8 General Principles Of First Aid

8 General Principles Of First Aid

First Aid is a vital skill that everyone should possess. Whether you're at home, work, or out and about, accidents and emergencies can happen at any time. Being prepared and knowing the general principles of first aid can make a significant difference in saving lives and preventing further harm. In this article, we'll explore the eight general principles of first aid, providing you with valuable knowledge to respond effectively in times of need.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Assess the Situation
  • Ensure Your Safety
  • Call for Help
  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Control Bleeding
  • Immobilization
  • Provide Comfort and Reassurance
  • Conclusion
  • Frequently Asked Questions

1. Introduction

Accidents and emergencies can happen unexpectedly. Knowing how to respond can be the difference between life and death. Let's dive into the eight general principles of first aid to equip you with essential skills and knowledge.

8 General Principles Of First Aid

2. Assess the Situation

The first step in providing first aid is to assess the situation. Quickly evaluate the scene for safety hazards and the number of casualties. Ensure you are not putting yourself in harm's way before assisting others.

Assessing the situation is a critical first step in providing effective first aid. It involves carefully evaluating the environment and the injured or ill person to determine the appropriate course of action. Here's a more detailed explanation of what "Assess the Situation" entails:

  • Safety First: The primary concern when arriving at the scene of an emergency is your safety and the safety of others. Before rushing in to help, take a moment to ensure that the area is safe. Look out for any potential dangers, such as fire, electrical hazards, or hazardous substances. If the scene is not safe, do not enter; instead, wait for professional help to arrive.
  • Check for Responsiveness: Approach the injured person calmly and gently and try to establish whether they are responsive. Tap the person on the shoulder and ask loudly, "Are you okay?" If they respond, it's a sign that they are conscious and alert. If there is no response, it indicates that they may be unconscious or in distress.
  • Assess Breathing: If the person is unresponsive, check their breathing. Tilt their head back slightly to open the airway and look, listen, and feel for signs of breathing. If they are not breathing or are gasping for breath, you may need to start CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).
  • Evaluate Injuries: Take a quick look at the person to assess for any visible injuries or conditions. Note if there are any wounds, fractures, or other medical issues that require immediate attention. This initial assessment helps you prioritize your actions.
  • Determine the Number of Casualties: If there are multiple injured individuals, determine the number of casualties. This information will help you decide whether you need to call for additional help or if you can manage the situation with the resources at hand.
  • Call for Professional Medical Assistance: If the situation is serious or involves life-threatening injuries, call emergency services (e.g., 911) immediately. Provide them with as much information as possible about the nature of the emergency and the location.
  • Request Assistance: If there are other people present, ask for their help. Assign specific tasks to individuals, such as calling for help, fetching first aid supplies, or directing traffic away from the scene.
  • Keep Calm: In emergency situations, it's essential to remain as calm as possible. Panic can make the situation worse and hinder your ability to provide effective first aid. Take deep breaths and focus on the steps you need to take.

Assessing the situation is about quickly but methodically evaluating the circumstances to ensure safety, determine the severity of the situation, and decide on the appropriate actions to take. This initial assessment sets the stage for providing timely and effective first aid, potentially saving lives and minimizing further harm.

3. Ensure Your Safety

Your safety is paramount. You cannot help others if you become a victim yourself. Take necessary precautions, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when available, before offering assistance.

Ensuring your safety is a fundamental principle in first aid. Before providing assistance to an injured or ill person, it's crucial to take steps to protect yourself from harm. Here's a more detailed explanation of what "Ensure Your Safety" involves:

