The victim does not regain consciousness right away.

First Aid:

  1. Check the victim's circulation, airway, and breathing (CAB)S. If necessary, begin chest compressions and rescue breathing.
  2. If a spinal injury is not suspected and the victim is lying on his or her back, place the victim in the Recovery Position, as described above.
  3. If a spinal injury is suspected, leave the victim as he or she was found (as long as they are breathing freely). If the victim vomits, "log roll" the victim by supporting the neck and spine to keep head position neutral with body position while turning the victim on the side.
  4. Gently restrain the victim if he or she becomes agitated. Give first aid for convulsions, if necessary.
  5. Keep the victim warm until medical help is obtained.
  6. If unconsciousness is due to low blood sugar, have the victim eat or drink something sweet, such as juice, upon gaining consciousness.


Heimlich ManeuverChoking: Heimlich Maneuver

The Heimlich Maneuver is best known method of removing an object from the airway of a person who is choking. You can use it on yourself or someone else.

  • If someone is unable to speak, cough or breathe and has an obstruction in their throat, following these steps can save the individual’s life!
  1. Give up to 5 abdominal thrusts.
  2. Place a clenched fist between the navel and the bottom of the breast bone and pull inwards and upwards.
  3. Check the mouth quickly after each one.
  4. If the obstruction does not clear after three cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts, dial 911 for an ambulance.
  5. If the person loses consciousness, begin chest compressions and rescue breathing (CPR).

References and Resources

Active First Aid
Health World: Emergency and First Aid