First aid

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Call 911 if you think the medical emergency is life threatening.

Man performing CPR on another personFirst aid may be necessary when someone becomes sick, injured, or is experiencing a health-related illness. Learning and applying first aid techniques allows for the provision of basic emergency medical treatment for minor injuries and for more serious injuries before the arrival of advanced medical treatment.


You will be much more effective in an emergency if you have taken CPR and first aid classes. Call the Colorado Springs office of the American Heart Association (719-635-7688) and the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross (719-632-3563) for information on training and classes.

Check for a medical alert bracelet while providing first aid. A medical bracelet may provide information such as the person’s medical conditions, personal identification number, and a telephone number to call for additional information.

Source: Mayo Clinic unless otherwise noted

First Aid Kit: Recommended Supplies and Medications

Basic Supplies

  • Adhesive tape and bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic solution or towelettes
  • Bandages, including a roll of elastic wrap and bandages strips in assorted sizes
  • Instant cold packs
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Disposable latex or synthetic gloves, at least two pairs
  • Duct tape
  • Gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes
  • Eye goggles
  • Face masks
  • First aid instruction manual
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Plastic bags for the disposal of contaminated materials
  • Safety pins in assorted sizes
  • Scissors, tweezers, and a needle
  • Soap or instant hand sanitizer
  • Sterile eyewash, such as a saline solution
  • Sunscreen
  • Syringe, medicine cup, spoon or medicine dropper
  • Thermometer
  • Tooth preservation kit containing salt solution and a travel case
  • Triangular bandage
  • Turkey baster or other bulb suction device for flushing out wounds


  • Activated charcoal (use only if instructed by your poison control center)
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Antacid for stomach upset
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Over-the-counter oral antihistamine
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers (never give aspirin to children)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
  • Personal medications that do not need refrigeration
  • Epinephrine, if prescribed by your medical provider to treat anaphylaxis


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique useful in many emergencies in which someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone — untrained bystanders and medical personnel alike — begin CPR with chest compressions.

If you’re fearful that your knowledge or abilities aren’t 100% complete, it’s far better to do something than to do nothing at all. Remember, the difference between your doing something and doing nothing could be someone’s life.

Here’s advice from the American Heart Association:

• Untrained. If you’re not trained in CPR, then provide hands-only CPR. That means uninterrupted chest compressions of about 100 a minute until paramedics arrive (described in more detail below). You don’t need to try rescue breathing.

• Trained, but rusty. If you’ve previously received CPR training but you’re not confident in your abilities, then just do chest compressions at a rate of about 100 a minute.

• Trained, and ready to go. If you’re well trained and confident in your ability, begin with chest compressions instead of first checking the airway and doing rescue breathing. Start CPR with 30 chest compressions before checking the airway and giving rescue breaths.

The above advice applies to adults, children, and infants needing CPR, but not newborns. CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until more definitive medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm.

When the heart stops, the lack of oxygenated blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes. A person may die within eight to 10 minutes. To learn CPR properly, take an accredited first-aid training course, including CPR and how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

Before you begin

Before starting CPR, check:

• Is the person conscious or unconscious?

• If the person appears unconscious, tap and shout loudly, “Are you OK?”

• If the person does not respond and two people are available, one should call 911 or the local emergency number and one should begin CPR.

If you are alone and have immediate access to a telephone, call 911 before beginning CPR — unless you think the person has become unresponsive because of suffocation (such as from drowning). In this special case, begin CPR for two minutes and then call 911 or the local emergency number.

• If an AED is immediately available, deliver one shock if instructed by the device, then begin CPR.

Remember C-A-B

The American Heart Association uses the acronym of CAB — circulation, airway, breathing — to help people remember the order to perform the steps of CPR.

Circulation: Restore blood circulation with chest compressions

1. Put the person on his or her back on a firm surface.

2. Kneel next to the person’s neck and shoulders.

3. Place the heel of one hand over the center of the person’s chest, between the nipples. Place your other hand on top of the first hand. Keep your elbows straight and position your shoulders directly above your hands.

