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First aid refers to the immediate, direct treatment of an injured person. Anyone with a basic understanding of medical treatment can administer aid at the first signs of trouble. Simple procedures may include stopping blood loss by applying pressure, dressing a wound, treating a burn with ointment, or setting a bone with a splint. Some types, such as performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), require an individual to receive specialized training from an accredited program.
Many minor injuries can be handled with simple, immediate medical attention. A small cut, burn, or blister, for instance, can be attended to by thoroughly cleaning the injury, applying a topical antibiotic cream, and covering it with a breathable bandage or wrap. Treating bruises, muscle strains, swelling, and animal bites usually involves icing and compressing the injuries, as well as taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain medication.
Some injuries require medical services beyond the average person's abilities. An person who is choking or drowning, for example, may depend on a trained professional to administer the Heimlich maneuver or CPR. Strokes, seizures, concussions, and broken bones create special challenges for immediate medical care providers, as they are usually required to keep victims calm and conscious while temporarily relieving symptoms.
Individuals in most countries can get first aid training through courses offered by community health organizations and hospitals. Training may last anywhere from a few hours to three or four days, depending on the scope of a program. Individuals in training usually learn how to recognize signs of choking, concussions, and blood loss, and practice the means of treating such ailments. People who learn how to perform CPR and other lifesaving tasks are often awarded with special certifications.
Most supermarkets, retail pharmacies, online retailers, and specialty outdoors stores sell first aid kits, which prepare individuals for common injuries. Kits may include bandages, dressings, antiseptic sprays, painkillers, gloves, scissors, and sterile syringes among other items. Many people choose to keep these kits in their homes and cars to be prepared for emergencies. Hikers, sportsmen, and adventure seekers often carry emergency kits in case an accident occurs in an isolated area.
Successful first aid procedures can provide relief from pain and uncomfortable symptoms and prevent further damage from infection. When treatment is administered quickly, many injuries are able to heal completely without a visit to a medical professional or emergency room. Urgent care can even mean the difference between life and death in situations where professional help is unavailable or slow to arrive.