Essential First Aid

first aid thumbnail

first aid thumbnail

There are five key life-threatening events that everyone should have the knowledge to respond with life-saving first aid. These issues either affect air going in and out or blood going round and round.
This includes when someone is:

  • choking
  • bleeding severely
  • unconscious and breathing
  • unconscious and not breathing.

From approximately 2,000 reported Cardiac Arrests in NZ each year, approximately 1,500 will result in death, making it the leading cause of adult death in NZ. 

Before a cardiac event, it’s common to experience chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, abnormal or no breathing, loss of colour, unresponsiveness or a sudden collapse. Unfortunately, fewer than one in five of us know even the basics of First Aid. Many fear doing harm, but in reality, failure to act will do more harm. It’s important to remember that in the case of Cardiac Arrest the person will likely die without immediate attention. It can be stressful, but following some simple guidelines can make all the difference and potentially save a life. 

Here are some key points:

  • Giving first aid is about trying to keep someone alive until professional help arrives.
  • For severe medical issues, you only have 2-4 minutes to start your first aid or the person could die.
  • If you think someone needs first aid because they seem to be unconscious, try calling out to them or rubbing the centre of their chest. “Poke, Prod, Pinch” to determine if they are responsive.
  • If there is no response check that they are breathing (placing your cheek or back of your hand in front of their mouth) and feel for a pulse (place 2-3 fingers on the side of their windpipe below their jaw and press down gently). 10-15 seconds will provide the information you need.
  • Deal initially with what you can see.
  • Check for causes or surrounding danger. Remember, you don’t want to become a secondary patient!
  • Send for help.
  • As you give first aid, remember to talk to the person and not just treat them like a mannequin.

Severe Bleeding
If someone is bleeding heavily call for help. Apply a dressing (a clean towel will do) put firm pressure on the wound with your palm. If blood comes through the dressing cover with another and increase the pressure. In the case of a limb, if possible, gently raise the arm or leg (with support) higher than the heart to help reduce blood loss.

If you need to begin CPR the following steps will guide you:

→ Early Access
Call for help and dial 111. Make others aware of the situation in the general vicinity and get them to help. The 111 operator will stay with you on the line and guide you through what to do. Position the person on a hard flat surface (the floor is often best), on their back (you may need to move them to achieve this).

→ Early CPR
Placement – run your hand from the individual’s armpit to the centre of their chest (in line with their chin). This is the correct placement to begin compressions and is the same regardless of age. For adults use both hands, Children 1 hand, Infants 2 fingers.

→ Begin CPR
Press down slowly, using the heel of your hand, initially 1/3rd the depth of the individual’s chest (this allows you to adjust your hand placement if required and also “stretches” the chest of the person you’re about to exercise). Compress!! You need to aim for 2 compressions a second which is 120 p/min, 1/3rd the depth of the person’s chest and keep going until help arrives or someone offers to take over.

Humming the tune “Staying Alive” will help keep your speed right. It is normal to feel and hear clicks and crunches whilst doing this. Perform 2 rescue breaths for every 30 compressions. Iit is important to note that compressions are the most important component so if you feel unhappy performing mouth to mouth or it’s not proving effective, don’t worry, compress.

CPR moves oxygenated blood around the body and to the brain, but it won't usually restart the heart. A defibrillator is needed, which some communities have access to in public locations.

→ Early Defibrillation
AED’s (automated external defibrillator) are simple to use and can be found in most shopping centres, airports, corporations, banks and government offices. You can locate your nearest available unit online by going to You can also download their App via iTunes/Android stores which will show you the nearest unit to your current location.

→ Early Advanced Care
If “Early Access” was achieved then help should be on its way, and in metropolitan areas should arrive within 4-10 minutes. It may initially be your local Fire or Police responding if the ambulance is not available, but an Advanced Paramedic will arrive and initiate their treatment protocol.

Unconscious / Unresponsive
If someone is unconscious and breathing, common causes are overdoses or medical conditions. Stay with them and call for help. If there is nothing that concerns you regarding the cause of their unconsciousness, place them in the recovery position and check their pulse and respiration regularly.



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