4. Use your upper body weight (not just your arms) as you push straight down on (compress) the chest at least 2 inches (approximately 5 centimeters). Push hard at a rate of about 100 compressions a minute.

5. If you haven’t been trained in CPR, continue chest compressions until there are signs of movement or until emergency medical personnel take over. If you have been trained in CPR, go on to checking the airway and rescue breathing.

Airway: Clear the airway

1. If you’re trained in CPR and you’ve performed 30 chest compressions, open the person’s airway using the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver. Put your palm on the person’s forehead and gently tilt the head back. Then with the other hand, gently lift the chin forward to open the airway.

2. Check for normal breathing, taking no more than five or 10 seconds. Look for chest motion, listen for normal breath sounds, and feel for the person’s breath on your cheek and ear. Gasping is not considered to be normal breathing. If the person isn’t breathing normally and you are trained in CPR, begin mouth-to-mouth breathing. If you believe the person is unconscious from a heart attack and you haven’t been trained in emergency procedures, skip mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and continue chest compressions.

Breathing: Breathe for the person

Rescue breathing can be mouth-to-mouth breathing or mouth-to-nose breathing if the mouth is seriously injured or can’t be opened.

1. With the airway open (using the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver), pinch the nostrils shut for mouth-to-mouth breathing and cover the person’s mouth with yours, making a seal.

2. Prepare to give two rescue breaths. Give the first rescue breath — lasting one second — and watch to see if the chest rises. If it does rise, give the second breath. If the chest does not rise, repeat the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver and then give the second breath. Thirty chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths is considered one cycle.

3. Resume chest compressions to restore circulation.

4. If the person has not begun moving after five cycles (about two minutes) and an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is available, apply it and follow the prompts. Administer one shock, then resume CPR — starting with chest compressions — for two more minutes before administering a second shock. If you’re not trained to use an AED, a 911 or other emergency medical operator may be able to guide you in its use. Use pediatric pads, if available, for children ages 1 through 8. Do not use an AED for babies younger than age 1. If an AED isn’t available, go to step 5 below.

5. Continue CPR until there are signs of movement or emergency medical personnel take over.

To perform CPR on a child

The procedure for giving CPR to a child age 1 through 8 is essentially the same as that for an adult. The differences are as follows:

1. If you’re alone, perform five cycles of compressions and breaths on the child —this should take about two minutes —before calling 911 or your local emergency number or using an AED.

2. Use only one hand to perform heart compressions.

3. Breathe more gently.

4. Use the same compression-breath rate as is used for adults: 30 compressions followed by two breaths. This is one cycle. Following the two breaths, immediately begin the next cycle of compressions and breaths.

5. After five cycles (about two minutes) of CPR, if there is no response and an AED is available, apply it and follow the prompts. Use pediatric pads if available. If pediatric pads aren’ available, use adult pads.

6. Continue until the child moves or help arrives.

To perform CPR on a baby

Most cardiac arrests in babies occur from lack of oxygen, such as from drowning or choking. If you know the baby has an airway obstruction, perform first aid for choking. If you don’ know why the baby isn’t breathing, perform CPR.

1. To begin, examine the situation. Stroke the baby and watch for a response, such as movement, but don’ shake the baby.

2. If there’ no response, follow the CAB procedures below and time the call for help as follows:

  • If you are the only rescuer and CPR is needed, do CPR for two minutes —about five cycles —before calling 911 or your local emergency number.
  • If another person is available, have that person call for help immediately while you attend to the baby.

Circulation: Restore blood circulation

1. Place the baby on his or her back on a firm, flat surface, such as a table. The floor or ground also will do.

2. Imagine a horizontal line drawn between the baby’ nipples. Place two fingers of one hand just below this line in the center of the chest.

