Emergency medical care provided for a patient with a life-threatening injury or illness is called basic life support. Basic life support is an effort to keep the person in danger alive until qualified medical personnel arrive. Many police officers and firefighters have undergone basic life support training due to job requirements. Other professionals, such as teachers, security guards and daycare workers, can benefit from the course.
Life Support Education
Basic life support classes teach the ABCs of emergency care:
A – Airway. Protect and maintain a clear passageway. Keep the airway at an optimal angle. Ensure the tongue isn’t swallowed if a seizure occurs.
B – Breathing. If the patient is not breathing, start artificial respiration.
C – Circulation. If there’s no pulse, CPR should be started immediately to assist in circulating oxygen and blood throughout the body. Automated external defibrillators (AED), with instructions on the device, are now available in many locations.
Assessing the Situation
Is the victim conscious? Loudly ask, “Are you ok?” Call 911. Have an AED retrieved and prepared if one is available. If blood is visible, apply constant, firm pressure to the wound until help arrives. If a neck injury is suspected, place your hands on each side of the head above the ears, and hold the head in place. If there is no neck injury, tilt the head from the base of the skull and lift the chin to open the airway.
Treating an Injury
If there is an injury, open the airway by forcing the jaw open from the sides. If the jaw technique is not successful, cautiously use the first method. Check the airway for obstructions. If anything is found, use a finger to sweep it out. Check for breathing. Look at the chest, listen for sounds of breathing and feel for breathing for 5-15 seconds. If the victim is breathing, monitor him until help arrives. If not, administer two breaths. The chest should rise and fall if the airway is properly positioned.
If the victim remains unconscious and ventilation is not successful, a foreign obstruction may be in the airway. Start chest compressions. Stop every 30 compressions and check the airway for obstructions. Remove anything that is found and start again. If the ventilations are successful, check the carotid artery for a pulse. If there is a pulse, continue ventilating until help arrives.
If there is no pulse, start CPR of 30 compressions to two ventilations (30:2); 100 compressions a minute for five cycles. Stop, recheck everything. Use an AED. Once it has been used, restart CPR for five cycles, perform rechecks and use AED. Repeat until the victim has a pulse or help arrives.
NOTE: Chest compressions on an infant is performed with the first two fingers.
In Case of Drowning
The moment the victim is rescued, CPR should be started. Restoring a victim’s breathing the priority as hypoxia is the leading cause of death in drowning cases. If there is one rescuer, three cycles of CPR (30:2) should be provided. Stop and call 911. Then restart to CPR.
Conditions of Hypothermia
If the victim’s unresponsive, check the breathing and pulse for 30-45 seconds. Both can be very slow as a result of hypothermia. Begin CPR immediately if there’s no pulse. Remove his wet clothes and shield him from the wind. Continue CPR until help arrives.
A choking victim coughing forcefully will be able to clear obstructions. If a victim has cyanosis, silent cough or an inability to breathe or speak, use abdominal thrusts in quick succession. Chest thrusts can be used if abdominal thrusts are ineffective or for obese or pregnancy victims.
If a victim becomes unresponsive, call 911 and begin CPR.