Things you should consider during the pandemic:
Most of us have a job first and then we are first aiders alongside. This means that we are likely to be looking closely at a million and one other changes in the workplace and maybe we haven’t thought about our first aider role.
You should consider before someone needs you; are you happy to be a first aider? Do you have an underlying condition which is causing you to shield? Is there someone in your household who is at higher risk? Maybe it’s time to forgoe your extra responsibility and to find someone else who is or can be trained to deliver first aid. Have this conversation now before you are faced with a difficult decision.
So, yes there have been some quite clear changes to guidance on giving CPR – we’ll come back to this shortly but you need to consider some other scenarios too.
Someone has a small bleed and you need to clean and dress the wound. You have to get closer than a meter to do this. Are you happy to do that?
It is currently thought that the virus passes through respiratory droplets 1 so it is unlikely to be transferred from the casualty’s would to you but as with any open wound, you could transfer an infection to the open wound so that as always you MUST wash your hands and wear gloves. What we really need to consider on top of the usual cleaning routines is wearing a masks. Both the casualty and the first aider should wear one to reduce the transfer of respiratory droplets. So, make sure that the first aid kit is well stocked with gloves and marks. You need to wear one for any close contact even if neither of you have symptoms.
If there is no other trained first aider available maybe you can direct the casualty to treat their own small wound and you can choose to maintain social distancing in this case.
Of course, there are a small number of situations where you could not maintain distancing. If the casualty is not breathing or they are unconscious it is imperative that you try to help them, covid doesn’t mean you can walk on bye. If a person is not breathing you can massively improve their chances of survival by performing CPR.
Those trained in CPR will know that the first thing to check for is Danger. You are hopefully familiar with this common mnemonic DRABC.
So, as well as the usual dangers we check for; traffic, water, electricity etc and we need to check our covid risk. Have you already been in contact with this casualty ie are they in your household? Are you in a work bubble? Have you already been exposed to them? Consider the risk of transfer of respiratory droplets. Is there a perceived risk of infection?
Normally if a casualty is unresponsive we would ask you to put your face down next to the casualty to detect breathing. Don’t do this.
Instead, follow new guidance from the Resuscitation council UK2: Look at the casualty. Do they look like they are breathing normally? Are they grey and palid? Are signs of life absent? Can you see the chest rise and fall? If you are in any doubt that they are breathing then go ahead and perform CPR. BUT ‘if there is perceived risk of infection’ don’t carry out breaths. Call for the emergency services, wear gloves and a mask if they are available, and cover the casualty’s mouth and nose loosely with a cloth. Something they can breathe through, just in case they are breathing.
Perform chest compressions only (no breaths) until emergency services arrive OR someone brings a defibrillator (continue compressions whilst the defibrillator is attached and follow the instructions given by the machine).
See this video from the Resuscitation Council UK for a clearer understanding of how to perform CPR if there IS a perceived risk of infection. If you have any further questions or concerns please speak get in touch.
1 https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/modes-of-transmission-of-virus-causing-covid-19-implications-for-ipc-precaution-recommendations (accessed 14/07/20) 2 https://www.resus.org.uk/covid-19-resources/covid-19-resources-general-public/resuscitation-council-uk-statement-covid-19 (accessed 14/07/20)