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First Aid Kits
There are several different kits available, each with slightly different contents and quantities. However, most good home first aid kits will contain the following items:

  • 3 x roller bandages (50mm)

  • 3 x roller bandages (75mm)

  • 2 x triangular bandages

  • Gauze dressing

  • 2 x small wound dressings

  • 2 x medium wound dressings

  • 2 x large wound dressings

  • 1 roll adhesive tape (1m x 2.5cm)

  • Roll of cottonwool for padding

  • 1 pair bandage scissors

  • Safety pins

  • 1 eyebath

  • Tweezers or forceps

  • 1 x burn dressing e.g. Burnshield

  • 1 tube antiseptic ointment

  • 1 pair disposable gloves

  • 1 mouthpiece for administering CPR

  • 1 packet assorted plasters

  • Calamine lotion for soothing skin irritations, sunburn and stings

  • Thermometer

  • Rehydration fluid such as Sorel or Rehidrat

  • Measuring spoons

Dealing with an Emergency
No one wants to imagine having to deal with emergencies. But you can be a lifesaver if you know what to do and are able to help.
Emergencies need quick action, not panic. It sounds like a cliché, but remaining calm is the key to acting sensibly and with confidence. The person in need of help will need your assurance, and sensing your own anxiety and panic will only increase his/her distress.
Don’t wait for an emergency before you refer to these pages. Prepare yourself now by studying this information and, better still, attend a first aid course. The information given here is not meant to replace practical training that is given on a first-aid course. Contact an Ambulance, the Red Cross or other first aid training organisations for courses in your area. If you have taken a course previously, make sure your skills are up-to-date. Make sure that your childminder knows first aid. Again, don’t wait until it is too late.

Post emergency telephone numbers next to all phones in your home and office and save them on your cell phone. Important numbers to keep are of an emergency service, fire department, nearest hospital, the poison information centre and your GP. Know the shortest route to hospital.
Any family member with a serious medical condition, such as a heart condition, epilepsy, diabetes or a drug allergy, should wear a MedicAlert tag or carry a card. This will ensure that proper care can be given. MedicAlert identification can be obtained at your pharmacy or doctor. List any serious medical conditions family members may have and keep the list handy. Teach your children how to call emergency numbers, and tell them to show the list to emergency medical personnel.

Keep a well-stocked first aid kit at home and in your car.
There is a wide spectrum of conditions that can be considered emergencies. Many may turn out not to be as serious as initially suspected, but if in doubt, it is better to react promptly now, than have regrets later.

Dealing with accidents and injuries

  • Stay calm, sum up the situation quickly and act fast.

  • Before you act, adopt the SAFE approach.
    hout for assistance, Approach with care, Free the victim from dangers, and Evaluate the victim. Protect yourself and the injured person from danger or further injury. Look out for hazards such as oncoming traffic and fire. If you cannot reach the person without putting yourself in great danger, leave him or her and call the emergency services immediately. Remember that you will not be able to help anyone if you become a victim yourself.

  • Do not move the person unless there is imminent danger such as a fire. If the person must be moved, there should preferably be someone controlling the neck and head to keep them in alignment, and at least two other people on either side of the person to lift him without moving the spine.

  • Get help. Call out for someone to phone for emergency assistance.

  • Check for breathing.

  • Prioritise problems. Remember that the most obvious injury is not necessarily the most serious. Deal with the most life-threatening problems (such as blocked airway and excessive bleeding) first.

  • Check to see if the person is wearing a MedicAlert tag or other medical identification.

  • Loosen tight clothing and cover the person to keep him or her warm.

  • If there are no suspected back and neck injuries and breathing is normal, move the person into the recovery position.

  • In the case of serious injury or shock, don't give anything to eat or drink.

When to call an ambulance
Calling for an ambulance is generally the fastest way to reach a hospital. A private car may be an alternative option, but only if the hospital is very close by.
In case of poisoning, contact the poison control centre immediately as emergency steps need to be taken before leaving for the hospital.

