As first aiders, helping someone in need is a priority. However, you’ll understandably have some concerns on how to treat someone during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic particularly in relation to maintaining social distancing and hygiene control.
Thankfully, there are ways you can protect yourself (and others) when performing first aid. Follow our 6 steps below to ensure risk of harm is minimal and people can still get the urgent care they need in a real-life emergency.
1. Wear PPE
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing first aid will create a barrier between you and the casualty.
The HSE recommends you to use the following PPE if available:
- a fluid-repellent surgical mask
- disposable gloves
- eye protection
- apron or other suitable covering
If PPE is not easily available, then treat the casualty as normal but be sure to wash your hands at the earliest opportunity - every second counts and delaying help to get such items can have a detrimental effect on the outcome for the casualty.
2. Keep a distance
Wherever possible place the person you are treating in a location away from others. If there is no physically separate room, ask others who are not involved in providing assistance to stay at least 2 metres away from the individual. If barriers or screens are available, these may be used.
Of course, in some first aid scenarios it’s not always possible to keep a distance (which is where PPE is advisable) but there are some slight changes in your usual first aid skills you can easily adapt to keep safe.
For example, the Resuscitation Council UK updated its guidance on giving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, it’s not advised to put your ear down to the mouth to check for breathing. Instead you can look for signs of breathing, such as a rise and fall in the chest. They also suggest giving chest compressions only for an adult*, rather than rescue breaths and chest compressions, as this is much better than no CPR at all.
If there is a perceived risk of Covid-19 infection, first aiders should place a cloth/towel over the persons mouth and nose and attempt chest compressions until help arrives.
* If a baby or child is unresponsive and not breathing, this is more likely to be caused by a breathing problem, increasing the importance of giving rescue breaths. It is accepted by Resuscitation Council (UK) that giving rescue breaths will increase the risk of transmitting Covid-19; however, this risk is small compared to the risk of taking no action. As such, we continue to recommend rescue breaths in the event that a baby or child stops breathing; however, the decision to perform them ultimately lies with the first aider.
3. Maintain good hygiene
We’ve heard it all before but washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The WHO advises to wash your hands frequently, with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub if water isn’t immediately available.
You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, as this is how the virus can enter your body.
Remember that even if you wear gloves and other PPE, you should still wash your hands after helping someone since regular and thorough handwashing is a preferable method of reducing the risk of transmission of viruses and bacteria.
4. Help them help themselves
If you’re worried about getting too close to someone you suspect has Covid-19, there are still ways you can use your first aid skills. Most first aid is very simple and the steps to take in an emergency can be explained to an injured or ill person so they can help themselves.
For example, if they are bleeding heavily, you can ask them to apply pressure to the wound with whatever they have available while you call 999.
5. Look after yourself
In order to help others, you will also need to look after your own needs, both physically and mentally. In these challenging and uncertain times, we’ve all experienced changes to our lifestyle on a scale never experienced before.
To offer guidance and assistance during this uncertain period, we’ve curated a number of resources in our Mental health and coronavirus pack; including advice from mental health professionals and actionable tips on how to prioritise your wellbeing.
6. Keep informed
Lastly, one of the best ways to keep yourself and others safe is to stay updated with the latest guidance. This is an ever-changing situation and the government and NHS are continually updating their advice on Coronavirus. We’ve sourced some helpful sites for you to regularly review below:
Ready to learn first aid or refresh your skills? Why not book a course today and build your confidence in learning the skills to save a life.
Topics: First Aid