With rules around social distancing tightening almost daily we are confronted like never before regarding personal space and how we physically interact with each other on every level.
Some of the changes to the rules and how they effect our behaviour are obvious, while others are not so cut and dry.
As first aiders we find ourselves asking questions like:
I am certified in first aid and CPR but what should I do during this pandemic if I encounter someone suffering from acute respiratory failure who may be infected with the Coronavirus?
Questions like this are completely natural to ask and hugely relevant right now, so the importance of initiating discussion around this can’t be understated.
As a nationally recognised first aid training organisation, Australia Wide First Aid don’t have all the answers however we seek to offer some tips and words of support to those feeling overwhelmed right now.
First, when assessing a casualty, we should always prepare as if everyone we are assisting is infected with every virus, not just focussed on Covid-19 only.
As first responders our initial priority always needs to be minimising the risk of danger to ourselves before we are able to help someone else.
That golden rule never changes regardless of whether we are in pre or post Coronavirus pandemic era.
After all we won’t be of much use to the casualty if we fail to keep ourselves safe and healthy.
Long before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, as first aiders we have always known there to be a lot of potential hazards when coming to the rescue of others.
That’s all part and parcel of what we sign up for when we decide to be a first aider.
In the case of assisting a casualty who may be suffering from contagious infectious disease we simply need to continue treating every situation as if every casualty is infected with everything by implementing the safeguards we have always been trained to use when rendering first aid and especially CPR.
So in addition to the usual cross infection precautionary measures such as using barriers like examination gloves and CPR masks, we may also chose to make a reasonable adjustment to how we administer CPR.
This may include providing compressions only instead of a combination of breaths and compressions during cardio pulmonary resuscitation.
As with all the precautionary measures spelt out by our health experts when interacting with each other socially, we also need to apply them when coming to the rescue of someone in need, plus some added reasonable adjustment measures when concerned with increased cross contamination risks.
If we break it right down to basics we always need to ask ourselves, if I am inside the 1.5 metre social distance rule (which we will be when attending to a casualty), what additional measures am I taking to prevent the exchange of body fluids and cross infection from the casualty to ourselves, or conversely from ourselves to the casualty.
Perhaps the biggest risk of all is one as simple as failing to wash our hands thoroughly after coming into contact with a virus and then touching our face with our hands.
At Australia Wide First Aid one thing that concerns us greatly is that at a time like now when there is more panic and uncertainty then we have known in living history, the need for people being ready and prepared to administer first aid has never been greater.
We fear that with so much anxiety around the Coronavirus that it may be possible that would-be first aiders may pass someone by who is in great need when they would have normally assisted, due to concerns about contracting the virus.
We reassure all would-be first aiders not to be distracted by all the fear, and remind ourselves of the reality which is that our willingness to help others has never been as vital as it is right now during this pandemic.
With the correct safeguards and reasonable adjustments in place we believe that on balance the benefits to community health far outweigh the risks when we continue to provide first aid to those in need.
We take this opportunity to thank our amazing network of Australia Wide First Aid health professionals and educators, for continuing their work in delivering life saving knowledge and techniques to others during this most challenging time.
Article by Garry Draper – Founder & Director
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