Call an ambulance if:

  • You don't know what to do or are uncertain of the severity of the injury

  • Someone is unconscious or struggling to breathe

  • You suspect a back or neck injury

  • Someone may be having a heart attack

  • A person is seriously injured

  • A small child is injured, unless you have another adult with you who can drive

  • There is serious bleeding that you cannot stop

When you call an ambulance, state clearly:

  • The site of the emergency (include names of cross streets, if possible)

  • What happened to the victim and the victim’s condition

  • The number of the people injured

  • The age of the victim

  • Your name and contact telephone number

  • Any first aid currently being given

Do not hang up until the operator tells you to. This way you'll be sure that you have given all the necessary information.

You and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can save a life: here’s how.


  • CPR is an emergency procedure performed if someone has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped.

  • The firstaider continues to give CPR until the patient starts breathing unaided or professional help can take over.

  • CPR involves giving a repeated cycle of 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths.

  • It is better to give CPR imperfectly than not at all.

If the brain is starved of oxygen for more than four minutes, as may occur in a near-drowning or heart attack, permanent brain damage can result. Thus immediate action is required: every second counts.

The role of the lay rescuer/first-aider (i.e. anyone who is not a certified medic or paramedic) is to continue to give CPR until the patient starts to breathe unaided or professional help arrives to take over.

Even if you are not an experienced first aider, rather err on the side of giving CPR imperfectly than not giving it at all - it is always better to try than not.

Action plan
In an emergency situation it is difficult to remember what to do and so we learn the simple routine of H H H ABC:

H: Hazards
H: Hello
H: Help
A: Airway
B: Breathing
C: Circulation

Follow these steps:

H is for Hazards
Ask yourself: Are there any life-threatening hazards or dangers to you or the patient? If so, you need to manage them, or move yourself and the patient out of harm’s way.

There is significant risk of infection with mouth-to-mouth contact and so unless the victim is a family member it is best to use a pocket mask during resuscitation. (This simple mask, which covers the patient’s mouth and nose, prevents any contact with body fluids).

If a pocket mask is not available it is acceptable to do compression-only CPR if there are no signs of circulation.

H is for Hello
Is the patient awake or unconscious? Ask loudly: Are you OK? If there is no response, tap the shoulder. In the case of a baby, tap the feet.

If there is no response it means the patient is not getting enough blood and oxygen to the brain and needs help.

H is for Help
Call for others around you to come and help – there may be a doctor or paramedic within shouting distance!

Phone for emergency medical help on one of the following numbers:

  • 112 on a cellular phone

  • 10177 National medical emergency number for ambulance services

  • 082 911 Netcare

  • 084 124 ER24

Tell the operator that you have an unconscious patient and state exactly where you are. They will ask for a call-back number if you have one. If you need advice on how to do CPR they can assist you over the phone.

A is for AIRWAY
Open the airway.

The patient will normally be lying on his or her back. Place two fingers on the forehead and two fingers under the bony part of the chin and gently tilt the head backwards – the so-called “head- tilt chin-lift” method of opening the airway.

Listen, look and feel for breathing. Kneel next to the patient with your head close to his or her head. Look to see if the chest/abdomen rises and falls. Listen for any sound of breathing. Feel for any air moving in or out the mouth or nose: hold your cheek near the patient’s nose and mouth to feel for exhaled air. Do this for up to 10 seconds.

If there is breathing (about 12 breaths or more per minute), place the person in the recovery position.

If there is no breathing (or if you are unsure), log-roll the patient i.e. roll their body as a unit (the vertebral column must be kept in a straight line from head to buttocks) onto his or her back.

If the patient is not breathing you need to breathe for them:

Again, ensure the airway is open by tilting the head back - keep one hand on the victim’s forehead and two fingers of the other hand under the chin to lift the jaw. Place the pocket mask over the patient’s mouth and nose.

  • Blow gently and slowly while you watch to see if the chest rises.

  • Each breath should take 2 seconds (one in one out). Between breaths, lift your head and see if the chest moves. If the chest rises and falls, it is effective breathing. If it does not, adjust the head and try again. Make up to 5 attempts if necessary.

(Airway obstruction is normally related to the tongue and is very seldom due to foreign body obstruction. However, if there is no chest movement at this stage, check for a foreign body, and, if there is a blockage, switch to obstructed airway manoeuvres.)

In addition to breathing for the patient, you need to perform chest compressions to keep blood circulating to the tissues.

It is difficult for the lay rescuer to effectively determine whether the patient has a pulse or not. Therefore, the appropriate action is to start immediately with chest compressions once you have given 2 effective breaths.

