The ABC of Life: A Universal Principle in First Aid

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First Aid Training

There are many different training providers that offer first aid training courses. Although there may be slight differences in the way modules are presented, all of these courses follow a standard. Understanding the ABCs of life is one of the universal principles taught in any first aid course.

When providing first aid to an injured or critically person, always remember the ABCs of life: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation – in this order. These are the three physiological functions that are essential to life. Any serious compromise of any one of these could lead to death. Inadequate blood supply to the brain for 4 minutes can cause brain damage, and irreversible brain damage can result in 7 minutes. There are three components that ensure the brain is supplied with oxygen-rich blood: open Airway, adequate Breathing mechanism, and effective blood Circulation.

In first aid training courses, participants are taught how to assess ABC, as well as procedures and techniques to ensure these three essential components are intact. In most cases, it is easy to assess the victim’s ABC. Usually, conscious victims have intact ABCs. On the contrary, unconscious victims should be assessed immediately. A classic example is a cardiac arrest victim – unconscious, lying on the ground, appears bluish, without pulse or breathing. In such situation, ABC should be established quickly. Airway should be opened, rescue Breathing and cardiac compressions (Circulation) initiated. This basic, yet critical, sequence comprises the life-saving procedure known as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

Since immediate intervention at the scene of incident plays a critical part in the chain of survival, first aid training courses for the laypeople are advocated. When responding in emergencies, laypeople attempting to provide emergency care should recall proper A-B-C sequence.

  • Is the person’s airway patent and open?
  • Is the person breathing effectively?
  • Does the person’s blood circulation supply oxygen-rich blood to vital organs, especially the brain and heart muscles?

If any of these components is compromised, then the first aider must

act quickly, managing the problem in sequence. Initiating rescue Breathing is useless if the Airway is not patent or open, as the air will enter the lungs. Similarly, chest compressions are less effective if the airway and breathing are not intact.

So, when responding in any apparent emergency, remember ABC. A basic first aid training course is the best way to learn the ABCs of life. Contact your local St Mark James chapter for first aid training schedules. You can also check with other accredited first aid training providers.

Learn first aid. Stay safe and alert!

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