First Aid – A Quick History


The History Of First Aid 

  First Aid has been around as long as humans have been at war. From ancient hieroglyphics we know that the Egyptians not only used bandages in the mummification process but used them to dress battle wounds also. Ancient Egypt had become so proficient in their medical practices that surrounding countries sent their brightest young men to Egypt so they could be trained as doctors.  We know from history that most ancient Greece doctors received their tuition in Egypt and then returned to Greece, and classical Greek pottery depicts bandaging and other first aid techniques being applied to battle wounds. Although, at the time the roman army were far more advanced using a Capsarii (battle medic) backed up by ambulances accompanying every campaign.   first aid history

 Roman Capsarii – Battle Field Medics


Through The Years

1767 In Amsterdam, due to an unprecedented number of drowning incidents, The Society for the Preservation of Life from Accidents in Water was formed to try and stop the horrific number of deaths due to water accidents.   1773 the power of artificial respiration in resuscitating drowning victims was widely publicized by physician William Hawes and Thomas Cogan. Such was the impact of this amazing revelation that in 1774 Hawes and Cogan formed The Society for The Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned, which was later renamed The Royal Humane Society. #ref   humane societycogan first aid

William Hawes and Thomas Cogan

  1797 Although the Romans already utilized ambulances and battleground physicians the credit for creating the first formal ambulance service goes to Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal surgeon, Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey. He created the Volante (flying ambulance) who were responsible for treating and evacuating battlefield casualties.#ref    early ambulance

Larrey’s Flying Ambulance 

  larrey first aid ambulance

Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey

  1859 A gentleman named Jean-Henry Dunant witnessed The Battle of Solferino. The bloody aftermath had such an influence on Dunant that he decided to write a book about his experience, called a memory of Solferino. In this book he had drawn up a plan stating all countries should form associations to give aid to the sick and wounded and it should not matter which side they are on. In 1863 this plan was implemented and led to the formation of The International Committee of the Red Cross and the adoption of the Geneva Convention a year later. Jean-Henry Dunant received a Nobel Peace Prize for his achievement.#ref   first aid founder early firstaid   1870 Formalized first aid is introduced into the military by Prussian military surgeon Friedrich von Esmarch who was responsible for training soldiers in wound care, splinting and other first aid practices. It was Esmarch who first coined the term erste hilfe (first aid).   One of the primary tools used was the Esmarch bandage which had been designed by Esmarch and had ‘how to’ instructions drawn upon it. #ref   Friedrich_von_Esmarch

Friedrich von Esmarch


Esmarch bandage showing soldiers how to perform first aid

  1872 The Order of Saint John of Jerusalem in England realized that hospice care was only a small part of being able to provide quality medical assistance, to be able to provide practical medical help they would have to be able to treat patients at the scene of the accident. This led them to make a grant towards establishing the United Kingdoms first Ambulance Service.    1875 The first St John wheeled transport litter is introduced to aid in the transportation of the sick and injured.   first ambulance

Circa 1887 Transport Litter – Ambulance

  1877 The St John Ambulance Association is created to train men and women in first aid.   1878 First aid skills are taught to civilians for the first time. The first class ever was taught in the Presbyterian school in Woolwich and had a specific curriculum.  

This evolved into first Aid as we know it today.

modern ambulance  

The Aims of the Modern First Aider

  • Preserve life The objective of any first aider is to preserve life and minimize death.
  • Prevent further harm: e.g. open an airway, stop bleeding and removing the patient from danger.
  • Promote recovery: Treat what you see, if it is within your training.

Could You Save a Loved One Quiz?

Could You Recognize and Treat These Common Conditions?

  • Bone fracture – Simple splinting and bleeding control.
  • Burns – Cooling of the site, prevention of fluid loss and infection control.
  • Cardiac Arrest – CPR.
  • Choking – Back blows and chest thrusts.
  • Diving injuries, drowning or asphyxiation – Spinal precautions, CPR, general first aid.
  • Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke or hyperthermia – Cooling, fluid control.
  • Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia– understand insulin levels
  • Hypothermia – re-warming safely.
  • Insect and animal bites and stings – immobilization, bandaging techniques
  • Joint dislocation – recognize, immobilize.
  • Seizures – Know what to do and what not to do
  • Muscle strains and Sprains – As fractures, can you tell the difference?
  • Stroke – Do you know the F.A.S.T acronym?
  • Wounds and bleeding – Bleeding control, fluids
  If you answered no to any of these questions it is time to either learn new, or refresh your old first aid skills.