Someone holding a first aid kit

The last time someone spoke to me about first aid, I was a loyal scout who religiously adorned her scouting uniform every Monday and Friday. These were the days when we received trainings on various issues, and among them, was basic first aid. Scouting was such a privilege! After all, since 1908, its motto has always been “Be Prepared”

On Tuesday the 8th of September 2020, the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central had invited Victor Makumi, an experienced First Aider with St John Ambulance Rift Valley Chapter who is currently a Medical Student at Egerton University, to speak on Basic First Aid skills.

A lot of things come to mind upon the mention of the word “First Aid”. To me, the first thing and the most dominant one, is blood, followed by a First Aid kit. Did you know that special consideration is given to children, infants and pregnant women when conducting first aid?

Victor started by defining First Aid as care given to a patient before professional help arrives. In addition to that, it is paramount for you to understand that First Aid is as important as professional medical assistance. This is because First Aid helps preserve life, limit the effect of a particular condition and catapults casualty recoveries. As we get used to the new normal under the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are stuck at home – either working from home or just buying time for the reopening of the county. We are trying new things such as cooking or building. Accidents, just like COVID 19, are a respecter of no man; they just happen. First Aid skills will help you to manage the incident by assessing the situation, making the area safe, giving emergency aid, getting medical help and dealing with the aftermath.

We all need basic First Aid skills!

The ABCs of Casualty Management were our next topic of discussion, both literally and figuratively. In the medical jargon, ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation and Deformities. Airway; always ensure that the airway is not blocked. This ensures that oxygen can freely flow in. Breathing; this entails looking, listening and feeling for five to ten seconds to ascertain whether the patient is actually breathing. Circulation; which entails looking/ feeling for a pulse and stopping any visible bleeding. Deformities; which entails immobilizing fractures that may have occurred.

Turns out knowing how to handle and control a nose bleed is not the only first aid skill you need. There are various procedures for different conditions. Keep scrolling; let’s continue learning together!

Disclaimer, there are heavy medical jargon coming right up! Thankfully, our guest speaker was gracious enough to unpack this medical jargon for us to comprehensively understand. C.P.R (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is well known as the “kiss of life”. This is performed on non-breathing casualties after assessing the situation. Another common condition that we experience in our daily lives is choking on food. In this situation, a victim or the first aider should perform what we call a “Heimlich Manoeuver”. The interesting aspect about this is that an individual (the victim) can perform it on themselves. This technique is used to clear the airways on choking victims. It involves a series of sharp upward thrusts on the abdomen. Self-administered thrusts produce similar pressures to those performed by another person. This procedure gives special consideration to children, infants and pregnant women as the thrust are performed differently.

At this point, I also thought I had my basics all done and I was ready to get my badge but there were a few more things to learn which concerned a few matters of the heart.

Have you ever fainted or seen someone faint? Fainting happens to be caused by a temporary reduction of blood flow to the brain. First Aid performed aims at improving blood flow to the brain. This can be done by laying the casualty down and elevating their legs. As this is done, it is important to survey for other secondary injuries and then allow the patient to gradually sit down.

It would be very unfair to end a First Aid meeting without speaking on how to treat bleeding and burns. When a victim is bleeding, the role of a first aid provider is to control the bleeding. This can be done by applying fingertip-pressure directly on the point of bleeding. If, for example, the bleeding is taking place on the arm/leg it is advised to raise the arm/leg above the level of the heart. Elevate painful, swollen, deformed or injured extremities only after splinting. Large gaping wounds may require packing with sterile gauze and inserting direct pressure to control bleeding. The most common bleeding that we have all experienced is probably a nose bleed. A nose bleed is handled by advising the victim to breathe through the mouth. This should be followed by pinching the soft part of the mouth for approximately ten minutes, during this time the victim should avoid swallowing blood. When the bleeding comes to a stop, ask the victim not to pick or blow the nose to avoid rapturing the capillaries. A cold compress may be applied above the nose to minimize blood flow.

The other condition we looked into was how to treat burns. The most important step is cooling the burn under cold water for at least ten to twenty minutes. After that, remove any constrictions around the burn area; a watch or a ring, before swelling starts. Cover the burn with gauze dressing or polythene. A few precautions for treating burns include; do not touch the burnt area, do not burst a blister, do not apply lotion or cream, do not remove burnt clothing sticking up on the wound unless it is contaminated with chemicals, use fluffy materials like cotton wool to cover a burn lastly was to avoid underestimating a burn.

These are some of the few basic first aid skills I took home.

These was an extremely informative meeting and if you would like to experience this side of Rotaract, feel free to join us every Tuesday fortnight as we discuss exciting topics with a wide array of speakers.

Until then, stay safe and remember the ABCs.

Article by: Susan K. Maina (Rtr) | Assistant Secretary | Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central

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