3. Gently compress the chest about 1.5 inches (about 4 cm).

4. Count aloud as you pump in a fairly rapid rhythm. You should pump at a rate of 100 compressions a minute.

Airway: Clear the airway

1. After 30 compressions, gently tip the head back by lifting the chin with one hand and pushing down on the forehead with the other hand.

2. In no more than 10 seconds, put your ear near the baby’s mouth and check for breathing: Look for chest motion, listen for breath sounds, and feel for breath on your cheek and ear.

Breathing: Breathe for the infant

1. Cover the baby’ mouth and nose with your mouth.

2. Prepare to give two rescue breaths. Use the strength of your cheeks to deliver gentle puffs of air (instead of deep breaths from your lungs) to slowly breathe into the baby’ mouth one time, taking one second for the breath. Watch to see if the baby’ chest rises. If it does, give a second rescue breath. If the chest does not rise, repeat the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver and then give the second breath.

3. If the baby’s chest still does not rise, examine the mouth to make sure no foreign material is inside. If the object is seen, sweep it out with your finger. If the airway seems blocked, perform first aid for a choking baby.

4. Give two breaths after every 30 chest compressions.

5. Perform CPR for about two minutes before calling for help unless someone else can make the call while you attend to the baby.

6. Continue CPR until you see signs of life or until medical personnel arrive.

Anaphylaxis (Life-Threatening Allergic Reaction)

A life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can cause shock, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and trouble breathing. In people who have an allergy, anaphylaxis can occur minutes after exposure to a specific allergen. In some cases, there may be a delayed reaction or anaphylaxis may occur without an obvious trigger.

If you are with someone having signs of anaphylaxis, do not wait for symptoms to get better. Seek emergency treatment right away. In severe cases, untreated anaphylaxis can lead to death within half an hour.

Signs and symptoms

  • Skin reactions including hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, or throat
  • Constriction of the airways, leading to wheezing and trouble breathing
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness

What to do

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Ask the person if he or she is carrying an epinephrine autoinjector to treat an allergic attack.
  • Ask whether you should help inject the medication if the person says he or she needs to use an autoinjector. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the person’s thigh.
  • Have the person lie still on his or her back.
  • Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket.
  • Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking if there is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth.
  • Begin CPR if there are no signs of movement.
  • Get emergency treatment even if symptoms start to improve because it is possible for symptoms to recur.

What NOT to do

  • • Do not give the person anything to drink.


To distinguish a minor burn from a serious burn, the extent of damage to body tissues will need to be determined. The three burn classifications of superficial, partial thickness, and full thickness burns will help you determine emergency care.

Minor burns include superficial and partial thickness burns limited to an area no larger than 3 inches in diameter. Major or serious burns include full thickness burns and partial thickness burns larger than 3 inches in diameter or if a burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint.

What to do

  • Call 911 if the burn is major or serious and follow the steps below:
    • Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If there is no breathing or other sign of circulation, begin CPR.
    • Elevate the burned body part or parts. Raise above heart level, when possible.
    • Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, sterile bandage; clean, moist cloth; or moist towels.
  • If the burn is minor:
    • Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cool (not cold) running water for 10 or 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cool water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin.
    • Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Do not use fluffy cotton, or other material that may get lint in the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain, and protects blistered skin.
    • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

What NOT to do

  • Do not use ice. Putting ice directly on a burn can cause a burn victim’s body to become too cold and cause further damage to the wound.
  • Do not apply butter or ointments to the burn. This could cause infection.
  • Do not break blisters. Broken blisters are more vulnerable to infection.
  • Do not remove burned clothing. However, do make sure the victim is no longer in contact with smoldering materials or exposed to smoke or heat.
  • Do not immerse large severe burns in cold water. Doing so could cause a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) and deterioration of blood pressure and circulation (shock).

Burn Classification

Superficial burn: The least serious burns are those in which only the outer layer of skin is burned, but not all the way through. The skin is usually red, with swelling, and pain sometimes is present.

