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First Aid Quick Reference Guide

How to Handle an Emergency


 Key Skill:  Take a deep breath. You can do this.

  • Be alert for danger.

  • Call 911. When you call, know how many victims and how serious there injuries are.

  • If the person is unconscious or does not respond, be ready to start CPR.


  • Do NOT wait to see if the person's condition improves before getting medical help.

  • Call 911 immediately.

  • Do NOT leave the person alone unless absolutely necessary.

  • Do NOT give the person food or drink.

  • In general, do NOT place a pillow under the person's head. This can close the airway.


 Unconscious and Not Breathing


 Key Skill:  Not certain the person is breathing? Start CPR!

  • Call 911 (or send someone to call 911).

  • Get the AED (or send someone to get the AED).

  • Perform CPR.


Unconscious and Breathing


 Key Skill:   If you’re sure they’re breathing, keep their airway open and await EMS.

  • Call 911.

  • Keep the person’s airway open by gently tilting back their head.


Severe Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis)


 Key Skill:   If the person has an Epi-pen, use it.

• Severe allergic reactions involve (i) trouble breathing or a swollen tongue/face, or (ii) fainting or unconsciousness and usually affect multiple parts of the body. In contrast, mild allergic reactions involve only localized swelling, stuffy nose, sneezing and itching.

• Call 911. If the person has an Epi-pen, have him use it. If he can’t, use it for him.


Major Bleeding


 Key Skill:   Apply firm pressure. Don’t let go. Use a tourniquet if needed.

• Apply firm direct pressure to the wound using a dressing (e.g. medical gauze or a towel). If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply additional dressings (don’t remove the old one) and press harder.

• Call 911 if the bleeding is severe or won’t stop.

• Apply a tourniquet if you’ve been trained to do so. A tourniquet can be made from a belt or a strip of cloth at least 1.5” – 2” wide. Use a stick or something similar to tighten the tourniquet.


Bleeding from the Mouth


 Key Skill:   If you can reach the area in the mouth that’s bleeding, apply pressure with dressings.


Bleeding from the Nose


 Key Skill:   Pinch the nose firmly on both sides and lean forward.

  • Apply constant pressure.

  • If the bleeding continues, press harder.


Breathing Problem


 Key Skill:   Call 911. If the person has an inhaler, help them use it.

  • If the person has an inhaler, help them use it.

  • Mild breathing problems can become more serious rapidly. For moderate or severe breathing problems, especially those that do not resolve with use of the inhaler, call 911. Do not drive the person to the emergency department.

  • If they stop breathing and become unconscious, perform CPR.


Broken Arm


 Key Skill:   Have the person support the injured arm with their other arm.

  • Use a piece of clothing or a large towel to immobilize the injured arm.




 Key Skill:   Hold under cool running water or apply a cold, wet towel for at least 10 minutes.

  • Quickly remove rings or other tight items from the burned area before it swells.

  • Call 911 or go to the ED if the burn looks deep (the skin may be white or brown and dry), large (more than a tenth of the body), or is on the face, hands, or genitals.

Read More about Burns...




 Key Skill:   If the person cannot breath, get behind them and perform the Heimlich.

  • If the person cannot breath, coughs without any sound, cannot make any sound, or makes the choking sign, perform the Heimlich maneuver. If a person can make sounds or cough loudly, allow them to cough and try to clear the blockage.

  • Get behind the person, place one fist just above the belly button, grab your fist with your other hand and give quick upward thrusts.

  • If the person becomes unconscious, perform CPR.


Cuts and Scrapes


 Key Skill:   Clean with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, put on a bandaid.

  • Stop the bleeding (with direct pressure), clean with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, put on a bandaid.

  • If the bleeding doesn't stop with 15 minutes, consider going to the ER.

  • Stitches may be needed if the wound is more than 1/4 in. deep, has jagged edges, won’t stay closed with a bandaid, goes down to the fat, muscle, bone, or other deep structures, is over a joint, especially if the wound opens when the joint is moves, is on the hands or fingers, genitals, or face, is longer than 3/4 in.


Diabetes / Low Blood Sugar / Hypoglycemia


 Key Skill:  If they can swallow, give them a drink or snack high in sugar.

  • Signs of a diabetic emergency: confusion, irritability, sleepiness, sweating, tremors or a seizure.

  • Call 911.

  • If the person can sit up and swallow, give them something sweet that contains sugar (not diet) to eat or drink (e.g. orange juice or regular soda).




 Key Skill:   Don’t move a dislocated joint.

  • A dislocation is a traumatic injury in which a bone is pulled or forced out of a joint.

  • Don't try to move a dislocated joint or force it back into place. This can cause damage.

  • Splint the joint in the position you find it. 

  • Put ice on the injured joint to help reduce swelling.

  • Call 911 / Go to the ED: A dislocation needs to be treated promptly at the ED.

Read More about Dislocations...


Eye: Chemical Splash


 Key Skill:   Rinse the eye with water for ten minutes.

  • Use a work site eye-rinse station, if available. If not, use the shower or a faucet.

  • Don't put anything except water or contact lens saline rinse in the eye.

  • Go to the ED or call 911.


Eye: Small Object


 Key Skill:   Rinse the eye with water. Do not rub the eye.

  • Metal particles caused by machining or hammering present a high risk; go to the ED.

  • Tiny objects, e.g. eyelashes and sand, usually will clear via blinking and tearing.

  • To find the object: Have the person look up and down, and side to side. Pull down on the skin just below the lower eyelid. For the upper eyelid, place a cotton swab on the outside of the upper lid and gently flip it over the swab.

  • Flush out the object with water. If it’s on the eyelid use the corner of a damp cloth or moistened cotton swab. Don’t touch the eye itself.