  • Scene Assessment: As you approach the scene of an emergency, conduct a quick but thorough assessment of the environment. Look for any potential hazards or dangers that could pose a risk to your safety, such as:
  • Fire: Check for flames or signs of smoke, which could indicate a fire hazard. If there's a fire, do not enter the area and immediately call the fire department.
  • Electrical Hazards: Be cautious around electrical equipment, downed power lines, or exposed wires. Electricity can be deadly, so ensure you are a safe distance away from any electrical hazards.
  • Chemicals or Hazardous Materials: If there are chemicals or hazardous substances involved, stay clear of them. These materials can be toxic or corrosive, and it's essential not to expose yourself to them without proper protection.
  • Unstable Structures: If the incident involves a collapsed building or structure, be mindful of the stability of the surroundings. Falling debris or additional collapses can pose a significant risk.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): If available, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard yourself. PPE may include items like gloves, face masks, eye protection, and aprons. Using PPE can help prevent exposure to bodily fluids, pathogens, or harmful substances.
  • Communicate Clearly: If you are at the scene with others, establish clear communication and coordination. Assign roles and tasks to different individuals to ensure everyone's safety and effectiveness in providing aid. Designate someone to call for professional medical help if needed.
  • Maintain a Safe Distance: Keep a safe distance from any ongoing danger. This could include fires, traffic accidents, or hazardous materials spills. Ensure that you are far enough away to avoid being harmed while still being able to provide assistance.
  • Request Assistance: If the situation is too dangerous for you to handle alone, or if the injured person's condition requires more advanced medical care, do not hesitate to call for professional medical assistance. Emergency medical services are trained and equipped to handle a wide range of emergencies.
  • Do Not Put Yourself at Unnecessary Risk: While your instinct may be to help immediately, it's essential not to put yourself at unnecessary risk. If the scene is too dangerous, wait for professionals to arrive. Your safety is crucial, and you cannot provide effective aid if you become injured.

Ensuring your safety means taking proactive steps to protect yourself from potential dangers at the scene of an emergency. By prioritizing your safety, you not only protect yourself but also position yourself to provide more effective and sustained assistance to those in need. Remember that professional help is just a phone call away when the situation warrants it.

4. Call for Help

Once you've ensured your safety, call for professional medical assistance if needed. Dial emergency services or instruct someone else to do so. Provide them with clear and concise information about the situation.

Calling for help is a critical step in providing first aid, especially in situations where the injured person's condition is severe or beyond your level of expertise. Here's a more detailed explanation of what "Call for Help" entails:

  • Recognizing the Need for Professional Assistance: The decision to call for professional medical help should be based on the severity of the situation. You should consider calling for help in the following circumstances:
  • Life-Threatening Conditions: If the injured person is unconscious, not breathing, experiencing severe bleeding, or in cardiac arrest, call emergency services immediately (e.g., 911). These are life-threatening situations that require immediate medical attention.
  • Complex Injuries or Illnesses: If the injury or illness is beyond your ability to manage, such as suspected fractures, head injuries, or severe allergic reactions, it's best to call for professional assistance. Don't attempt to treat conditions that you are not trained to handle.
  • Uncertainty: If you're unsure about the severity of the situation, it's better to err on the side of caution and call for professional help. Trained paramedics and medical personnel can assess the situation and provide appropriate care.
  • Call Emergency Services: When you decide to call for professional assistance, dial the emergency services number in your region, which is typically 911 in the United States. Clearly and calmly provide the dispatcher with essential information, including:
  • Your Location: Clearly state your location, including the address, landmarks, or any other relevant details that can help responders find you quickly.
  • Nature of the Emergency: Describe the nature of the emergency and the condition of the injured person. Be concise but provide enough information for the dispatcher to understand the situation.
  • Number of Casualties: If there are multiple injured individuals, specify the number of casualties to ensure that enough resources are dispatched.
  • Follow Instructions: Listen carefully to the dispatcher's instructions and follow them. They may provide guidance on how to provide immediate care until help arrives.
  • Stay on the Line: The dispatcher may continue to ask you questions or provide instructions. It's essential to stay on the line until they say it's okay to hang up. They can offer valuable guidance and support while you wait for professional help.
  • Notify Others: If there are other people present at the scene, delegate someone to guide the emergency responders to the injured person. Provide clear directions and ensure that they can easily identify the location.
  • Be Prepared to Provide Basic Aid: While waiting for professional help, if the injured person's condition allows, you can provide basic first aid as needed. This may include CPR for cardiac arrest, controlling bleeding, or immobilizing injuries. However, always prioritize your safety and do only what you are comfortable and trained to do.