Partial thickness burn: When the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin (dermis) also is burned, the injury is called a partial thickness burn. Blisters develop and the skin takes on an intensely reddened, splotchy appearance. Partial thickness burns produce severe pain and swelling.

Full thickness burn: The most serious burns involve all layers of the skin and cause permanent tissue damage. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white.


Choking occurs when an object or fluid becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. In adults, a piece of food often is the cause. Young children often swallow small objects. Because choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, administer first aid as quickly as possible.

If choking is occurring, the American Red Cross recommends a “five-and-five” approach to delivering first aid.

  • First, deliver five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand if trained to do so. Otherwise, proceed to abdominal thrusts.
  • Next, perform five abdominal thrusts.
  • Alternate between five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.

The universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat. If the person does not give the signal, look for these indications.

  • Inability to talk
  • Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
  • Inability to cough forcefully
  • Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky
  • Loss of consciousness

On Someone Else

On Yourself

On Pregnant Woman or Obese Person

On Unconscious Person

On Infant Younger
than 1 Year Old

Stand behind the person. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward slightly.

Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person’s navel.

Grasp the fist with the other hand. Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust — as if trying to lift the person up.

Perform a total of five abdominal thrusts, if needed. If the blockage still is not dislodged, repeat the five-and-five cycle.

Place a fist slightly above your navel.

Grasp your fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface — a countertop or chair will do.

Shove your fist inward and upward.

Position your hands a little bit higher than with normal abdominal thrusts, at the base of the chest, just above the joining of the lowest ribs.

Proceed as with the abdominal thrusts, pressing hard into the chest, with a quick thrust.

Repeat until the blockage is dislodged or the person becomes unconscious.

Lower the person on his or her back onto the floor.

Clear the airway. If there is a visible blockage at the back of the throat or high in the throat, reach a finger into the mouth and sweep out the cause of the blockage. Be careful not to push the object deeper into the airway, which can happen easily in young children.

Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the object remains lodged and the person does not respond after you take the above measures. The chest compressions used in CPR may dislodge the object. Remember to recheck the mouth periodically.

Assume a seated position and hold the infant facedown on your forearm, resting on your thigh. 

Thump the infant gently but firmly five times on the middle of the back using the heel of your hand. The combination of gravity and the back blows should release the blocking object.

Hold the infant face up on your forearm with the head lower than the trunk if the above does not work. Using two fingers placed at the center of the infant’s chest, give five quick chest compressions. 

Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts if breathing does not resume. Call for emergency medical help.

Begin infant CPR if one of these techniques opens the airway but the infant does not resume breathing.

If the child is older than age 1, give abdominal thrusts only. 

Cuts and Scrapes

Minor cuts and scrapes usually do not require a trip to a hospital emergency department. Yet proper care is essential to avoid infection or other complications.

Stop the bleeding

  • Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If they do not, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage.
  • Hold the pressure continuously for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Do not keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped because this may damage or dislodge the clot and cause bleeding to resume.
  • Seek medical assistance if blood spurts or continues flowing after continuous pressure.

Clean the wound

  • Thorough cleaning reduces the risk of infection and tetanus.
  • Rinse out the wound with clear water.
  • Soap can irritate the wound, so try to keep it out of the actual wound.
  • Use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove dirt and debris particles if it remains in the wound after washing. If debris still remains, see your doctor.
  • To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a washcloth.
  • There is no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or an iodine-containing cleanser.

Apply an antibiotic

  • Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment after cleaning the wound to help keep the surface moist.
  • Antibiotics can discourage infection and help your body’s natural healing process.
  • Stop using the antibiotic if a rash appears after use.

Cover the wound

  • Use dressings to help keep the wound clean and keep bacteria out.
  • After the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, exposure to the air will speed wound healing.

