What is first aid?

First aid covers the steps taken to help an injured or sick person in the first minutes after an illness or injury.

Accidents or illness can happen to anyone at any time, whether at home, at work or at school. Often first aid can help someone feel better, recover more quickly, and can even save lives.

Often this first aid can help someone feel better, recover more quickly, and can even save lives.

First aid can be useful in many different situations, from sprains to electric shocks to heart attacks.

Why learn first aid?

If you learn the basics of first aid, you might one day save the life of a loved one, colleague or stranger.

First aid might involve a simple action, such as placing a person in the correct position to breathe freely. It might involve a more skilled activity, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they have stopped breathing.

The DRSABCD action plan

If you have completed a first aid course, you will be familiar with the DRSABCD action plan. You can remember them by thinking “Doctor’s ABCD” (for DRS ABCD).

Each letter is a prompt for the actions to take when first aid is needed.

DRSABCD

DRSABCD ACTION PLAN

Letter

Representing

What to do

D

Danger

Ensure that the patient and everyone in the area is safe. Do not put yourself or others at risk. Remove the danger or the patient.

R

Response

Look for a response from the patient — loudly ask their name, squeeze their shoulder.

S

Send for help

If there is no response, phone triple zero (000) or ask another person to call. Do not leave the patient.

A

Airway

Check their mouth and throat is clear. If there is foreign material, roll the patient on their side and clear the airway. If there is no foreign material, leave them in the position you find them in and gently tilt their head back and lift their chin to clear the airway.

B

Breathing

Check if the person is breathing abnormally or not breathing at all after 10 seconds. If they are breathing normally, place them in the recovery position and stay with them. If they are not breathing normally, call an ambulance and start CPR.

C

CPR

Start CPR: 30 chest compressions followed by 2 breaths. Continue CPR until the patient starts breathing or until help arrives.

D

Defibrillation

As soon as possible, attach an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to the patient and follow the voice prompts. Do not leave the patient alone to fetch the defibrillator — let someone else bring it.

Where to learn first aid

Sources:

St John Ambulance Australia (DRSABCD Action Plan)Australian Resuscitation Council (ANZCOR Guideline 8 – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR))St John Ambulance Australia (First aid training)

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Last reviewed: June 2020