Dealing with Complications.

I’ve been a trained first aider for 31 years and, as such, I’ve applied my first aid skills many times. Most of the time the help I have provided is simple – a plaster, a bandage or maybe a sling for comfort. However, sometimes the casualty may have a pre-existing medical condition and may need more assistance.

When you are called to the scene of an accident or incident the casualty is a ‘blank canvas’ to you as far as their situation or condition. The injury may be evident (or not), but the reasons behind it may be more complicated. So, there are some questions to ask when dealing with a somebody who is unknown to you.

To start with, and in all cases, keep calm. Ask for their name and age and ask for permission to help. Once accepted, you must narrow down what’s happened and the cause of the incident.

The first question to ask is are they in pain, and, if so, where is the pain? Secondly, do they have a pre-existing medical condition? This may explain immediately what is causing the problem. As an example, a diabetic who is low on sugar (hypo glycaemic) may be confused or collapsed. Your actions, in this case, would be to get some form of sugar into them to adjust their blood sugar levels. There is a myriad of conditions that may cause them to be in the situation they are in. The person you are dealing with may know a lot about their medical condition and will help you to help them.

Following on from any pre-existing medical condition is the next question, which is are they taking any medications? It may be a case that the casualty is medicated but has forgotten to take their treatment. Alternatively, they may have overdosed on their drugs. Sometimes this is evident, sometimes not. As a first aider we are not equipped to counteract a drug deficiency or overdose. That said, however, it’s a very important question to ask and pass on to the emergency services.

The next question to ask is what led to the accident/incident? This may really open up the puzzle and give you a good insight into the situation you find them in. In training I’ve used an example of somebody who’s suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, after helping a friend with an engine problem. They have run the engine in a confined area with no or little ventilation. The casualty would have trouble breathing, be confused, sweating, have pink lips and may have an elevated heart rate. Even though we don’t carry oxygen, it is vital that you pass the information on to the emergency services, as they do carry oxygen.

A further question would be to ask if they have recently eaten or had a drink? If so, what did they eat and/or drink? You may be dealing with food poisoning, an allergy leading to an anaphylactic reaction or a simple case of indigestion.

Finally, ask if they have exercised recently? The person you’re dealing with may have an injury and could have aggravated it in the gym or on a run. You may be dealing with an injury such as a strain or sprain.

Once you have the answers to all of these questions you should be able to solve the puzzle or at least have better idea of what the problem is. Why are these questions important? Well, until you know what you’re dealing with, it’s difficult to help. It is also vital to pass the information you gather on to paramedics or hospital staff.

The key things to remember, as always, are to keep calm and note down what you have discovered from your questions. If you don’t have a pen and paper you can use your smart phone voice memo or notes to record the answers, date, time and any interventions that you have made.

Thank you for taking the time to read my monthly blog. I hope it adds value to your existing skills or, at least, reminds you to ask the questions. Please pass this blog on to anybody who you think would benefit from it. They can add themselves to the list by clicking here: for a once a month blog.

My name is Kim Ronaldson and I’m a first aid instructor at First Aid Development Ltd.

Take a look at my website more information on the courses I run.

You can contact me on 07770 376497 or email on you would like to know more or to book some training with me.

Thank you!

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