First aid is the provision of initial care for an illness or injury. It is usually performed by a non-expert person to a sick or injured person until definitive medical treatment can be accessed. Certain self-limiting illnesses or minor injuries may not require further medical care past the first aid intervention. It generally consists of a series of simple and in some cases, potentially life-saving techniques that an individual can be trained to perform with minimal equipment.
While first aid can also be performed on all animals, the term generally refers to care of human patients.
The instances of recorded first aid were provided by religious knights, such as the Knights Hospitaller, formed in the 11th century, providing care to pilgrims and knights, and training other knights in how to treat common battlefield injuries. The practice of first aid fell largely in to disuse during the High Middle Ages, and organized societies were not seen again until in 1859 Henry Dunant organized local villagers to help victims of the Battle of Solferino, including the provision of first aid. Four years later, four nations met in Geneva and formed the organization which has grown into the Red Cross, with a key stated aim of "aid to sick and wounded soldiers in the field". This was followed by the formation of St. John Ambulance in 1877, based on the principles of the Knights Hospitaller, to teach first aid, and numerous other organization joined them with the term first aid first coined in 1878 as civilian ambulance services spread as a combination of "first treatment" and "national aid" in large railway centres and mining districts as well as with police forces. First aid training began to spread through the empire through organisations such as St. John, often starting, as in the UK, with high risk activities such as ports and railways.
Many developments in first aid and many other medical techniques have been driven by wars, such as in the case of theAmerican Civil War, which prompted Clara Barton to organize the American Red Cross. Today, there are several groups that promote first aid, such as the military and the Scouting movement. New techniques and equipment have helped make today’s first aid simple and effective.
The key aims of first aid can be summarized in three key points:
§ Preserve life: the overriding aim of all medical care, including first aid, is to save lives
§ Prevent further harm: also sometimes called prevent the condition from worsening, or danger of further injury, this covers both external factors, such as moving a patient away from any cause of harm, and applying first aid techniques to prevent worsening of the condition, such as applying pressure to stop a bleed becoming dangerous.
§ Promote recovery: first aid also involves trying to start the recovery process from the illness or injury, and in some cases might involve completing a treatment, such as in the case of applying a plaster to a small wound
First aid training also involves the prevention of initial injury and responder safety, and the treatment phases.