Change the dressing

  • Change the dressing daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty.
  • Use latex/adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze held in place with tape or a loosely applied elastic bandage if you are allergic to the latex or adhesive used in dressings.

Get stitches for deep wounds

  • Stitches are usually required when a wound is more than ¼-inch deep or has a gaping or jagged edged with fat or muscle protruding.
  • See your doctor as soon as possible if adhesive strips or butterfly tape does not easily close the wound.

Watch for signs of infection

  • See your doctor if the wound is not healing or you notice any redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth, or swelling.

Get a tetanus shot

  • Doctors recommend you get a tetanus shot every 10 years.
  • If your wound is deep or dirty and your last shot was more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot booster.
  • Get the booster as soon as possible after the injury.

Electric Shock

The danger from an electrical shock depends on the type of current, how high the voltage is, how the current traveled through the body, the person’s overall health, and how quickly the person is treated.

Call 911 immediately if any of the following signs or symptoms occur:

  • •Cardiac arrest
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Respiratory failure
  • Muscle pain and contractions
  • Burns
  • Seizures
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Unconsciousness

What to do

  • Look first and not touch. The person may still be in contact with the electrical source and touching the person may pass the current through you.
  • Turn off power source, if possible.
  • Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing, or movement). If absent, immediately begin CPR.
  • Prevent shock. Lay the person down.
  • Seek medical attention. After coming into contact with electricity, the person should see a doctor to check for internal injuries, even if he or she has no obvious signs or symptoms.


Fainting occurs when the blood supply to your brain is momentarily inadequate, causing you to lose consciousness. This loss of consciousness is usually brief. Fainting can have no medical significance, or the cause can be a serious disorder. Therefore, treat loss of consciousness as a medical emergency until the signs and symptoms are relieved and the cause is known. Discuss recurrent fainting spells with your doctor.

What to do if you feel faint

• Lie down or sit down. To reduce the chance of fainting again, do not get up quickly.

• Place your head between your knees if you sit down.

What to do if someone else faints

  • Position the person on his or her back.
  • Turn head to the side, raise legs 8-12 inches
  • Check the person’s airway to be sure it is clear.
  • Loosen belts, collars, or other constrictive clothing.
  • Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing, or movement). If absent, call 911 and begin CPR.
  • If the person does not regain consciousness within one minute, call 911.
  • To reduce the chance of fainting again, do not get the person up too quickly.


When exposed to very cold temperatures, skin and underlying tissues may freeze, resulting in frostbite. The areas most likely to be affected by frostbite are your hands, feet, nose, and ears.

If your skin looks white or grayish-yellow, is very cold and has a hard or waxy feel, you may have frostbite. Your skin may also itch, burn, or feel numb. Severe frostbite can cause blistering and hardening. As the area thaws, the flesh becomes red and painful.

What to do

  • Treat frostbite by gradually warming the affected skin.
  • Protect your skin from further exposure. If you are outside, warm frostbitten hands by tucking them into your armpits. Protect your face, nose, or ears by covering the area with dry, gloved hands. Do not rub the affected area and never rub snow on frostbitten skin.
  • Get out of the cold. Once you are indoors, remove wet clothes.
  • Gradually warm frostbitten areas. Put frostbitten hands or feet in warm water (104 to 107.6 F). Wrap or cover other areas in a warm blanket.
  • Circulation is returning if the skin turns red and there is a tingling and burning sensation as it warms. If numbness or sustained pain remains during warming or if blisters develop, seek medical attention.

What NOT to do

  • Do not use direct heat from anything, such as a stove, heat lamp, fireplace, or heating pad, because it can cause burns.
  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes if possible because this further damages the tissue.
  • Do not thaw out the affected areas if there is any chance they will freeze again.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness ranging in severity from mild heat cramps to exhaustion and may lead to life-threatening heatstroke. Heat exhaustion often begins suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration, and inadequate fluid or salt intake.