Chest compressions:
Kneel beside the patient. Place the heel of one hand in the centre of the chest on the nipple line (imaginary line joining the two nipples) on the breastbone. Place the heel of your other hand on top of the first hand. Lean over the victim with your arms straight and elbows locked, and your shoulders directly above your hands. Press down vertically on the victim’s breastbone 4-5 cm to a count of “one-and-two-and-three-and-four…”, giving one push each time you say a number. When saying “and”, release the pressure but do not move your hands from their location on the chest. Give 30 pumps at a rate of 100 per minute. Push hard and push fast.

Then give 2 slow breaths.

Repeat the cycle of 30 pumps and 2 breaths until help arrives or the patient starts to recover. If you are not sure that the patient is breathing unaided, continue with CPR. Is it not always obvious when someone has started to breathe unaided; they may be breathing but not well enough.

Even if the patient appears to have fully recovered, stay with them and monitor them closely until medical help arrives.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a compression-to-ventilation ratio of 30:2 for all lone (single) rescuers to use for all patients from infants (excluding newborns) to adults. This recommendation applies to all lay rescuers and to all healthcare providers who perform 1-rescuer CPR.

For lay rescuers who have not been trained in CPR, or who have recieved training but feel uncertain about or unwilling to perform ventilation, the AHA recommends performing compression-only, or "hands-only" CPR i.e. pumping the chest at a rate of 100 compressions per minute until emergency help arrives.


A dislocation is an injury in which the ends of your bones are forced from their normal positions. The cause is usually trauma, such as a blow or fall, but dislocation can be caused by an underlying disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Dislocations are common injuries in contact sports, such as football and hockey, and in sports that may involve falls, such as downhill skiing and volleyball. Dislocations may occur in major joints, such as your shoulder, hip, knee, elbow or ankle or in smaller joints, such as your finger, thumb or toe.

The injury will temporarily deform and immobilize your joint and may result in sudden and severe pain and swelling. A dislocation requires prompt medical attention to return your bones to their proper positions.

If you believe you have dislocated a joint:

  1. Don't delay medical care. Get medical help immediately.

  2. Don't move the joint. Until you receive help, splint the affected joint into its fixed position. Don't try to move a dislocated joint or force it back into place. This can damage the joint and its surrounding muscles, ligaments, nerves or blood vessels.

  3. Put ice on the injured joint. This can help reduce swelling by controlling internal bleeding and the buildup of fluids in and around the injured joint.

Fainting occurs when the blood supply to your brain is momentarily inadequate, causing you to lose consciousness. This loss of consciousness is usually brief.

Fainting can have no medical significance, or the cause can be a serious disorder. Therefore, treat loss of consciousness as a medical emergency until the signs and symptoms are relieved and the cause is known.

If you feel faint:

  • Lie down or sit down.

  • If you sit down, place your head between your knees.

Discuss recurrent fainting spells with your doctor.

If someone else faints:

  1. Position the person on his or her back. Elevate the legs above heart level — about 12 inches (30 centimeters), if possible.

  2. Check the person's airway to be sure it's clear. Watch for vomiting.

  3. Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If absent, begin CPR. Call your local emergency number. Continue CPR until help arrives or the person responds and begins to breathe.

  4. Help restore blood flow. If the person is breathing, restore blood flow to the brain by raising the person's legs above the level of the head. Loosen belts, collars or other constrictive clothing. The person should revive quickly. If the person doesn't regain consciousness within one minute, dial local emergency medical assistance.

If the person was injured in a fall associated with a faint, treat any bumps, bruises or cuts appropriately. Control bleeding with direct pressure.

Nosebleeds are common. Most often they are a nuisance and not a true medical problem. But they can be both.

Among children and young adults, nosebleeds usually originate from the septum, just inside the nose. The septum separates your nasal chambers.

In middle-aged and older adults, nosebleeds can begin from the septum, but they may also begin deeper in the nose's interior. This latter origin of nosebleed is much less common. It may be caused by hardened arteries or high blood pressure. These nosebleeds begin spontaneously and are often difficult to stop. They require a specialist's help.

