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What are the most important concepts in basic emergency first aid?

The most important basic concept in emergency medicine is traditionally remembered by the mnemonic “ABC” which stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation. The care provider first makes sure that the patient has an open airway, is breathing appropriately, and has circulation intact (i.e., pulses, normal skin color and no uncontrolled bleeding). If the patient has stable ABCs, other specific injuries can be addressed with first aid. For injuries such as cuts, bruising/swelling or broken bones, it is important that the patient has good feeling (“sensation”) and circulation past the location (“distal”) of the injury. Other basic concepts include keeping wounds clean, applying pressure to stop bleeding and keeping suspected broken bones immobile until they can be evaluated and aligned appropriately. When in doubt, call your doctor for further advice in first aid for specific injuries.
The three most important concepts in emergency first aid are:
  • Stop any bleeding.
  • Restore adequate breathing.
  • Treat the victim for shock.
(This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern Kentucky University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.