Guidance for First Aid treatment during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
During these exceptional times with Physical distancing being required in all aspects of life, this has had a knock-on effect within the First Aid environment.
Following is some useful guidance, both from 4 Minutes and also the European Resuscitation Council. Anyone can have a Cardiac Arrest at any time and it is possible that you may be needing to carry out Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on someone that you suspect has Coronavirus COVID-19.
OK, so I have had an accident or have a medical problem
If you don’t think an ambulance is necessary, try the NHS website – https://111.nhs.uk/ – or dial 111.
The website is preferable as 111 Operators can be busy and you may be on hold for a while, but don’t hesitate to use it. Just be prepared to wait.
If you can self-treat at home, so much the better. First Aid courses will give you those skills, but clearly we are not running these face to face at the moment. We have, however, sourced a free online Family First Aid course that you can take. Online courses will never replace the experience of actual practice, but for now are much better than not knowing what to do at all.
Normally this is about £25 + vat, but at the moment it is totally free to take the course (there is a small fee if you want the Certificate after completion, but you do not need to pay it)
What if I have to carry out CPR?
Whenever CPR is carried out, particularly on an unknown victim, there is some risk of cross infection, associated particularly with giving rescue breaths. Normally, this risk is very small and is set against the inevitability that a person in cardiac arrest will die if no assistance is given. The first things to do are shout for help and dial 999.
The normal Resuscitation Council UK Guidelines 2015 state “If you are untrained or unable to do rescue breaths, give chest compression-only CPR (i.e. continuous compressions at a rate of at least 100–120 min-1)”. Bearing this in mind, here is current recommended advice:
- Recognise cardiac arrest by looking for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing. Do not listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the patient’s mouth. If you are in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, the default position is to start chest compressions until help arrives.
- Make sure an ambulance is on its way. If COVID 19 is suspected, tell them when you call 999.
- If there is a perceived risk of infection, rescuers should place a cloth/towel over the victims mouth and nose and attempt compression only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance (or advanced care team) arrives. Put hands together in the middle of the chest and push hard and fast.
- Early use of a defibrillator significantly increases the person’s chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection.
- If the rescuer has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. FFP3 face mask, disposable gloves, eye protection), these should be worn.
- After performing compression-only CPR, all rescuers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water; alcohol-based hand gel is a convenient alternative. They should also seek advice from the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or medical adviser.
We are aware that paediatric cardiac arrest is unlikely to be caused by a cardiac problem and is more likely to be a respiratory one, making ventilations crucial to the child’s chances of survival. However, for those not trained in paediatric resuscitation, the most important thing is to act quickly to ensure the child gets the treatment they need in the critical situation.
For out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, the importance of calling an ambulance and taking immediate action cannot be stressed highly enough. If a child is not breathing normally and no actions are taken, their heart will stop and full cardiac arrest will occur. Therefore, if there is any doubt about what to do, this statement should be used.
It is likely that the child/infant having an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will be known to you. We accept that doing rescue breaths will increase the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, either to the rescuer or the child/infant. However, this risk is small compared to the risk of taking no action as this will result in certain cardiac arrest and the death of the child.
If you have any questions or want to discuss taking a First Aid, Pet First Aid or Mental Health First Aid class, do get in touch with 4 Minutes.