Red Cross releases 'life-saving' changes to first aid guidelines
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, February 24, 2016 2:02PM EST
The Canadian Red Cross has released new guidelines to help Canadians deal with head injuries, severe allergies, cuts, bleeding and other potentially life-threatening emergencies.
The updated guidelines are based on recent research and medical consensus, and "reflect new techniques and approaches with proven benefits," the Red Cross says.
The organization released the guidelines together with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, St. John Ambulance Service, Lifesaving Society and Canadian Ski Patrol earlier week.
Here's a look at some of the changes the organization recommends:
Use of tourniquets to stop bleeding
In the past, the Red Cross recommended applying pressure to stop bleeding, but said only "properly trained" professionals should attempt to use a tourniquet to constrict blood flow to the wound.
Now, however, the organization says a tourniquet is appropriate to use when simply applying pressure won't stop the bleeding.
"It's one of those procedures in first aid that's sort of been in and out, but now the latest research we're seeing out of Afghanistan and Iraq is that (tourniquets) are in fact saving lives," said Don Marentette, the national director of first aid and program development at the Canadian Red Cross.
Cleaning cuts and abrasions
In older guidelines, the Red Cross recommended using soap and water to clean cuts, but new evidence shows that soap could actually cause irritation, Marentette said.
"We found now that there are a couple of studies that tell us that certain kinds of soap are irritating to skin tissue when it's been cut," he told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday. "The best thing to do is just some good clean tap water."
Epinephrine doses for allergic reactions
Many patients with severe allergies already carry one emergency dose of epinephrine, often in the form of an EpiPen, to use in case of an allergic reaction.
According to the new guidelines, however, some people with severe allergies may consider keeping a second dose on hand.
"The biggest change now we're seeing is that, often, those people need a second dose," Marentette said.
This means that patients should take one dose if they go into anaphylactic shock, but if there's no change in their condition after ten minutes, patients should receive a second injection.
Chest pain linked to heart problems
The Canadian Red Cross now recommends adults who experience chest pain believed to be caused by cardiac problems should chew one or two low-dose aspirin pills, then call 911.
As long as the patient knows they aren't allergic to aspirin, Marentette said the organization now knows "there's a significant benefit" to taking aspirin when experiencing heart problems.
Head injuries and concussions
The Red Cross is now advocating that any athletes who suffer a blow to the head leave the game immediately.
"What we're suggesting is that, if someone sustains a blow to the head that is … consistent with a concussion, that they remove themselves from the field of play as soon as possible," Marentette said.
The first aid program director said the organization is hoping to change attitudes around concussions and prevent young athletes from trying to play through their injuries.
"We really want that to stop," he said. "We want to gauge that a little better and get the message out to Canadians: If they get hit in the head hard like that, stop."
For more first aid information, see the full list of guidelines here.