To take care of a nosebleed:

  • Sit upright and lean forward. By remaining upright, you reduce blood pressure in the veins of your nose. This discourages further bleeding. Sitting forward will help you avoid swallowing blood, which can irritate your stomach.

  • Pinch your nose. Use your thumb and index finger and breathe through your mouth. Continue to pinch for five to 10 minutes. This maneuver sends pressure to the bleeding point on the nasal septum and often stops the flow of blood.

  • To prevent re-bleeding after bleeding has stopped, don't pick or blow your nose and don't bend down until several hours after the bleeding episode. Keep your head higher than the level of your heart.

  • If re-bleeding occurs, blow out forcefully to clear your nose of blood clots and spray both sides of your nose with a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline (Afrin, Neo-Synephrine, others). Pinch your nose in the technique described above and call your doctor.

Seek medical care immediately if:

  • The bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes

  • The nosebleed follows an accident, a fall or an injury to your head, including a punch in the face that may have broken your nose

For frequent nosebleeds
If you experience frequent nosebleeds, make an appointment with your doctor. You may need to have the blood vessel that's causing your problem cauterized. Cautery is a technique in which the blood vessel is burned with electric current, silver nitrate or a laser. Sometimes your doctor may pack your nose with special gauze or an inflatable latex balloon to put pressure on the blood vessel and stop the bleeding.

Also call your doctor if you are experiencing nasal bleeding and are taking blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin). Your doctor may advise adjusting your medication intake.

Using supplemental oxygen administered with a nasal tube (cannula) may increase your risk of nosebleeds. Apply a water-based lubricant to your nostrils and increase the humidity in your home to help relieve nasal bleeding.

Puncture wound
A puncture wound doesn't usually cause excessive bleeding. Often the wound seems to close almost instantly. But these features don't mean treatment isn't necessary.

A puncture wound — such as results from stepping on a nail or being stuck with a tack — can be dangerous because of the risk of infection. The object that caused the wound may carry spores of tetanus or other bacteria, especially if the object has been exposed to the soil. Puncture wounds resulting from human or animal bites, including those of domestic dogs and cats, may be especially prone to infection. Puncture wounds on the foot are also more vulnerable to infection.

If the bite was deep enough to draw blood and the bleeding persists, seek medical attention. Otherwise, follow these steps:

  1. Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If they don't, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. If bleeding persists — if the blood spurts or continues to flow after several minutes of pressure — seek emergency assistance.

  2. Clean the wound. Rinse the wound well with clear water. A tweezers cleaned with alcohol may be used to remove small, superficial particles. If larger debris still remains more deeply embedded in the wound, see your doctor. Thorough wound cleaning reduces the risk of tetanus. To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a clean washcloth.

  3. Apply an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment (Neosporin, Polysporin) to help keep the surface moist. These products don't make the wound heal faster, but they can discourage infection and allow your body to close the wound more efficiently. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.

  4. Cover the wound. Exposure to air speeds healing, but bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out.

  5. Change the dressing regularly. Do so at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty. If you're allergic to the adhesive used in most bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze and hypoallergenic paper tape, which doesn't cause allergic reactions. These supplies are generally available at pharmacies.

  6. Watch for signs of infection. See your doctor if the wound doesn't heal or if you notice any redness, drainage, warmth or swelling.

If the puncture is deep, is in your foot, is contaminated or is the result of an animal or human bite, see your doctor. He or she will evaluate the wound, clean it and, if necessary, close it. If you haven't had a tetanus shot within five years, your doctor may recommend a booster within 48 hours of the injury.

Severe Bleeding
Severe bleeding can rapidly lead to shock, loss of consciousness or even death. It is usually the result of a stab wound, gunshot, a severe blow, a deep cut, or a fractured pelvis or femur.

Warning: Never touch someone's blood without latex gloves unless you are certain of the person's HIV or hepatitis B status. If gloves are not available, use plastic bags.

Home treatment

  • Call an ambulance.

  • Apply firm pressure directly on the wound with a clean pad, bandage or even a piece of clothing. Apply pressure around an embedded object.

  • Elevate the injured limb. Lie the person down.

  • Remove any obvious superficial dirt and debris from the wound. Do not attempt to clean the wound or probe it. If an object is embedded in the wound, don't remove it. If the wound is abdominal and organs have been displaced, don’t try to reposition them. Cover with a wet dressing or cloth.

