Learn First Aid

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Do you know what to do in an emergency? 

An accident or emergency – like a heart attack or choking – can happen at any time. You can give first aid to someone until medical help arrives. Taking action right away can save a life.

Take these steps now so you’ll be ready in an emergency:

  • Know when to call 911.
  • Learn how to help someone who is choking or hurt.
  • Take a class to learn first aid, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and AED (automated external defibrillator).
  • Keep a first aid kit at home and in your car.

Remember, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for injuries and emergencies. Simple actions can save lives.

Next section 1 of 6 sections

Take Action!

Take Action: When to Call 911

Know when to call 911.

Call 911 if someone needs help right away, including if someone is:

  • In danger – like from a fire
  • Very hurt – like from a car accident
  • Very sick or not breathing
  • Acting strangely

Get more information on when to call 911.

The 911 operator is trained to help you. When you call 911, it’s important that you:

  • Answer the operator’s questions as well as you can
  • Listen carefully
  • Don’t hang up

Teach your children how to use 911 and keep the number next to the phone. Make sure everyone can reach the phone, especially children.

Next section Previous section 2 of 6 sections

Take Action: Help Someone Who Is Choking

Learn what to do when someone is choking. 

When someone is choking on something and they can’t talk, cough very much, or breathe, it’s important to act right away. Brain damage can happen just 4 to 6 minutes after someone has started choking.

Ask someone to call 911 right away, then tell the person who is choking that you will try to help.

Stand behind the person and do back blows (hitting between the shoulder blades), abdominal thrusts (also called the Heimlich maneuver), or both. Watch this video from the American Red Cross to learn how to do it.

If you are alone and choking, you can do the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.

Next section Previous section 3 of 6 sections

Take Action: Help Someone Who Is Hurt

Learn what to do when someone is bleeding.

Losing too much blood is very dangerous, and it can happen quickly. If someone is bleeding badly, call 911 and try to stop the bleeding while you wait for medical help. 

Press on the wound very firmly and steadily until the bleeding stops. If you can, find something clean to put between your hands and the bleeding, like a piece of cloth or a plastic bag. Learn more about how to stop bleeding.

Don’t try to stop bleeding with salt, baking powder, or other products. These don’t help bleeding and may cause an infection.

Learn how to comfort someone who needs help.

Calm, comforting words can help people during a medical emergency. If someone is hurt, ask how you can help. People who are hurt or in shock often feel cold, so try to keep them warm and calm until help arrives. Check out this online training about comforting someone in a medical emergency

Next section Previous section 4 of 6 sections

Take Action: Take a Class

Learn lifesaving skills to help you react faster and better.

Taking a class can teach you how to give first aid and CPR, and how to use an AED correctly. This training will give you the confidence and knowledge to respond quickly and safely in an emergency.

  • 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. Learn more about CPR.
  • An AED is a portable device that can help when someone’s heart suddenly stops beating. Get the facts about AEDs.                                                            

You can take first aid and CPR/AED classes separately or together – and you can learn to help people of all ages, from newborn babies to adults.

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

Next section Previous section 5 of 6 sections

Take Action: First Aid Kits

Keep a first aid kit nearby.

A first aid kit has the things you need to treat someone who is hurt. It includes supplies like bandages, tape, and scissors. Always keep a kit nearby – including in your home and 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. When you use supplies from the kit, remember to replace them.

Learn and remember the location of first aid kits and AEDs in public places, at work, and at school.

Previous section 6 of 6 sections