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August 2014: First aid

When we turned up for our August meeting, we didn’t expect it to be the most fun night we’d ever had. Informative and useful, yes, but fun? Definitely not.

How wrong we were. Thanks to our absolutely hilarious speaker, Kate Horner from the British Red Cross, we laughed our way through a huge range of illnesses and accidents to become much more confident at handling an emergency.

We began by going through the reasons why people are often afraid to give first aid, covering everything from not being confident enough to offer the right help to worrying about getting an infection from an injured person. Kate quickly put these fears to rest (“don’t lick your patients” was a particular highlight from her advice) and we moved on to looking at ways in which we can actually be helpful.

Kate explained that first aid advice has been significantly simplified in recent years. While it used to be the case that reams of information was given out for every possible scenario, it has now been recognised that people are put off by this and it is better to get them to remember one simple action.

We began by looking at choking, for which the one thing to remember to do is back blows (formerly back slaps, but this was not felt to sound forceful enough). If you are feeling confident, abdominal thrusts can be given if the back blows do not work.

The second medical area we covered was burns, learning that no matter what the cause of a burn (hot fat, steam, electric etc) the treatment is the same: at least 10 minutes in cold liquid (milk or beer will do if there is no cold water to hand). Doing this for the full 10 minutes is vital – a couple of minutes will not be enough to stop it from burning.

Once we had taken the heat out of that situation (sorry), we moved on to strokes and heart attacks. Prominent adverts for both have helped more people to understand how to recognise strokes (FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, Time) and treat heart attacks (grab Vinnie Jones and sing Stayin’ Alive). Kate recommended the American version of the CPR advert as it has a clearer message which is easy to remember.

There was just time to learn the key things to do for an asthma attack (help the person to use their own inhaler – usually a blue one) and poisoning (don’t make them sick or give them anything else to drink, just get them to a hospital).

The booklet published by the British Red Cross which given to all of us was full of this kind of simple, clear advice and, although nobody ever wants to have to use it, it may well make a big difference to some of us one day. Above all, Kate reminded us that if we aren’t sure about getting involved directly, the best thing to do is to call 999. This will always get the person the right help and will never cause any harm: paramedics will never mind being called out to an emergency, even if it turns out to be less serious than we first thought.

Kate’s talk was exactly what it needed to be: easy to follow, full of simple yet effective advice and, above all, very memorable. We are very grateful to the British Red Cross for sending her our way!

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