There always seems to be something new going on in the world of first aid: an update to prevent the spread of infections diseases, a game-changing way to plug into first aid apps and social media, a revision to workplace safety and standards.
It can be hard for first aiders at home and in the place of work to keep up.
That’s why it’s important to take new courses, update and refresh old ones, and follow developments in the industry when they happen. Every five years the Red Cross makes changes to their Program Standards. And even if you can’t predict everything that an emergency situation holds, you’ll at least have the latest advancements and understand the direction that things are going.
So, what matters to you as a first aider in 2017?
Here are some of the biggest changes you should be paying attention to.
1. Anaphylaxis and Administering Epinephrine
Allergic reactions are increasingly common today in both adults and children. Many individuals who have severe allergies carry a single dose of emergency epinephrine, often in the form of an EpiPen. According to the latest guidelines, people with severe allergies may consider keeping a second dose nearby.
Pre-2016 Consensus, first aiders learn the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to assist with EpiPen auto injectors, but are advised to consult with a higher medical authority before helping with a second injection.
The biggest change now is that, often, people need a second dose.
The new 2016 Consensus states that a “person with symptoms of anaphylaxis, treated with epinephrine,
may be given a second dose if the first dose is not effective after 5 minutes.”
Patients should continue to call EMS-911 and take a single dose if they go into anaphylactic shock, but if there’s no change in their condition after five minutes, the person should receive a second injection.
2. The Use of Tourniquets to Stop Life Threatening Bleeding
In the past, the Red Cross recommended applying pressure to stop bleeding but said only “properly trained” professionals should attempt to use a tourniquet to constrict blood flow to a wound.
The latest updates to the Red Cross First Aid Programs says a tourniquet is appropriate to use when directly applying pressure won’t stop the bleeding.
For seasoned first aiders, this is one of those procedures that’s been in and out, then back in…. And then out. “The latest research we are seeing out of Afghanistan and Iraq is that (tourniquets) are saving lives,” says Don Marentette, the National Director of First Aid and Program Development at the Canadian Red Cross.
According to the latest 2016 Consensus, first aid providers will continue control external bleeding by applying direct pressure. However, the use of a tourniquet should be considered for life-threatening, external limb bleeding that is not controlled by direct pressure. It should also be considered for circumstances such as wound inaccessibility, multiple injuries, multiple casualty and disaster settings, or remote locations.
3. Cleaning Cuts & Abrasions
In previous Red Cross Standards and Guidelines, first aiders were instructed to use soap and water to clean abrasions, cuts and scrapes. New research suggests that soap could cause irritation.
“We found now that there are a couple of studies that tell us that certain kinds of soap are irritating to skin tissue when it’s been cut,” Marentette said. “The best thing to do is just some good clean tap water.”
One clinical trial demonstrated that there was no benefit from soap and water applied to an open wound. In fact, several studies demonstrated the possibility of toxicity to cells when exposed directly to soap and water.
Clinical studies also compared the effectiveness of triple antibiotic ointment with that of single antibiotic ointment, or no ointment at all. Final results showed that triple antibiotic ointment treatment healed wounds significantly faster and with a lower infection rate than those treated with either single ointment or no ointment. Concluding studies showed that both triple and single antibiotic ointments were superior to no treatment in promoting the healing of contaminated blisters. As always, it is recommended to check the Five Rights of Medications before applying any ointments or creams.
4. Aspirin and Chest Pain
The Canadian Red Cross now recommends adults who experience chest pain believed to be caused by cardiac problems should chew one or two low-dose aspirin pills, then call 911.
As long as the patient knows they aren’t allergic to aspirin or have a bleeding disorder, Marentette said the organization now knows “there’s a significant benefit” to taking aspirin when experiencing heart problems.
The Canadian Red Cross and Heart and Stroke Foundation are two of the organizations that contribute to the scientific evidence review process through their representation on the International Red Cross – Evidence Based Network and International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation. The task force used the latest scientific recommendations from both of these international groups to build these new 2016 guidelines.
- Highlights of Canadian Consensus Guidelines on First Aid and CPR 2016
- Complete 2015 International Consensus on First Aid Science With Treatment Recommendations (in Circulation)
COMPLETE 2015 Consensus