In addition to the CPR training revisions, the American Red Cross and American Heart Association are making changes to the guidelines for teaching first aid. Included are new treatments for snake bites, anaphylaxis (shock due to allergic reaction), jellyfish stings and severe bleeding. The First Aid Guidelines are being published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Over 30 national and international volunteer experts from organizations around the world joined in reviewing 38 first aid questions. The science behind the long held recommendations were analyzed and re-worked by the experts to reach a consensus. These recommendations now form the recognized scientific basis for most first aid training around the world.
“It is vital that the first aid community come to consensus and speak in a clear voice on these life and death issues,” said David Markenson, M.D. first aid science advisor to the American Red Cross. “We are proud to help set the standard for first aid training around the globe.”
“Prompt and effective first aid can save lives and prevent many medical situations from worsening, so it’s important that everyone learn about the changes the American Heart Association and American Red Cross have made to the first aid guidelines,” said Jeff Ferguson, M.D., American Heart Association volunteer co-chair of the first aid guidelines writing group.
In looking at the treatment of jellyfish stings, the revised guidelines reaffirm the recommendation to use vinegar to treat the sting. The vinegar neutralizes the venom and may prevent it from spreading. After applying the vinegar, the revised guidelines recommend immersing the area in hot water for about 20 minutes to reduce the pain.
The treatment for snake bites has been slightly amended to recommend the application of a pressure bandage to any venomous snake bite, with pressure being applied around the entire length of the bitten extremity.
The revised guidelines for treating anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) recommend that, if a few minutes after giving the patient an epinephrine injection from a prescribed auto-injector and medical help is delayed, their symptoms persist, the rescuer can give a second epinephrine injection from a prescribed auto-injector, if available.
The guidelines also recommend that first responders NOT use hemostatic agents (substances used to help stop bleeding) to control bleeding because there is significant difference in their effectiveness, and a risk of adverse effects. Tourniquets and hemostatic agents should be considered alternatives only for professional rescuers when direct pressure is not possible or fails to control bleeding.
Some key first aid recommendations were reaffirmed. Those include the use of aspirin when the victim experiences persistent chest pain or discomfort associated with a cardiac emergency. Bystanders should call 9-1-1 for anyone with chest discomfort. While waiting for the EMS responders to arrive, the victim may be advised to chew two low-dose baby aspirin or one adult aspirin, as long as they know the victim is not allergic to aspirin and has not had a stroke or recent bleeding.