Signs and symptoms

  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid, weak heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cool, moist, pale skin
  • Low-grade fever
  • Heat cramps
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dark-colored urine

What to do

  • Get the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned location.
  • Lay the person down.
  • Loosen or remove the person’s clothing.
  • Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.
  • Cool the person by spraying or sponging him or her with cool water and fanning.
  • Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke.


Heatstroke is the most severe heat-related illness, often resulting from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake. Young children, older adults, people who are obese, and people born with an impaired ability to sweat are at high risk of heatstroke. Other risk factors include dehydration, alcohol use, cardiovascular disease, and certain medications.

Signs and symptoms

  • The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature — generally greater than 104 F.
  • Changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma.
  • Skin may be hot and dry — although if heatstroke is caused by exertion, the skin may be moist.
  • Fainting may be the first sign in older adults.
  • Rapid heartbeat with rapid and shallow breathing
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Cessation of sweating
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headache
  • Nausea

What to do

  • Move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space.
  • Call 911.
  • Cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water. Direct air onto the person with a fan or newspaper.
  • Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.


When more heat is lost than your body can generate, hypothermia, defined as an internal body temperature less than 95 F (35 C), can result. This is especially true when exposed to a high wind chill factor and high humidity, or to a cool, damp environment for prolonged periods. Wet or inadequate clothing, falling into cold water, and not covering your head during cold weather can increase your chances of hypothermia.

Signs and symptoms usually develop slowly. People with hypothermia typically experience gradual loss of mental acuity and physical ability, so they may be unaware that they need emergency medical treatment.

Signs and symptoms

  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Abnormally slow breathing
  • Cold, pale skin
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fatigue, lethargy or apathy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Bright red, cold skin (infants)

What to do

  • Call 911. Monitor breathing while waiting for help to arrive. Begin CPR if breathing stops or seems dangerously slow or shallow.
  • Move the person out of the cold. Protect the person from the wind, cover his or her head, and insulate his or her body from the cold ground if going indoors is not possible.
  • Remove wet clothing. Replace with warm, dry blankets or other coverings.
  • Offer warm nonalcoholic drinks, unless the person is vomiting.

What NOT to do

  • Do not apply direct heat. Do not use hot water, a heating pad, or a heating lamp to warm the victim. Instead, apply warm compresses to the center of the body — head, neck, chest wall, and groin.
  • Do not attempt to warm the arms and legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs can be fatal because it forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs, and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop.
  • Do not massage or rub the person. Handle people with hypothermia gently; their skin may be frostbitten, and rubbing frostbitten tissue can cause severe damage.

Insect Bites and Stings

Most reactions to insect bites are mild, causing little more than an annoying itching or stinging sensation and mild swelling that disappear within a day or so. A delayed reaction may cause fever, hives, painful joints, and swollen glands. You might experience both the immediate and the delayed reactions from the same insect bite or sting. Only a small percentage of people develop severe allergic reactions to insect venom.

Bites from bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and fire ants are typically the most troublesome. Bites from mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, and spiders can also cause reactions, but tend to be milder.

Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips or throat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea, cramps, and vomiting
  • Faintness, dizziness
  • Hives
  • Abdominal pain
  • Deterioration of blood pressure and circulation (shock)
  • Rapid progression

What to do for severe reactions

  • Call 911.

Immediately take the following actions while waiting for medical help

  • Check for medications that the person might be carrying to treat an allergic attack, such as an autoinjector of epinephrine. Administer the drug as directed — usually by pressing the autoinjector against the person’s thigh and holding it in place for several seconds. Massage the injection site for 10 seconds to enhance absorption.
  • Have the person take an antihistamine pill if he or she is able to do so without choking. Do this after administering epinephrine.
  • Have the person lie still on his or her back.
  • Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Do not give anything to drink.
  • Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking if there is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth.
  • Begin CPR if there are no signs of movement.

