20 Common First Aid Scenarios To Be Prepared For
Approx. 50% of the Australian population is trained to perform CPR, but when it comes to first aid, the figures are grim.
According to recent survey data collated by St John Ambulance, only 36% of Aussies have participated in a first aid training course in the past 3 years. In Victoria alone, that figure drops to just 31%.
Whether you’re at home, at work or out in public, there are a multitude of first aid scenarios, medical incidents and emergencies that can occur. So, these statistics are even more worrying when you realise that very few people are prepared or confident enough to render assistance if the worst were to happen.
So, read on for 20 reasons why it’s so important to learn even just basic first aid…
1. Allergic Reactions
One of the most common first aid scenarios is an allergic reaction.
Around 1 in 3 adults will develop an allergy at some point in their lives, with symptoms ranging from rashes or hives to nausea, vomiting and swelling around the tongue or throat.
Although most people can manage their condition by avoiding known triggers or taking medication such as antihistamines, some people can suffer more acutely. This is called anaphylaxis, or an anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which causes a range of symptoms simultaneously. It requires immediate attention, including the administration of first aid and the use of an adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen).
Around 2.7 million Australians live with asthma.
Asthma is a chronic, long-term lung condition that causes airways to become inflamed and narrow, resulting in breathing difficulties and wheezing.
In their day–to–day lives, sufferers use preventers and inhalers to control their symptoms, but changes in lifestyle, air quality and weather (such as thunderstorm asthma) can trigger a flare up or even a life–threatening attack.
In the event of an attack, those in the vicinity of a sufferer should call 000 right away and undertake first aid in the interim.
3. Bites & Stings
Another common first aid scenario is getting bitten or stung by an animal or insect.
They can be anything from ticks, bees, wasps and mosquitos, to spiders, snakes, jellyfish, dogs, cats and even plants.
A nip from a non–venomous creature will only result in some mild pain and discomfort, such as itching, swelling and redness around the area. However, if you’ve been bitten in a vulnerable spot or from a suspected toxic source, the outcome could be deadly.
Being trained in first aid means a person can evaluate the danger level of the situation and assist accordingly. If in doubt, always call an ambulance.
Bleeding can happen for a lot of different reasons.
It can be the result of a cut, abrasion or bruise, a laceration, a puncture, scratching a sore or scab or blowing your nose too hard (nosebleed).
The origins of an external bleed are easy to find, as the blood will be coming directly from the affected area. If the amount of blood is minimal, it can easily be stopped with basic first aid, such as raising a limb and applying pressure to the wound.
However, if someone is bleeding profusely or believes they are bleeding internally (due to damage to a major vein or artery), professional medical assistance is required immediately.
Every year in Australia, there are approx. 50,000 burns–related hospital admissions, with children under the age of 4 in the highest risk category.
Kids are commonly scalded by pulling down hot food and drinks left unattended on a bench or table, and because they are doused from a height, the burns can cover a significant percentage of their bodies, from the head and neck to the chest and shoulders.
For adults, burns can also happen for the same reasons, as well as incidental contact with an open flame, electrical or chemical object, a fire or overexposure to the sun.
There are 3 degrees of severity: Superficial / First–Degree Burns, Partial Thickness / Second–Degree Burns and Full Thickness / Third–Degree Burns. A first aid course will teach you how to effectively treat minor burns (and just as importantly, what not to do, as the wrong response can cause more pain and permanent scarring).
6. Car Accidents
Sadly, car accidents are a regular occurrence on our roads, so injuries as a result are commonplace.
Obvious health concerns after a collision include whiplash, fractures, sprains and strains, concussions and brain injuries, bruises and bleeding (internal and external), soft tissue damage, paralysis and injuries to the hands, head, neck, spinal cord, back and legs.
Being equipped to provide first aid (as well as comfort and support) to a road trauma victim is a very important skill to have.
While a basic course doesn’t specifically cover car accidents, it does cover the array of conditions listed above that can occur because of a crash.
7. Cardiac Conditions
Heart conditions can not only impact your daily life but can be life threatening.
They can be hereditary or congenital, so a person just has to learn to live with it and monitor symptoms. But they can also be brought on by other diseases, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, or bad lifestyle choices, such as an unhealthy diet, a lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol or drug abuse.
The most common cardiac conditions are arrhythmia, angina, cardiac arrest (aka a heart attack), cardiomyopathy, coronary heart disease and heart valve disease.
