How to Administer First Aid to a Victim of Automobile Accident

In motor vehicle accidents, injuries are often multiple; several parts of the body are injured.  The most commonly injured part is the head.

Paramedics say that the gravest mistake a first-aider might make here is to act too hastily.  Unless the injured person is in danger from fire or oncoming traffic, it is best not to move him until adequate help is available.

Experts in emergency situations advise to keep in mind the first-aider’s priorities:  first, attention to the victim’s breathing; second, attention to possible hemorrhage; third, attention to possible choking from vomit; and fourth, preparation of the patient for transportation to a hospital:

1) To facilitate breathing, an unconscious victim should be turned to lie on his side (unless it appears that he has a severe injury of the back or of the neck) and his mouth cleared of any dirt, stones, or false teeth so that he can breathe easily through his mouth.  Using a handkerchief, grasp his tongue and pull it forward, thus preventing it from falling back into his throat and interfering with breathing.  If the chest has been seriously injured, examine it to see if there is an opening in the chest wall through which air is passing.  If so, this "sucking wound" should be covered at once with anything available.  Use folded cloth or newspaper and bind this firmly to the chest wall so that the patient will breathe through his mouth without losing air through this wound.  If the victim still does not breathe, it may be necessary to give him artificial respiration, preferably mouth-to-mouth.

2) Next, look for severe hemorrhage.  Do not bother yet with superficial wounds.  Concern yourself, rather, with blood that may be spurting from a severed artery or welling up in a deep wound.  Usually this can be controlled by direct pressure over the area or by a firmly applied absorbent bandage, preferably white.  As a last resort, in severe hemorrhage from the arms or legs, apply a tourniquet – a belt or circular-type bandage – around the limb, between the wound and the victim’s heart.  Note the time of its application on a label pinned to the victim’s clothes where it will be seen by later attendants, and leave the tourniquet exposed.

3) Keep the injured person’s mouth and nose free from obstruction by vomit.  Otherwise, fatal choking may ensue.  Turn the victim on his side, or, if he is lying face down, turn his head to one side so that the vomitus will flow away from his face.

4) In preparing an injured person for transportation to the hospital, handle the victim so that further damage will not be done as he is moved.  His back or neck may have been broken, and moving him carelessly may permanently damage the spinal cord.  Have three or four persons work together in moving the victim, avoiding bending or twisting his body.  If it is probable that the neck has been broken, one person should be assigned to do nothing else but hold the victim’s head, making sure that it does not change position.

When a person has been severely burned, the burned area should be covered lightly with whatever soft cloth may be available such as a handkerchief, a shirt, or a sheet.  Never should a blanket be placed in direct contact with a burned area of the body.

While awaiting the ambulance, keep the victim’s body warm by covering it with one or two blankets or extra coats.

If possible, arrange for someone to accompany the victim to the hospital – someone informed as to the nature of the accident and the first-aid measures used.  Otherwise, this information can be jotted down and sent along with the victim.