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First Aid Overview

How to Assess the Victim

Assessing the victim is the first step in administering first aid. Before you can know what type of care you need to give, you must first determine exactly what is wrong with the patient. Follow these steps to assess the victim:

Assessing a Conscious Victim:

  1. Approach victim, and tell victim not to move. Identify yourself, and ask if you can help.

  2. If victim says "yes," ask what happened, whether victim is having trouble breathing, and if and where they have pain. Based on responses, determine if EMS should be called. If unsure, call for EMS. If victim is choking, see Choking.

  3. Check victim's head, neck, arms, legs, chest, and stomach for injuries. Look for bleeding, bruising, swelling, or other obvious injury. Feel as best you can for any bumps or irregularities on the arms or legs, but DO NOT touch or move any area that is painful. Be sure to tell the victim what you are going to do before you do it.

    Check the victim’s arms and legs for any irregularities. First Aid.
    Check the victim’s arms and legs for any
    irregularities, but do not touch any area that
    is causing the victim pain.

  4. If you suspect a neck or back injury, DO NOT move victim or allow victim to move (see Back or Neck Injury). If no back or neck injury suspected, have victim rest in a position that is comfortable for them. If victim is bleeding, control bleeding (see Bleeding).

  5. Monitor victim's breathing, and stay with them until EMS arrives.

Assessing an Unconscious Victim:

  1. Approach victim, gently tap victim's shoulder, and ask if they are OK. If victim responds, go to the steps for a conscious victim.

  2. If no response and victim is an adult, call for EMS. If victim is a child, give care (see ABCs) for one minute before calling for EMS. If someone else is near, have them call for EMS.

  3. Check airway, breathing, and circulation (see ABCs).

  4. Check and care for bleeding (see Bleeding).

  5. If back or neck injury suspected, see Back or Neck Injury. If no back or neck injury suspected, put victim in Recovery Position:

    Recovery Position, first aid.
    The first step in placing the victim in
    Recovery Position is to place victim’s far arm
    above their head.

    -Extend the victim's arm that is farther from you above the victim's head.

    -Position the victim's other arm across the chest.

    -Bend the victim's nearer leg at the knee.

    -Support back of victim's head with one hand and push on victim's knee with other as you roll victim away from you onto their side.

    -If victim vomits, wear glove and use your fingers to clear victim's mouth. DO NOT place fingers into mouth if victim is having a seizure.
  6. Monitor breathing, observe for shock (see Shock), and wait for EMS.

To learn more about first aid and emergency care, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.