In summary, calling for help in a first aid situation involves recognizing when professional medical assistance is needed and taking immediate action to summon trained responders. Your ability to provide early notification to emergency services can significantly impact the outcome for the injured person, especially in life-threatening situations. Always remain calm and clear when communicating with emergency dispatchers, and follow their instructions diligently.

5. Basic Life Support (BLS)

Basic Life Support (BLS) is crucial when dealing with life-threatening situations. Learn techniques like CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) to revive a person in cardiac arrest. BLS can significantly increase the chances of survival.

Basic Life Support (BLS) is a critical set of life-saving techniques and skills administered to individuals who are experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, or other life-threatening emergencies. BLS is designed to maintain the victim's circulation and oxygenation until more advanced medical care can be provided. Here's a more detailed explanation of what BLS involves:

Components of Basic Life Support (BLS):

  • CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation): CPR is a core component of BLS. It involves a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths to manually circulate oxygen-rich blood to vital organs, especially the brain and heart. Here's how CPR works:
  • Chest Compressions: Begin with chest compressions. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim's chest (usually between the nipples) and the other hand on top. Lock your elbows and use your upper body weight to push down hard and fast, aiming for a rate of about 100-120 compressions per minute. Compressions should be at least 2 inches deep.
  • Rescue Breaths: After 30 chest compressions, provide two rescue breaths. Tilt the victim's head back slightly to open the airway, pinch their nose shut, and give a breath lasting about one second, making sure the chest rises visibly.
  • Continue with cycles of 30 compressions followed by two rescue breaths until the victim starts breathing on their own, emergency personnel arrive, or you are too exhausted to continue.
  • AED (Automated External Defibrillator): BLS often includes the use of an AED, a portable device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electric shock (defibrillation) to restore a normal heartbeat. AEDs are designed to be user-friendly and provide voice prompts to guide rescuers through the process.

To use an AED, turn it on, attach the electrode pads to the victim's chest as indicated in the instructions, and follow the AED's prompts. If the AED advises a shock, ensure no one is touching the victim and then press the shock button as directed.

Key Principles and Considerations in BLS:

  • Early Recognition: Recognizing the signs of cardiac arrest or respiratory distress is crucial. Look for unresponsiveness, absence of normal breathing, and lack of a pulse. Start BLS immediately if you suspect someone is in cardiac arrest.
  • Effective Compressions: High-quality chest compressions are vital. Push hard and fast (100-120 compressions per minute), allowing the chest to fully recoil between compressions.
  • Minimize Interruptions: Try to minimize interruptions in chest compressions. Quick, effective action is essential to maintain blood circulation.
  • Rescue Breaths: If trained in CPR, provide rescue breaths in addition to chest compressions. If not trained or uncomfortable with rescue breaths, providing chest compressions alone is still beneficial.
  • Early Defibrillation: Use an AED if available and follow its prompts. Early defibrillation can significantly increase the chances of restoring a normal heart rhythm.
  • Continuous Assessment: Continuously assess the victim's condition. If they start breathing or regain a pulse, stop CPR and monitor their vital signs until professional help arrives.
  • Training and Certification: It's essential to receive proper training and certification in BLS techniques from accredited organizations like the American Heart Association or the Red Cross. Regular refreshers are recommended to maintain proficiency.

BLS is a vital skill that can make a significant difference in saving lives during emergencies. By performing high-quality chest compressions and, when appropriate, using an AED, you can provide critical support to someone in cardiac arrest until professional medical help arrives.

