ABC Casualty Checks - Airways, Breathing, Circulation
The ABC casualty check is a three step process as follows:
- Airways - Check the person's airway to make sure they are able to breathe by gently tilting their head back and using two fingers to lift their chin. If you believe the injured person has serious injuries to head, back or neck, then refrain from moving the head and only lift their chin to check that their airway is clear.
- Breathing - Check whether the casualty is breathing and has the ability to carry on breathing. This can be done by putting your cheek over the casualty’s mouth to check for breathing, while watching their chest for any movement at the same time. If a casualty is not breathing, you will need to apply artificial ventilation (rescue breaths).
- Circulation - Check for a pulse. If the casualty shows no signs of breathing, or movement and you believe their heart has stopped then you will need to apply chest compressions, to force blood through the heart and around the body, together with artificial ventilation so that the blood is oxygenated.
If you haven’t been on a first aid training course and do not feel confident in your ability to carry out these treatments then you must not go ahead with them. See if there are any bystanders who are trained in first aid, or speak with the 999 operator for advice.
Check for bleeding
Excessive bleeding is a major cause of shock and can be fatal if left untreated. To help an injured person who is losing blood you should first check to see where the blood is coming from and ensure there are no foreign bodies in the wound, such as glass or metal. If the wound is clean stem the bleeding by applying direct pressure and, if possible, elevate the body part.
However, if there is a foreign body in the wound then do not apply pressure, but push the sides of the wound together.
Burns & broken bones
Burns should be cooled down by pouring cold water over them for at least 20 minutes, or until the casualty stops complaining of any pain. If you believe the casualty has some broken bones advise them to lie still and keep the injured part(s) supported by a blanket or pillow until an ambulance crew arrives.
Most people involved in a road traffic accident are likely to suffer some degree of shock. When a person is in shock they will usually display symptoms such as dizziness, pale skin and blue lips (similar to blood loss). To help them, you should loosen any tight clothing and keep them warm using a blanket or coat.
Also, make sure you keep their attention by talking to them gently and lay them down if necessary.
First aid kits
It is recommended that all motorists carry a first aid kit in their car. There are many first aid kits available to buy, with products ranging from small travel kits priced between £5 and £10 to more comprehensive boxes for £20 or more.
First aid checklist
- Constantly reassure the casualty and to try to keep their attention so that they stay conscious
- Do not attempt to move anyone who has sustained an injury to the head, neck or back, or may have broken bones
- Do not attempt to move anyone who is trapped in a vehicle
- If the casualty is a motorcyclist, do no move their helmet unless it is absolutely necessary
- Keep casualties warm at all times with a coat or blanket, but do not overheat them by applying a hot-water bottle or other source of direct heat
- Remember to keep a clear head and stay calm at all times
See our first aid page for more information on first aid.
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