What to do for mild reactions

  • Move to a safe area to avoid more stings.
  • Remove the stinger, especially if it is stuck in the skin. This will prevent the release of more venom. Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack or cloth filled with ice to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream (0.5 percent or 1 percent), calamine lotion, or a baking soda paste — with a ratio of 3 teaspoons baking soda to 1 teaspoon water — to the bite or sting several times a day until symptoms subside.
  • Take an antihistamine containing diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine maleate.


Nosebleeds are common and most often a nuisance rather than a true medical problem. But they can be both, so if bleeding persists seek medical attention.

What to do

  • Sit upright and lean forward. By remaining upright, you reduce blood pressure in the blood vessels of your nose. This discourages further bleeding. Sitting forward will help you avoid swallowing blood, which can irritate your stomach.
  • Pinch your nose. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch your nostrils shut. Breathe through your mouth. Continue to pinch for five to 10 minutes. This maneuver sends pressure to the bleeding point on the nasal septum and often stops the flow of blood.
  • To prevent bleeding from recurring, do not pick or blow your nose and do not bend down until several hours after the bleeding episode. Keep your head higher than the level of your heart.
  • If bleeding reoccurs, blow out forcefully to clear your nose of blood clots and spray both sides of your nose with a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline. Pinch your nose in the technique described above and call your doctor.

Seek immediate medical care if

  • The bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes.
  • The nosebleed follows an accident, a fall, or an injury to your head, including a punch in the face that may have broken your nose.


Many conditions mimic the signs and symptoms of poisoning, including seizures, alcohol intoxication, stroke, and diabetic emergency. If you suspect poisoning, call the poison control center serving Colorado Springs at (719) 776-5333, or the National Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222, before giving anything to the affected person.

Signs and symptoms

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips from drinking certain poisons
  • Breath that smells like chemicals, such as gasoline or paint thinner
  • Burns, stains, and odors on the person, on his or her clothing, or on the furniture, floor, rugs or other objects in the surrounding area
  • Empty medication bottles or scattered pills
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other unexpected signs

Call 911 if the person is

  • Drowsy or unconscious
  • Having difficulty breathing or has stopped breathing
  • Uncontrollably restless or agitated
  • Having seizures

What to do while waiting for help

  • If the person has been exposed to poisonous fumes, such as carbon monoxide, get him or her into fresh air immediately.
  • If the person swallowed the poison, remove anything remaining in the mouth.
  • If the suspected poison is a household cleaner or other chemical, read the label and follow instructions for accidental poisoning. If the product is toxic, the label will likely advise you to call the poison control center at 800-222-1222. Also call this 800 number if you cannot identify the poison, if it is medication, or if there are no instructions.
  • Follow treatment directions that are given by the poison control center.
  • If the poison spilled on the person’s clothing, skin, or eyes, remove the clothing. Flush the skin or eyes with cool or lukewarm water, such as using a shower for 20 minutes or until help arrives.
  • Begin CPR if there are no signs of movement.
  • Take the poison container (or any pill bottles) with you to the hospital.

What NOT to do

  • Do not give ipecac syrup or do anything to induce vomiting. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises removing ipecac from the home, citing no evidence of effectiveness and that it can do more harm than good.


Shock may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss, an allergic reaction, severe infection, poisoning, severe burns, or other causes. When a person is in shock, his or her organs are not getting enough blood or oxygen, which if untreated, can lead to permanent organ damage or death.

Signs and symptoms

  • The skin is cool and clammy and may appear pale or gray.
  • The pulse is weak and rapid.
  • The person may be nauseated and may vomit.
  • The eyes lack luster and may seem to stare. Sometimes the pupils are dilated.
  • The person may be conscious or unconscious. If conscious, the person may feel faint or be very weak or confused. Shock sometimes causes a person to become overly excited and anxious.