6. Control Bleeding

Uncontrolled bleeding can be life-threatening. Apply direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or bandage. Elevate the injured area if possible to minimize blood loss.

Controlling bleeding is a crucial skill in first aid, as uncontrolled bleeding can lead to severe consequences, including shock and loss of life. Here's a more detailed explanation of what "Control Bleeding" involves:

Methods for Controlling Bleeding:

  • Direct Pressure: Direct pressure is the most effective and immediate way to control bleeding from a wound. Here's how to do it:
  • Cover the Wound: Use a clean cloth, sterile bandage, or your hand to cover the wound. Place a sterile dressing directly on the wound if available.
  • Apply Firm Pressure: Press down firmly on the wound with both hands, using your body weight if necessary. Maintain steady, continuous pressure for at least several minutes, or until the bleeding stops. Avoid lifting the dressing to check the wound too frequently, as this can disrupt clot formation.
  • Add More Layers: If bleeding continues, you can add additional layers of dressing and continue to apply pressure. Do not remove the initial dressing.
  • Elevation: Elevating the injured area above the level of the heart can help reduce blood flow to the wound and minimize bleeding. For example, if the injury is on the arm or leg, raise it gently while maintaining direct pressure on the wound.
  • Pressure Points: In certain situations, applying pressure to specific pressure points can help control bleeding. Common pressure points include:
    • Brachial artery (for bleeding in the arm)
    • Femoral artery (for bleeding in the thigh or groin)
    • Radial artery (for bleeding in the hand)
    • Popliteal artery (for bleeding behind the knee)
    • Carotid artery (for bleeding in the neck)
  • Apply pressure with your fingers or thumb at the appropriate pressure point while continuing to maintain direct pressure on the wound.
  • Tourniquet: A tourniquet is a last resort for controlling severe, life-threatening bleeding that cannot be stopped by other means. It should only be used when professional medical help is not available or cannot reach the scene in a reasonable time. Apply a tourniquet above the injury site, but do not use it unless absolutely necessary, as it can cause complications.

General Tips for Controlling Bleeding:

  1. Always prioritize your safety. Ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk while providing first aid for bleeding. Wear gloves if available to protect against potential infection.
  2. Encourage the injured person to remain as still as possible to minimize blood flow to the wound.
  3. Avoid using adhesive bandages or tape directly on the wound, as this can stick to the wound and cause further damage when removed.
  4. Continue to monitor the wound for any signs of re-bleeding. If bleeding restarts, apply additional pressure.
  5. Once bleeding is under control, keep the injured area elevated if possible to reduce swelling.
  6. Be aware that controlling bleeding is often just the first step. Depending on the severity of the injury, additional medical attention may be needed to assess and treat the wound further.

Controlling bleeding is a critical skill in first aid that involves applying direct pressure to the wound, elevating the injured area, and using pressure points or tourniquets when necessary. Prompt and effective bleeding control can significantly improve the chances of a positive outcome for the injured person, but it's essential to do so while ensuring your own safety and seeking professional medical help if needed.

7. Immobilization

In cases of suspected bone fractures or spinal injuries, immobilize the injured area. Use splints or makeshift supports to prevent further damage while waiting for professional medical help.

Immobilization is a first aid technique used to prevent further injury to a person who may have sustained a bone fracture or a suspected spinal injury. It involves securing the injured area in a stable position to minimize movement and reduce the risk of exacerbating the injury. Here's a more detailed explanation of what "Immobilization" involves:

When to Consider Immobilization:

  1. Suspected Bone Fractures: Immobilization is commonly used when there is a suspected bone fracture. Fractures can be painful and are often associated with deformity, swelling, and loss of function in the affected limb. Immobilizing the injured area can help reduce pain and prevent further damage.
  2. Suspected Spinal Injuries: Immobilization is crucial when there is a possibility of a spinal injury, such as in cases of falls, vehicle accidents, or sports injuries that involve a significant impact. Moving a person with a spinal injury without proper immobilization can lead to spinal cord damage.

