U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Learn First Aid

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Do you know what to do in an emergency? What if someone has a heart attack or an allergic reaction?

An accident or emergency can happen at any time. Giving first aid is what you can do to help someone before medical help arrives. Taking action right away can help save a life.

Take these steps so you’ll be prepared for an emergency:

  • Know when to call 911.
  • Learn how to help someone who is choking.
  • Take a class to learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • Keep a first aid kit at home and in your car.
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Take Action!

Take Action: Calling 911

Plan ahead and be prepared for injuries and emergencies.

Know when to call 911.

Call 911 when you need help right away. Call 911 if someone is seriously hurt, stops breathing, or if there is a fire. Don’t call 911 for problems like a flat tire.

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Take Action: Learn How to Help

Learn what to do when someone is choking. 

When someone is choking on food or a small object, it’s important to act right away. Brain damage can happen just 4 to 6 minutes after someone has started choking.

Stand behind the person who is choking and press your fist against the person’s stomach to force out the food or object. This is called the Heimlich (“HIME-lik”) maneuver.

Learn what to do when someone is bleeding.

Losing too much blood is very dangerous, and it can happen quickly. If someone is injured and bleeding badly, you can help stop the bleeding while you wait for medical help. Find out how to stop bleeding.

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Take Action: Take a Class

Take a first aid and CPR class.

Taking a class can teach you how to give first aid and CPR correctly. This training will prepare you to respond quickly and safely in emergencies.

  • Learning first aid will help you know what to do for problems like burns, cuts, head injuries, and broken bones. Find out more about first aid.
  • Knowing CPR can help when someone’s heart or breathing has stopped. You give CPR by providing chest compressions – strong presses on the chest to keep blood flowing. Learn more about CPR.

Ready to get started? Find a first aid and CPR class in your community.

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Take Action: First Aid Kits

Keep a first aid kit at home and in your car.

A first aid kit has the things you need to treat someone who is hurt. It includes supplies like bandages, tape, and scissors. Keep one kit in your home and one in your car.

Make sure each first aid kit has directions on how to treat basic injuries and when to get more help. Use this list to check the supplies in your first aid kit.

After you use your kit, remember to replace the supplies.

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