  • A scratchy feeling may continue after removing a tiny object. This should go away within a day or so. If it doesn’t, get medical help.




 Key Skill:   If they don’t recover very rapidly, it may be something more serious; call 911.

  • Help the person lie on the floor.

  • They should recover very rapidly (less than a minute); if they don’t something more serious may be going on, such as a seizure, heart attack or severe allergic reaction.

  • If the person fell, look for injuries.


Heart Attack / Chest Pain


 Key Skill:   Don’t delay; chest pain can be deadly; call 911.

  • Call 911. Do not delay. Chest pain lasting more than 15 minutes must be evaluated at the emergency department immediately. A person experiencing a heart attack may die without immediate care.

  • Have the person chew a regular aspirin (or four baby aspirin) unless they have a true allergy to aspirin, problems with serious internal bleeding or signs of a stroke (see below).

  • If the person becomes unconscious, be prepared to perform CPR and use an AED.

Read More about Heart Attack...


Heat Emergency


 Key Skill:  If they’re hot and confused, cool them immediately; every minute counts.

  • If they’re suffering from heatstroke—they’re hot and confused, passing out or having a seizure—you need to cool them immediately: get them into cool water (e.g. a pool), spray them with a hose or wrap them in a wet sheet. Stop active cooling once they’re acting normally.

  • Heatstroke can develop with little warning – people often cease sweating and can lose consciousness within minutes, so you’ll need to react quickly.

  • For all heat emergencies, if the person can swallow, have them drink sports drinks or water.


Opiate (Heroin) Overdose First Aid


 Key Skill:  If you have Narcan, use it. If they stop breathing, perform CPR.

  • Call 911.

  • If they are unconscious, try to wake them (rub their chest with your knuckles). If they don't awaken, and you’re not sure they’re breathing or they are blue:

    • Begin rescue breathing or CPR (this will sometimes wake them up). 

    • If you have Narcan (Naloxone) and know how to use it, do so.

  • Snoring or gurgling is not ‘normal’ in someone who may have overdosed; don’t let them ‘sleep it off’. If you can’t wake them immediately, call 911 and turn them on their side.

Read More about Opiate Overdose...


Smashed Fingers / Toes


 Key Skill:   Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling.

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help relieve discomfort.

  • If the injury occurs at the tip and does not involve the joint or nail bed, you may not need to go to the ED. Even if the tip of your finger bone is broken, a splint may not be helpful. If the injury involves the joint or inner portions of the fingers or toes, go to the ED.

  • If pain becomes severe and there is blood under the fingernail, you may wish to relieve the pressure by burning a hole in your fingernail. See the New York Times “Smashed Fingers” for instructions.




 Key Skill:   If the splinter continues to cause pain, turn red, or have pus, see your doctor.

  • Wash with soap / water. Remove with tweezers cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Wash the skin again. If it’s hard to remove, leave it for a day to see whether it comes out on its own.

  • If there are multiple shards of glass in a hand or foot, wrap in a clean cloth and go to the ED. An x-ray can find shards that can lead to infection if not removed.

  • If the splinter continues to cause pain, turn red, or have pus, see your doctor.

Read More about Splinters...


Stroke / Sudden Confusion or Weakness


 Key Skill:   Call 911. Do NOT delay. The treatment of strokes is very time sensitive.

  • Signs of a stroke include sudden weakness or drooping, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble speaking, walking or seeing, sudden headache.

  • Call 911. Do NOT delay. The treatment of strokes is very time sensitive. Call even if the other person does not believe they are having a stroke or does not want to go to the hospital.

  • Note the time the symptoms began.




 Key Skill:  If the person stops breathing, perform rescue breathing if trained to do so.

  • Turn the person on their side, and protect their head from injury.

  • Call 911 for any seizure that lasts more than 10 to 20 seconds or where the person is not rapidly conscious after the seizure has stopped.

  • For a child who has Diastat prescribed, administer it promptly.

  • If the person stops breathing, perform rescue breathing if trained to do so.

  • If they are unconscious and not moving and you are not sure they are breathing, begin CPR.


 Poisonous Spider / Insect


 Key Skill:  Seek additional care when the symptoms spread to other parts of the body.

  • The Northern Black Widow is the only indigenous poisonous spider in New England, and is rare. 

  • The bite or sting of a non-poisonous spider or insect causes localized redness or swelling. The bite of a poisonous spider or insect causes more widespread illness, including severe pain at the site of the bite, muscle cramps, fever, headache, vomiting, seizures or breathing problems.

  • Clean with soap and water.

  • Apply a bag of ice and water wrapped in a towel.




 Key Skill:  If flu-like symptoms or a large rash develops in the weeks afterward, see a doctor.

  • Use tweezers to grasp the tick near its head or mouth and pull to remove it without crushing it. Petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, rubbing alcohol or a hot match aren't recommended.

  • Place the tick in a container and freeze it.

  • Using soap and water, wash your hands and the area around the tick bite.

  • A small red bump may appear at the site. This is normal. Infected ticks usually do not spread an infection until after the tick has been attached for many hours.

  • Check for a rash and other symptoms for about 4 weeks after the bite. If flu-like symptoms and/or a larger rash develops, especially with a bull's-eye pattern, it may indicate Lyme disease.

  • Bites from wood or dog ticks may cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever with flu-like symptoms and then a pink or red spotted rash. Ticks may also cause babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.


Tooth Knocked Out


 Key Skill:  Place the tooth in milk or water if milk isn’t available.

  • Apply pressure with gauze or a towel to stop bleeding at the empty tooth socket.


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First Aid Quick Reference Guide


The first aid information on this page is derived from the most authoritative sources available, including:

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