Methods of Immobilization:

  • Splints: Splints are rigid devices that are used to immobilize a fractured or injured bone. They can be made from various materials, such as wood, metal, or plastic. Here's how to apply a splint:
    1. Ensure that the injured area is in a position of function, which means it's immobilized in the same way it would naturally rest when not injured.
    2. Place padding, such as gauze or clothing, between the splint and the skin to prevent pressure sores or irritation.
    3. Secure the splint in place using bandages, strips of cloth, or adhesive tape. The splint should extend beyond the joints above and below the injury.
  • Traction Splints: Traction splints are a specialized type of splint used for fractures of the thigh bone (femur). They apply controlled pulling force to the leg to align and stabilize the fracture.
  • Cervical Collar: In cases of suspected neck or spine injuries, a cervical collar is used to immobilize the neck and prevent movement. The collar should be applied carefully to support the head and neck.
  • Backboard: For individuals with suspected spinal injuries, a backboard may be used to provide full-body immobilization. The person is carefully placed on the board, and straps are used to secure them in place.

General Tips for Immobilization:

  • Always prioritize the person's safety and comfort during the immobilization process. Be gentle and reassure them throughout.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement when applying a splint or immobilizing device.
  • Ensure that the injured person's circulation is not compromised. Check for signs of numbness, tingling, or changes in skin color, and adjust the immobilization if necessary.
  • Do not attempt to realign or manipulate a fractured bone unless you have specialized training in orthopedic procedures. Immobilization aims to keep the bone in its current position.
  • Always seek professional medical help as soon as possible when immobilizing an injury. Immobilization is typically a temporary measure to prevent further harm until the person can receive proper medical evaluation and treatment.

Immobilization is a crucial first aid technique used to prevent further injury in cases of suspected bone fractures or spinal injuries. It involves securing the injured area or the entire body to minimize movement and stabilize the injury. Proper immobilization helps reduce pain, prevent complications, and ensure the best possible outcome for the injured person.

8. Provide Comfort and Reassurance

In non-life-threatening situations, offer comfort and reassurance to the injured person. Keep them calm and encourage them to remain still until medical assistance arrives.

Providing comfort and reassurance is an essential aspect of first aid that goes beyond the physical aspects of injury care. It focuses on the emotional and psychological support needed to help the injured person remain calm and feel secure during a challenging and often distressing situation. Here's a more detailed explanation of what "Provide Comfort and Reassurance" entails:

Why Comfort and Reassurance Are Important:

  1. Emotional Support: Injuries and medical emergencies can be frightening, painful, and disorienting. Providing comfort and reassurance helps ease the emotional distress and anxiety that the injured person may be experiencing.
  2. Stabilizing Vital Signs: Emotional distress can impact vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. Calming the injured person can help stabilize these vital signs and improve their overall condition.
  3. Enhancing Cooperation: A person who feels comforted and reassured is more likely to cooperate with first aid measures, which can make the process smoother and more effective.

How to Provide Comfort and Reassurance:

  • Stay Calm and Confident: Your demeanor as the first aider is essential. Maintain a calm and confident presence. Speak in a soothing and reassuring tone, even if you're feeling anxious yourself.
  • Introduce Yourself: Start by introducing yourself and letting the injured person know you are there to help. Use a calm and friendly tone.
  • Explain What You're Doing: Communicate clearly and explain the steps you're taking to provide care. Let the person know that you have the situation under control.
  • Listen Actively: Encourage the injured person to share their concerns or any information about their condition. Be a good listener and validate their feelings. This can help reduce anxiety.
  • Use Touch Wisely: A comforting touch, such as holding the person's hand or placing a hand on their shoulder, can provide reassurance. However, always ask for permission before touching the person.
  • Provide Distractions: If possible, engage the injured person in conversation about topics unrelated to the injury or emergency. Distractions can help take their mind off the situation.
  • Offer Blankets or Warmth: Providing warmth, such as covering the person with a blanket, can help alleviate shock and provide comfort.
  • Empathize: Show empathy by acknowledging the person's pain and distress. Phrases like, "I understand this is painful, but we're here to help," can be reassuring.
  • Address Concerns: If the injured person has specific concerns or requests (e.g., contacting a family member), do your best to address them or delegate someone to assist.
  • Reassure Safety: If the situation allows, reassure the person that they are safe and that professional medical help is on the way. Let them know that you will stay with them until help arrives.
  • Offer Encouragement: Provide words of encouragement and praise for their cooperation and bravery during a challenging time.