  • If the bandage becomes soaked with blood, do not remove it. Apply a fresh bandage over it.

  • Continue to apply pressure for 10 minutes. If bleeding stops, bind the original wound dressing tightly with a clean bandage. Check for circulation beyond the bandage every 10 minutes, and loosen the bandage slightly if it is restricting circulation. Do not use a tourniquet.

  • If bleeding does not stop despite continued pressure on the wound, apply firm pressure to the main artery between the wound and heart. Squeeze the artery against the bone. With your other hand, continue to apply pressure on the wound.

  • While waiting for help to arrive, immobilise the injured limb and don't give the person anything to eat or drink. Treat for shock if necessary.

Signs of internal bleeding
With internal bleeding, a person can lose a huge amount of blood with no visible bleeding. Suspect internal bleeding if a person has been in a car accident, has suffered a severe blow to the body or head or has fallen from a height.

Signs include coughing up or the vomiting of blood, bleeding from the ears, nose, rectum or vagina, bruising on the chest, abdomen or neck, wounds that have penetrated the skull, chest or abdomen, abdominal tenderness or swelling or fractures. Signs of shock may be present. Get help immediately if you suspect internal bleeding.

What to Do:

For a Suspected Broken Bone:
  • If the injury involves your child's neck or back, do not move him/her unless the child is in imminent danger. Movement can cause serious nerve damage. Phone for emergency medical help. If your child must be moved, the neck and back must be completely immobilized first. Keeping your child's head, neck, and back in alignment, move the child as a unit.

  • If your child has an open break (bone protrudes through the skin) and there is severe bleeding, apply pressure on the bleeding area with a gauze pad or a clean piece of clothing or other material. Do not wash the wound or try to push back any part of the bone that may be sticking out.

  • If your child must be moved, apply splints around the injured limb to prevent further injury. Leave the limb in the position you find it. The splints should be applied in that position. Splints can be made by using boards, brooms, a stack of newspapers, cardboard, or anything firm, and can be padded with pillows, shirts, towels, or anything soft. Splints must be long enough to extend beyond the joints above and below the fracture.

  • Place cold packs or a bag of ice wrapped in cloth on the injured area.

  • Keep your child lying down until medical help arrives.

For a Suspected Sprain or Strain:
  • If the injury involves your child's neck or back, do not move him unless the child is in imminent danger. Movement can cause serious nerve damage. Phone for emergency medical help. If your child must be moved, the neck and back must be completely immobilized first. Keeping the head, neck, and back in alignment, move your child as a unit.

  • It may be difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a break. If there is any doubt whatsoever, phone your child's doctor or take your child to the nearest hospital emergency department. An X-ray can determine whether a bone is broken.

  • First aid for sprains and strains includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (known as PRICE).

    • Protect the injured limb from further injury by not using the joint. You can do this using anything from splints to crutches.

    • Rest the injured part of the body.

    • Apply ice packs or cold compresses for up to 10 or 15 minutes at a time every few hours for the first 2 days to prevent swelling.

    • Wearing an elastic compression bandage (such as an ACE bandage) for at least 2 days will reduce swelling.

    • Keep the injured part elevated above the level of the heart as much as possible to reduce swelling.

  • Do not apply heat in any form for at least 24 hours. Heat increases swelling and pain.

  • Your child's doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

A stroke occurs when there's bleeding into your brain, or normal blood flow to your brain is blocked. Within minutes of being deprived of essential nutrients, brain cells start dying — a process that may continue over the next several hours.

A stroke is a true emergency. Seek immediate medical assistance. The sooner treatment is given, the more likely it is that damage can be minimized. Every moment counts.

If you notice a sudden onset of one or more of the following signs or symptoms, call local emergency number immediately:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in your face, arm or leg on one side of your body

  • Sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision, particularly in one eye

  • Loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding speech

  • Sudden, severe headache — a bolt out of the blue — with no apparent cause

  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially if accompanied by any of the other symptoms

Risk factors for stroke include having high blood pressure, having had a previous stroke, smoking, having diabetes and having heart disease. Your risk of stroke increases as you age.

National medical emergency numbers:
112 on a cellular phone
10177 National medical emergency number for ambulance services
082 911 Netcare
084 124 ER24



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