Disaster Relief

Basic first aid tips

With so many people displaced by the Holiday Farm Fire and so many of the other fires and floods ravishing the continent at the moment, many people are in stressful situations without ready access to the medications they normally rely on to regulate their medical conditions. People may have become injured in the process of evacuating their homes. In such a situation, it is not out of the realm of possibility to encounter a scenario where emergency first aid may be necessary and first responders are unable to reach the area for some time.

Photo by Vidal Balielo


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure at some point in their lifetime. Seizures do not usually require emergency medical treatment, but the CDC recommends calling 911 in the following situations:

  • If the person has never had a seizure before
  • If the person is having trouble breathing or walking after the seizure
  • If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes
  • If the person has multiple seizures in a short time period
  • If the person is injured during the seizure
  • If the seizure happens in water
  • If the person has other medical conditions or is pregnant

There are many different types of seizures, and it can be difficult to tell the seizures apart if you do not have medical experience. The best thing you can do if someone you are with starts having a seizure is to stay with them and remain calm. Ease the person onto the floor, gently turn them on their side, and place a soft item, such as a jacket or pillow, under their head. Remove eyeglasses, if they are wearing them. Remove anything that may be around the individual’s neck, such as a scarf, necktie, or necklace.

Do not hold the person down or try to stop their movements. This can cause injuries.

Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. It is a misconception that someone having a seizure will bite their tongue off.

Do not perform rescue breaths. Most people having a seizure will resume breathing on their own.


For minor burns that do not result in blisters, the Red Cross recommends running the affected area under cool water for ten to twenty minutes, then applying an antibiotic ointment. For blistered burns, loosely cover the blister with a bandage or gauze. Do not pop the blister on your own, but if it does accidentally pop, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a bandage or gauze. Watch closely for redness, swelling, or discharge, as these can be signs of infection. If any signs of infection appear, or if the burn is on the hands, face, or genitals, see a doctor as soon as possible. If the burn covers more than 1/10th of the body, call 911 and cover up with a clean sheet or blanket to prevent hypothermia until help arrives.

Sprain, Strain, or Tear

According to the Mayo Clinic, a sprain is an injury to a ligament, the elastic-like tissue that holds bones together. A strain is an injury to a tendon, the tissue that connects muscle to bone, or to the muscle itself. Sprains and strains are usually partial tears, but a full tear of a tendon, ligament, or muscle can also occur. Symptoms of sprains, strains, and tears include pain, swelling, bruising, limited mobility in the affected joint, and hearing a “pop” sound when the injury occurred.

Most sprains and strains can be treated within a few days with the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest the injured limb, but it’s usually not necessary to avoid all activity. Ice the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. Compress the affected area with an elastic bandage or splint. Elevate the affected limb above the heart to avoid swelling.

If someone experiencing a sprain, strain, or tear is experiencing any of the following symptoms, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible:

  • Unable to move affected joint or limb
  • Unable to bear weight on affected joint or limb
  • Have pain directly over bones in the affected area
  • Numbness in affected area


While not typically life-threatening, a fracture, or broken bone, always requires medical attention, but not necessarily a 911 call, according to Harvard Medical School. In the event of a fracture, immobilize the affected limb with a splint or sling until it is possible to seek medical treatment. If the skin beyond the fracture site is cold and pale or blue, gently pull on the limb to straighten it before splinting, as this can be a sign that the fracture has affected blood flow.

Mental health crisis

Stressful situations can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions, especially without access to regular management tools. Some examples of mental health crisis situations include panic attacks, psychotic episodes, and experiencing suicidal urges. Should you encounter someone experiencing a mental health crisis, HealthyPlace recommends the ALGEE method:

  • Assess the situation to determine danger to self and others
  • Listen without judgment
  • Give information and resources so they can get help
  • Encourage them to seek help from a professional, such as a doctor or therapist
  • Encourage self-help and healthy lifestyle choices

Diabetic emergency

Diabetes is a medical condition that affects blood sugar levels, either because the body does not produce sufficient insulin or does not know how to process it correctly. Some cases of diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, while others require medication to manage. If someone with diabetes has done too much physical activity or missed a meal, they can end up with critically low blood sugar.

According to the Red Cross, signs of a diabetic emergency include hunger, clammy skin, profuse sweating, drowsiness, confusion, weakness, feeling faint, and loss of responsiveness. If this happens, they must get their blood sugar up immediately by consuming something with sugar in it. Look for juice, sports drinks, or soda/pop, or candies such as chocolate or jelly bean. Avoid diet or sugar-free, as this will not help.

Even if someone normally struggles with high blood sugar, giving them sugar in an emergency is vital. Once their critically low sugar levels are back where they need to be, they will be able to regulate their sugars with medication or diet again.

Someone experiencing a diabetic emergency should seek medical treatment immediately.

This information is presented for first aid purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

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