Being able to recognise the signs of a heart attack can be the difference between life and death. This is taught in a first aid course, as well as how to perform CPR and how to operate a defibrillator (AED).
8. Chemical Exposure
The average Aussie home is full of potential hazards and first aid scenarios.
Mostly used for housework and DIY, products such as cleaners and polishes, paints, oils and varnishes, bleach, baits, pesticides, glues and aerosols are highly toxic if they come into contact with your skin or are inhaled or swallowed.
Unsafe quantities or contact can trigger respiratory issues such as shortness of breath, burns and welts, chest–pain, gagging, an irregular heartbeat and even acute poisoning.
Any exposure – be it to a common, heavy duty or industrial chemical substance – is a serious medical emergency and can have catastrophic consequences if the person isn’t treated fast.
Everyone has experienced the horrific feeling of having food “go down the wrong way”.
An obstruction in the airways is the cause of great panic, and with good reason! 1,450 people were hospitalised in 2021–22 due to choking or suffocation caused by food or a foreign body obstructing the respiratory tract.
2 out of 3 times, it’s chewing related, with the elderly at risk of choking on their food. With young children though, they tend to run into complications trying to swallow everything from small toy parts, batteries and buttons, to coins, magnets and marbles.
Learning how to recognise and respond to choking is one of the first things you’ll learn in a first aid course, and it’s probably the first one you’ll put into action in a real–world scenario. A person might be able to cough up an obstruction themselves, but if it’s serious, medical help is a must. And despite what many people think, the Heimlich manoeuvre is actually not recommended.
10. Crush Injuries
A crush injury happens when a body part (or the whole body) is trapped, pinched or jammed under or between heavy objects.
It’s a common issue in car accidents, on farms with machinery and on construction sites with industrial equipment. The pressure and trauma caused by a crush injury can damage skin, muscle, nerves and bone. In extreme cases where a person has been pinned for a prolonged period of time, sometimes amputation is the only option.
Symptoms include cuts, bruises and bleeding, swelling, fractures or breaks, nerve damage, intense pain / aching or numbness / pins–and–needles.
As the full extent of a crush injury is often hard to tell, calling 000 as soon as an incident occurs is key. If it is safe for the offending object(s) to be removed, do so, and then assess the bleeding or wound situation. If bleeding is excessive, apply a tourniquet above the injury before lifting the object off. This can help prevent the sudden release of toxins into the circulatory system.
1 in 20 Australians live with diabetes day–to–day, and mostly those over the age of 80.
Although it’s a common disease, it is still chronic, requiring constant monitoring and medication. If a person’s blood sugar rises or drops dramatically, their condition can worsen fast.
Being able to identify symptoms is key. If a person is suffering from high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), they can experience tiredness, blurred vision, excessive thirst and hot or dry skin. For someone with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), they can become hungry, weak, irritable, shaky, sweaty, get a headache, feel faint / dizzy, struggle to concentrate or get numbness around the fingers and lips.
The best course of action (as an accompaniment to first aid) is to give the patient a sugary drink. Any form of sugar can save their life if their blood sugar is low, and it won’t do them any harm if their blood sugar is high.
Children under 4 and adults between the ages of 40 and 44 account for the highest number of deaths by drowning.
For babies and toddlers, they are at risk around pools and bathtubs, whilst adults are most at risk swimming in the ocean, boating, riding on jet skis, snorkelling and rock fishing.
One of the worst drowning seasons, naturally, is Summer, as people flock to the nearest beach or body of water. With so many people in the water (and many with very little swimming experience), lifeguards struggle to keep an eye on everyone. This is where as many civilians as possible knowing first aid becomes crucial.
You will be taught how to perform CPR on babies, children and adults, as the number of sets, compressions and breaths differs between the ages.
13. Fractures & Dislocations
Some more common first aid scenarios are breaks and fractures – and you don’t have to be participating in sport to suffer an injury!
Breaking an arm, wrist, leg or ankle can happen in the most innocuous situations. Dislocations are also a frequent occurrence, from finger and toe joints, to knees, shoulders, elbows and hips.
Being able to provide proper first aid will help reduce pain, bleeding, and tissue damage around the bone until further medical assistance arrives. It will also decrease the likelihood of ongoing complications.
In a first aid course, you’ll learn how to treat fractures using immobilisation techniques.
14. Heat Stroke
During Summer in Australia, temperatures can soar to as much as 40°C – sometimes even for consecutive days!