If you suspect shock, even if the person seems normal after an injury

  • Call 911.
  • Have the person lie down on his or her back. Keep the person still.
  • Begin CPR if there are no signs of movement.
  • Keep the person warm and comfortable. Loosen belt and tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Give nothing by mouth even if the person complains of thirst.
  • Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking if the person vomits or bleeds from the mouth.
  • Seek treatment for injuries, such as bleeding or broken bones.

Snake Bite

Source: Colorado State University Extension

The Western Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake found in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area. There is antivenom available for use against all native rattlesnakes in the United States, so it is helpful but no longer imperative, to determine the species of rattlesnake after a bite.

Signs and symptoms

  • There may be one or two visible fang marks in addition to teeth marks if bitten by a rattlesnake.
  • The common and fairly quick reactions to venom are swelling and pain in the bite area, followed by a black and blue discoloration of the tissue and possibly nausea.
  • Painful swelling of lymph nodes in the groin or armpit usually occurs within one hour if the bite is on the leg or arm.

What to do

  • Remain calm to prevent increased circulation and minimize the spread of the venom.
  • Immediately remove anything from the body that may cause increased swelling below the bite area (e.g., rings, watch, shoes, tight clothing, etc.)
  • Wash the wound with soap and water, if possible.
  • An extractor pump may be used to remove some of the venom. Be familiar with the procedure and instructions before you need to use it.
  • Immobilize the bite area, keeping it in a neutral to below the heart position.
  • Get to the hospital immediately.
  • If possible, have another person drive you to the hospital, and call ahead to the hospital and the poison control center.
  • Call 911.

What NOT to do

  • Do not try to capture the snake, but try to remember its color and shape so you can describe it, which will help in your treatment.
  • Do not use a tourniquet.
  • Do not make an incision at the bite site.
  • Do not suck out the venom with your mouth as this may increase the risk of infection.
  • Do not pack the limb in ice.
  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol.


A stroke occurs when there is bleeding into your brain or when normal blood flow to your brain is blocked. Within minutes of being deprived of essential nutrients, brain cells start dying — a process that may continue over the next several hours.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in your face, arm or leg on one side of your body
  • Sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
  • Loss of speech, trouble talking or understanding speech
  • Sudden, severe headache with no apparent cause
  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially if accompanied by any of the other signs or symptoms


Signs and symptoms of sunburn usually appear within a few hours of exposure, bringing pain, redness, swelling, and occasional blistering. Because exposure often affects a large area of your skin, sunburn can cause headache, fever, and fatigue.

What to do

  • Take a cool bath or shower. You can also apply a clean towel dampened with cool water.
  • Apply an aloe vera or moisturizing lotion several times a day.
  • Leave blisters intact to speed healing and avoid infection. If they burst on their own, apply an antibacterial ointment on the open areas.
  • If needed, take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

What NOT to do

  • Do not use petroleum jelly, butter, or other home remedies on your sunburn because they can prevent or delay healing.

Tooth Loss

If a tooth is knocked out, seek emergency dental care. It may be possible to successfully implant permanent teeth that have been knocked out. Following the steps below may increase the chances of saving a tooth prior to seeing a dentist.

What to do

  • Handle the tooth by the top or crown only, not the roots.
  • Gently rinse the tooth in a bowl of tap water.
  • Try to replace the tooth in the socket. If it does not go all the way into place, bite down slowly and gently on gauze or a moistened tea bag to help keep it in place. Hold the tooth in place until you see a dentist.
  • If the tooth cannot be replaced in the socket, immediately retrieve the tooth preservation kit from your first aid kit. If this kit is not available, place the tooth in some milk, the individual’s own saliva, or a warm, mild saltwater solution — ¼ teaspoon salt to 1 quart water (about 1 milliliter of salt to about 1 liter water).
  • Get medical attention from a dentist immediately.

What NOT to do

  • Do not handle the tooth by the root.
  • Do not hold the tooth under running water.
  • Do not rub the tooth or scrape it to remove debris. This damages the root surface, making the tooth less likely to survive.