The 6 first aid tips YOU need to know as the heatwave strikes

SUMMER is a lot of fun, but being more outdoorsy can often lead to accidents and sometimes even health emergencies.

But along with taking sunblock and a bottle of water everywhere you go, you can also be prepared for holiday mishaps with some first aid tips.


Heatstroke can be really serious, so get someone into the shade and help cool them downCredit: Getty

Medical Director for St John Ambulance, Dr Lynn Thomas, talks us through some of the more serious things that can happen during summer, so you know what to do if you or someone else gets into trouble…

1. Be aware of cold water shock

It might be hot at the moment but sea temperatures can still be very cold. 

If you’re not used to getting into cold water, it can cause what’s called cold water shock and the most important thing is to not panic.

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Lie on your back, just float and try and take nice deep breaths and shout for help. 

We always advise that if you go into water to go in slowly so your body can acclimatise to the cold water, particularly in large bodies of water like sea or lakes.

2. If someone is drowning

Get them out of the water but don’t go in yourself unless you are able to, because what you don’t want is two casualties. 

Call 999 and you can also ask for the Coast Guard once you get through to a call handler.

If the person is not responsive and not breathing properly, you need to start with five rescue breaths (pinch the person’s nose. Seal your mouth over their mouth and blow steadily and firmly into their mouth for about one second. Check their chest rises).

Do five rescue breaths and then 30 chest compressions to every two rescue breaths. But if you dial 999, somebody will be there helping you, and help will come quickly.

If they’re not unconscious and they are breathing normally then it’s important to get them out of the water and make sure you get them warmed up, and out of their wet things.

3. What to do about heatstroke

Heatstroke is really serious, it often starts with heat exhaustion so people feel a little bit hot, can be really quite sweaty, flushed, feel a bit faint. If they can go on to have heatstroke and they can even go into cardiac arrest.

If they’re starting to get dizzy, have a bit of headache, cramp, rapid breathing and if their pulse goes up, move them into the cool, put them in the shade, encourage them to lie down and raise their legs.

Get them to drink water. If you’ve got rehydration salts they’re great, or a sports drink. Keep an eye on them and if they don’t recover, dial 999.

If they have heatstroke, they might be very confused as well as hot, flushed and have dry skin, and that’s important to say because they’ve lost the ability to sweat – that regulation is gone, which is why we get heatstroke.

Their temperature would be above 40C too.

While you wait for an ambulance, take a towel, get it cool and wet, wrap them up in it and keep trying to fan them or sponge them with water.

Once you’ve cooled them down, make sure you then get them out of the cold things, and make sure they get to hospital. 

4. Dealing with serious injury and catastrophic haemorrhage

Accidents and injuries do rise in summer. There’s more people having accidents with lawn mowers and garden machinery, as well as traffic accidents from being out and about more. 

So, the most important thing if you see someone who has had an accident, is to make sure it’s safe to approach, so if they’ve been using garden machinery, that it’s turned off. 

I would highly recommend anybody using electric garden machinery to use one of the circuit breakers so that if you cut the electric cable, it cuts the electricity and you don’t electrocute yourself or anybody else, 

If it’s a bigger wound that is quite open and it’s bleeding, put pressure on the wound with as clean a thing as you’ve got – preferably a sterile dressing if you have one.

Push on it to stop the bleeding. Sometimes you’ve got to put quite a bit of pressure on it.

Once the bleed is under control, secure in place with the bandage, tying the knot over the wound to keep the pressure on. 

If the bleeding doesn’t stop, or if somebody has fallen on something, and there’s something still sticking in the wound – and this applies to stab wounds as well, and unfortunately, we do seem to see a slight increase in stabbings in the summer with kids being out and about – leave it in. 

If there’s anything stuck in the wound, leave it in it. But try and put pressure around it and call 999. 

In the case of catastrophic haemorrhage, so if somebody with a chainsaw cut through their arm or leg, call 999 and if the bleeding doesn’t stop on a limb from putting pressure on it alone, you might need to use a tourniquet – the emergency call handler will talk you through this. 

Keep monitoring their level of response until help arrives. If they become unresponsive at any point, prepare to start CPR.

St John Ambulance have also been working with doctors, counter terrorism police and experts in first aid to create public access trauma kits (PAcT), which are starting to be introduced and installed in large and busy venues.

They include all the necessary equipment needed for members of the public to help stop and reduce the bleed before the arrival of emergency services.

The ultimate aspiration will be for them to be as common as defibrillators, so, if someone is traumatically injured by a road traffic collision, stabbing, or tragically sometimes, a terror attack, these kits will be available and hopefully help save more lives.

5. Stop someone choking

In summer we’re out and about at barbecues and you’re more prone to choking if you’ve been drinking alcohol. 

If an adult begins choking, get them to try and cough it out because that’s the most efficient way of trying to clear it. 

If they can’t cough it out, give them five sharp back blows with the heel of your hand between their shoulder blades.

See if anything is in their mouth, but don’t put your fingers in the mouth. 

If that doesn’t work, do five abdominal thrusts: stand behind them and put your arms around their waist.

Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest.

With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times. Check their mouth again, each time.

If the blockage has not cleared, call 999 or 112 for emergency help straight away. 

Repeat five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives, re-checking their mouth each time. 

6. Look after each other

Going to a festival? Have one person in the group looking out for other people, somebody who won’t drink as much as everyone else just to make sure and to keep a check on things. 

And if we have really hot weather, check on your elderly neighbours and relatives to be sure they’re ok.

Want to learn life-saving skills? Click here to book a first aid course, join one of St John’s youth programmes (for ages 5 to 25) or become a first aid volunteer.

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St John’s training will give you essential lifesaving skills and the confidence to use them, and includes mental health first aid and wellbeing courses.

St John is a charity and needs donations to help train and equip its volunteers, to save more lives. Donate at and follow them using #AskMe

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