It’s during times like this that people are at risk of developing heat stroke.
Heat stroke is referred to as hyperthermia when a person has an abnormally high body temperature and overheats. If the body can’t properly regulate its temperature or sweat, it won’t be able to cool down.
Constant exposure to hot weather can prompt heat induced conditions, such as a swelling of the heart, muscle cramps, exhaustion and dehydration. If first aid is not given when symptoms first arise, these conditions can develop into stroke, kidney failure and even brain damage.
If heat stroke is at one end of the spectrum, hypothermia is at the other.
Caused by prolonged exposure to very cold conditions, hypothermia happens when the body begins to lose heat faster than it produces it. Lengthy exposure will eventually use up all the body’s energy, which leads to a lower, overall body temperature.
Symptoms of mild hypothermia include feeling cold, shivering, clumsiness and slurred speech. Severe hypothermia shows many of the same signs, with the inclusion of some more serious ones, like a slow heart rate, difficulty finding a pulse and even loss of consciousness. In the most extreme cases, such as in snowy conditions, frostbite can occur.
Warming a patient up is the most obvious treatment, and it’s luckily the most effective one too. Move them to a dry, warm place, cover them with coats, blankets, hot water bottles and heat packs and give them warm drinks. Body–to–body contact is also useful.
When you think of poisoning, chances are you think of food. The most common form, however, is household products ingested by children.
These products are everything from air fresheners, all–purpose cleaners, detergents, disinfectants and nail polish removers to pool chemicals to button batteries, herbicides, hand sanitisers and soaps.
Signs and symptoms of poisoning include nausea and vomiting, stomach pains, headaches, drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, burning of the throat and blistering or redness on the skin.
The best response to poisoning is to call 000 and the Victorian Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26) straight away. In the meantime, do not give the sufferer anything to drink, as fluid consumption can speed up absorption rather than dilute it.
A seizure (or convulsion) is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells.
It often manifests suddenly in involuntary and abnormal muscle movements, such as stiffness, twitching or limpness. In a lot of cases, the shaking can be violent and uncontrollable.
Many things can trigger a seizure. It can be due to epilepsy, diabetes, heart disease or stroke. It can be brought on by an infection, a head injury, an electric shock, poisoning, high blood pressure, venomous bites, drug abuse or withdrawals from alcohol or certain medications.
Often, a seizure must just run its course (especially if it’s not an uncommon condition for the patient). The best thing to do is stay with the person and not restrain them in any way. In first aid training, you are taught how to monitor symptoms and put them in a recovery position afterwards.
Shock is the body’s response to a sudden drop in blood pressure.
It can be triggered by a range of things, from trauma, heat stroke, blood loss or an allergic reaction, to a severe infection, burns and poisoning. When a person is in shock, their organs don’t get enough blood or oxygen. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent organ damage and even death.
Symptoms of shock can include cold, clammy skin, a pale complexion, rapid breathing and a rapid pulse, enlarged pupils, dizziness, anxiousness, fatigue and nausea.
It can be hard to determine the severity of a case of shock, so calling emergency services is the best response. You can also comfort the sufferer and administer first aid while you’re waiting.
19. Sprains & Strains
A sprain is an injury to the ligaments at a joint in the body. A strain is an injury to the muscle or tendon.
Sprains and strains occur for a number of reasons. You may have overstretched or jarred your joints during vigorous exercise, or it may have been something as simple as a trip, slip or fall. Sprains and strains to the back or knee most commonly happen in the workplace, particularly if you don’t lift or bend correctly.
To the untrained eye, differentiating between a sprain and a strain is difficult, and this is why basic first aid training is so important.
Fast treatment should include rest, ice, compression and elevation (avoid applying heat or massaging the area as this can inflame the condition).
A stroke is essentially a heart attack in the brain.
It occurs when blood flow is blocked or there is sudden bleeding in the brain. 470,000 Australians are living with the permanent effects of stroke, which range from paralysis and pain to memory loss and difficulty speaking.
Time is of the essence when it comes to a stroke, so the acronym FAST was developed to help the average person recognise a stroke and act quickly. It stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time.
The best thing to do after noticing symptoms is to support them (both verbally and physically) and call paramedics.
Industry Wide Training’s comprehensive First Aid course covers the signs, symptoms and management of a wide range of common conditions and injuries. It runs for 2 hours and costs $90 per person, with certificates issued within 24 hours of completion. Contact us today for more information or to book a session!