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Clif Cleaveland, MD
5 December 2005
Consider an up-to-date first aid manual as a holiday or birthday
gift for family and friends. Encourage the recipient to read the
manual thoroughly and then place it in a readily accessible spot
where personal emergency supplies are stored. Encourage the
recipient to take a basic cardiac resuscitation (CPR) course and,
if such is available, formal instruction in first aid.
In past years, many of us learned our first aid skills in Boy
Scout and Girl Scout programs. In the competition with sports and
other after school activities, fewer children have access to
scouting opportunities. Most high school and college students with
whom I talk have had no formal training in first aid.
I purchased three standard first aid manuals to evaluate for
this column. The most venerable is The American Red
Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook. Published in
1992 by Little Brown and Company, this paperback (ISBN
0-316-73646-5) sells for $17.95. It is the largest of the three at
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches. Its 304 pages are organized into an
introductory section that deals with basic first aid. This is
followed by an alphabetical arrangement of common injuries and
illnesses. An "emergency action" section follows and covers such
topics as CPR, treatment of choking, and removal of fishhooks that
are embedded in skin.
The Red Cross manual devotes its final 90 pages to a review of
household safety, fire prevention and escape, disaster survival,
and brief descriptions of sports and hiking injuries. This manual
has the best descriptions of the three of management of
out-of-hospital childbirth. Illustrations are adequate. Key
information is highlighted. Information relevant to children is
marked with a blue bear. The manual is due for updating.
The American Medical Association Handbook of First
Aid and Emergency Care was published by Random House
in a revised 2000 paperback edition (ISBN 0-375-75486-5) that sells
for $16.95. It measures a handier 5 ½ x 8 ¼ inches
and contains 336 pages. Its first part covers emergency planning,
household safety, first aid techniques and emergency procedures.
The second part uses an alphabetical arrangement of injuries and
illnesses. Illustrations are sparse. The special strength of this
manual is its 63 page section devoted to sports injuries. This is
the preferred manual for weekend athletes and anyone coaching
sports teams for children. The first page provides space for
listing emergency numbers. A chart for important medical data for
family members is placed at the end of the text.
My nomination for "best buy" is the American College
of Emergency Physicians First Aid Manual. Published
in 2004 by DK Publishing Incorporated, this paperback (ISBN
0-7566-01959) has the same measurements as the AMA manual, includes
280 pages, and costs $15. Its sections are color-coded beginning
with essential rescue and treatment methods, materials for a home
first aid kit, and basic lifesaving procedures. Subsequent sections
provide more detailed descriptions of diagnosis and treatment of
various injuries and illnesses arranged by organ systems:
respiratory, circulatory, nervous system, bones and joints, etc.
Separate sections deal with wounds and bleeding, environmental
injuries, and embedded foreign objects. The strength of this manual
rests with its excellent illustrations, both photographs and full
color drawings. Key information is highlighted in boxes. A glance
at any section provides an immediate overview of what needs to be
done. The book has one minor failing in its lack of an organized
form for emergency numbers and a chart for personal and family
health information. This can easily be written on the inside
CPR recommendations have been altered recently. Thus none of the
three manuals describe the newest recommendation for thirty chest
compressions alternating with two rescue breaths. This is a minor
None of us ever plan to find ourselves in an emergency situation
that involves a sudden illness or accident. Careful reading of any
one of the above three first aid books will provide basic
information on careful, prompt management of common mishaps until
emergency medical service personnel can respond. Buy one for
yourself and another for your cherished ones.