Top 6 ways to protect yourself when performing first aid during Covid-19

Written by James Reed
Sep 1, 2020

James is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

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, rather than rescue breaths and chest compressions, as this is much better than no CPR at all.

If there is a perceived risk of infection, first aiders should place a cloth/towel over the persons mouth and nose and attempt chest compressions until help arrives.

 

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:

> Click here to visit Gov.UK

> Click here to visit Resuscitation Council UK

> Click here to visit NHS 111

> Click here to visit Red Cross Training FAQs

 

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.

book first aid training course now

Topics: First Aid

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