  1. Every person is unique, and their emotional response to injury or illness may vary. Be adaptable and responsive to their needs and preferences.
  2. Maintain professionalism and respect the person's privacy and dignity at all times.
  3. If the injured person is unresponsive or unable to communicate, continue to provide comfort and reassurance as you administer first aid.

Providing comfort and reassurance in first aid involves addressing the emotional and psychological needs of the injured person. Your compassionate and calming presence can help reduce anxiety, stabilize vital signs, and enhance the overall effectiveness of first aid care.


First aid is a crucial skill that empowers individuals to respond effectively during emergencies. By following these eight general principles of first aid, you can make a significant difference in preserving lives and minimizing harm. Remember to always prioritize safety and seek professional medical help when necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the first thing to do in an emergency situation?

In an emergency, the first thing to do is assess the situation for safety and the number of casualties. Ensure your safety before assisting others.

2. Why is Basic Life Support (BLS) important?

BLS is essential because it provides life-saving techniques, such as CPR, that can revive someone in cardiac arrest, significantly increasing their chances of survival.

3. How should I control bleeding in a first aid situation?

To control bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or bandage. Elevate the injured area if possible to reduce blood loss.

4. When should I immobilize an injured area?

You should immobilize an injured area when there are suspected bone fractures or spinal injuries. This helps prevent further damage until professional medical help arrives.

5. What is the role of providing comfort and reassurance in first aid?

Providing comfort and reassurance in non-life-threatening situations helps keep the injured person calm and stable until medical assistance arrives.

In this article, we've explored the eight general principles of first aid, equipping you with essential skills to respond effectively in times of need. Remember, first aid knowledge can be life-saving, so make an effort to learn and practice these principles to be better prepared for emergencies.

What are the golden rules for first aid? First aid is defined as the immediate care given to an acutely injured or ill person. To preserve life, to prevent further harm, and to promote recovery.

Principles Of First Aid Quiz

Here's a quiz to test your knowledge of the principles of first aid:

Principles of First Aid Quiz

What is the first step in providing first aid?
a. Call for professional medical assistance
b. Assess the situation
c. Apply Basic Life Support (BLS)
d. Control bleeding

Why is ensuring your safety important when offering first aid?
a. It prevents you from getting bored
b. It allows you to assess the situation better
c. You can call your friends for help
d. You can watch the situation without intervening

What does BLS stand for in first aid?
a. Basic Life Support
b. Bleeding Limitation System
c. Body Language Significance
d. Breathing and Limb Support

How can you control bleeding in a first aid situation?
a. Apply direct pressure to the wound
b. Perform CPR
c. Use a tourniquet immediately
d. Elevate the injured person's head

When should you immobilize an injured area?
a. In every first aid situation
b. When there is a suspected bone fracture or spinal injury
c. Only if the injured person asks for it
d. When the injury is on the hand or foot

Why is providing comfort and reassurance important in first aid?
a. It entertains the injured person
b. It helps keep the injured person calm and stable
c. It distracts from the injury
d. It encourages the injured person to move around


b. Assess the situation
a. It prevents you from getting bored
a. Basic Life Support
a. Apply direct pressure to the wound
b. When there is a suspected bone fracture or spinal injury
b. It helps keep the injured person calm and stable

Feel free to check your answers and see how well you know the principles of first aid!

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