Easy as A,B,C Emergency First Aid

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abcFirst aid can be considered scary due to the level of responsibility and the amount of information you need to know. However, it is often common sense and as long as you know your alphabet, in emergencies you will be able to follow the basic principles in order to preserve life, prevent deterioration and promote recovery. These are the primary aims of first aid.

The primary survey, which is a step-by-step guide taught in First Aid Classes follows the ABC principle to assess your patient.




Going through these points step by step, they are simple and quick assessments relating to each point.


The first and most important thing to assess on your patient is their airway. Without a patent airway, the patient will not survive. The body needs oxygen to function so without it, nothing else matters.

If your patient is conscious or speaking to you, they clearly have a patent airway and you can move onto your next assessment. However if they are unconscious then continue to assess.

St Mark James Training teaches you to assess the airway by positioning your patients’ head into an optimal position to open the airway. To do this you lift the chin and tilt the head up (sometimes called a jaw thrust). You then use your main senses to assess; looking, feeling and listening.

LOOK for any obvious signs of obstruction, such as food. If you need to, remove the obstruction to order to clear the airway.

If there are no obvious obstructions, move onto B – BREATHING.


Maintain the patient’s head in position to keep the airway open. First Aid Classes tell you to tilt your ear towards the patients’ mouth to check for breathing. This way, you can listen for breathing sounds, feel for breath on your skin, and also observe for signs of chest movement. All at the same time. Time is of the essence!

You should be listening, looking and feeling in this position for 30 seconds. Assuming the patient is breathing, listening to the patients’ breathing allows you to assess if it is fast, ragged, wheezing, slow, uneven.. all useful information to give to the emergency services.

If the patient is breathing, but unconscious, they will need to be rolled onto their side into the recovery position. However, if the patient is not breathing, move on to the assessment C.


This is where you establish whether the patient has a pulse. St Mark James Training says the best place to check for a pulse is the neck. Using two forefingers (never your thumb as your thumb has its own pulse) press the neck of the patient to feel for a pulsating artery.

If you feel no pulse, now is the time to start CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).

However, if you can feel a pulse, this can tell you whether the pulse is strong or weak, uneven or regular, racing or slow… again, all useful information for the emergency services. This patient, if unconscious should be put into the recovery position whilst you wait for further medical assistance.

First Aid and CPR Classes use this basic strategy in order to make First Aid simple and easy to remember, even in an emergency situation.

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