Associations Release Revised First Aid Guidelines

This is the first update to the guidelines since 2010. They are the recognized scientific basis for most first aid training around the world, according to the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.

The American Red Cross and American Heart Association have released revised guidelines for administering first aid that include updated recommendations for treatment of bleeding, stroke recognition, and treating anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) and hypoglycemia in diabetics. Volunteer experts from 14 national and international organizations joined the ARC and AHA in reviewing the science behind 22 questions and working to reach consensus on related treatment recommendations.

This is the first update to the guidelines since 2010. They are the recognized scientific basis for most first aid training around the world, according to the associations.

"First aid can be initiated by anyone in any situation, and our responsibility as experts is to designate assessments and interventions that are medically sound and based on scientific evidence or expert consensus. Knowing the correct steps to take in those critical first moments of an emergency can mean the difference between life and death," said Dr. Eunice Singletary, MD, co-chair of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) First Aid Task Force and chair of the First Aid Guidelines writing group. She also chairs the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council's First Aid Subcouncil.

Dr. Clifton Callaway, MD, Ph.D., chair of AHA's Emergency Cardiovascular Care committee and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said the revised guidelines "highlight ways we can help save more lives from illness and injury. Anyone can provide first aid, and everyone should. The guidelines integrate the latest science to create evidence-based recommendations for training and preparation. Everyone should learn how to initiate first aid and act quickly when it is needed," he added.

Among the changes is updated material on recovery position, specifically, if the person is unresponsive and breathing normally, without any suspected spine, hip, or pelvis injury, they recommend turning the victim to a lateral side-lying position because studies show some respiratory improvement in this position. The modified HAINES position is no longer recommended due to lack of scientific evidence.

The updated guidelines clarify that aspirin should be used when helping someone suspected of having a heart attack, characterized by symptoms such as chest pain accompanied by nausea, sweating and pain in the arm and back. If the first aid provider is not clear on whether this is a heart attack or simply someone experiencing non-cardiac related chest pain or discomfort, aspirin should not be given.

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