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The Four Key Rules to Basic Life Support

Learning what to do in an emergency is the most important thing you will ever learn. Most people think they will never need this knowledge as it ‘won’t happen to them’ but it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality and your swift actions may save someone’s life.

First Life Support Rule

Learn to recognise signs of a medical emergency so you can dial 999 early and give them a better chance of survival. Even if you’re not sure, you should still phone them.

Second Life Support Rule

In a collapsed patient, dial 999 and then check the person’s mouth is clear and airway open by a head tilt chin lift manoeuvre. Check if they are breathing normally for no more than ten seconds. If they are not breathing normally, begin CPR immediately. Start 30 chest compressions with a rate of 100-120 compressions every minute (two per second) – then two rescue breaths OR if you are not prepared to perform rescue breaths , just do chest compressionsonly CPR at a rate of 100-120 compressions until the emergency services arrive.

Any chest compressions are better than doing nothing as you need to pushbloodaround their body to increase their chance of survival. Compression only resuscitation has become popular as a way for bystanders to help save a life.

Third Life Support Rule

Prompt defibrillation gives a cardiac victim a better chance of survival. This is why it is so vital that all offices, community groups and schools have an automated external defibrillator (AED) and have attended a course so they know how to use one. AED’s and training courses with instructions on AED use are available through A to E Training & Solutions.

Fourth Life Support Rule

Making sure your casualty gets to hospital early and receives expert care is crucial to theirsurvival. Have you heard of the ‘golden hour’? Patients who receive vital care in the first hour after collapse have a greater chance to survive than those who don’t. That’s why dialling 999 at the first sign of collapse is so important.

Medical Emergencies

Would you know what to do in a medical emergency? Choking, heart attacks, burns or seizure – whatever the problem, anyone can be faced with a medical emergency. Here are some things you can do that could help save a life:

Heart Attack – One of the first ways you can help a person having a heart attack is to recognise the symptoms so that you can get prompt assistance. Symptoms include central crushing chest pain – people state it feel can like a tight band around their chest, pain / numbness down one or both arms, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sweating and anxiety.

If anyone has these symptoms, dial 999 even if you aren’t sure.

If the person is still conscious, make sure they don’t move around so that they don’t put too much strain on the heart. If they are an adult, you can get them to swallow a whole aspirin tablet (chewed first) while waiting for the ambulance as this will help to make the clot in their heart less sticky and help maintain the blood supply to the heart.

If the person has collapsed, you should check his airway. If he is not breathing normally and you don’t have an AED device, you should do chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions a minute until help arrives.

Adult Choking – If the person cannot cough effectively, talk or breathe, it is a severe obstruction and you should act quickly. Remove any obvious obstruction. If you can’t, give five back blows, reassess and then five abdominal thrusts to try and dislodge it. Dial 999 early and continue with cycles of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives. If the patient collapses, start CPR.

Burns – If someone has a burn, move them away from the heat source and run cold water over the burn for at least ten minutes (this prevents further burning), move clothing away from the burn area and cover it with cling film to protect it. Dial 999 or 111 for further advice.

Seizures – If someone has a seizure, you should remove any harmful objects so they cannot hurt themselves. Place a cushion under their head and stay with them until the seizure is over, then place them in the recovery position to keep their airway open. If the person has never had a seizure before, it lasts longer than a few minutes or you are not sure you should call 999.

How to Do CPR on an Adult?

According to the British Heart Foundation, around 60,000 cardiac arrests occur out of hospital in the UK every year. However, survival rates after a cardiac arrest remain very low, averaging between 2 and 12%. Bystander CPR can make a significant difference to whether someone survives or not, as this action restores the circulating blood flow, supplying the vital organs with oxygen. Learning how to perform adult CPR is therefore an essential skill to have. Although there is no substitute to attending a CPR course, the basics of adult CPR are covered here, providing you with the key points needed to deliver CPR in an emergency.

Before Delivering Adult CPR

Following the Resuscitation Council (UK) guidelines, if you find someone collapsed, you should first make sure that you, the victim and anyone else at the scene is safe. Your next priority is to check whether the victim is conscious by gently shaking their shoulders and asking if they are alright. Without a response you should then shout out for help if no one else is around and place the victim on their back to open their airway. This is simple to do by gently tilting their head back with your hand on their forehead and lifting their chin using your fingers. With their airway open, it is time to look for movement in their chest, listen out for breath sounds and see whether you can feel their breath on the skin of your cheek. If you don’t think the person is breathing or their breaths are limited, get someone to phone for an ambulance or use your own mobile if there is no one else around. It is now time to start adult CPR.

Delivering Adult CPR

To perform CPR on an adult, you need to combine chest compressions and rescue breaths. If you are unfamiliar with how to give chest compressions, follow this step-by-step guide:

  • Kneel at the victim’s side and put the heel of your hand on the centre of their chest, located in the lower section of their breastbone.
  • Put the heel of your free hand above your first hand and interlock your fingers.
  • Place yourself over their chest and using straight arms, press down into their breastbone to a depth of 5 to 6cm. However, you shouldn’t put pressure on the end of their breastbone or lower abdomen.
  • Following each compression, allow the release of pressure without your hands moving away from their breastbone. The release of pressure should take as long as when you apply pressure.
  • You should complete between 100 and 120 compressions per minute.

After 30 compressions, the next stage of adult CPR is giving the rescue breaths as follows:

  • Pinch the victim’s nose shut and let their mouth open while you maintain their head tilted and chin lifted.
  • Breathe in normally and put your lips around theirs, ensuring there is a good seal before blowing into their mouth. Within a second you should see their chest rise normally and then when you remove your mouth, the chest falls and the air escapes. In case the chest fails to raise, check there is no obstruction in their airway and that you have enough of a head tilt and chin lift.
  • Repeat the above to give a second rescue breath. You should complete both rescue breaths within 5 seconds.

After delivering 2 rescue breaths, resume 30 compressions and complete this procedure throughout giving adult CPR. You should only stop CPR when the victim regains consciousness and begins to breathe normally again, or medical help is ready to take over. However, if there are other people at the scene, you can take it in turns to provide CPR every couple of minutes to prevent fatigue, though obviously disruption of CPR must be kept to a minimum during these change overs.

Compression-only Adult CPR

Although ideally you will perform both compressions and rescue breaths during CPR, if you have not received CPR training or you do not wish to use rescue breaths, it is possible to deliver adult CPR giving only the chest compressions and this is certainly far better than taking no action at all. When you opt to do this, you should deliver compressions continuously at 100 to 120 per minute, again only stopping if the victim recovers both consciousness and breathing, or trained help arrives to provide support.
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