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Why time matters in first aid

Updated: Jun 1

Time is always of the essence in first aid care. The quicker you can start applying first aid to someone, the more likely you are to get a good outcome.


A lot of studies and research have all concluded the same thing – even just a single minute’s delay in starting standard first aid procedures can dramatically affect the survivability of the patient and the quality of their recovery.


For example, a one minute delay in starting to use a Defibrillator (when it is clearly required) can lead to a 10% reduction in the patient’s ability to survive.


A Japanese study found that for every minute delay in administering CPR there was a greater than 8% reduction in the one month survivability of patients.


You can easily see from both these examples that a delay of just a few minutes in administering the vital first aid someone needs can dramatically affect their chances of survival.


Even bleeding, if severe and not stopped quickly, can lead to death in as little as 5 minutes, unless something effective is done to stop the loss of blood.


But time is not just about whether the patient survives or not. It also affects how well they survive.


CPR for example isn’t just about trying to get the person to recover, it’s also about keeping vital processes of the body going during that recovery period. One thing that CPR does is to keep oxygen circulating throughout the body, particularly to the brain, which can be critical to how well the person recovers.


Of course the other critical factor in first aid can be ensuring that an ambulance is called as quickly as possible so they can have the greatest chance of getting there on time. Many of the procedures that ambulance officers are trained in can dramatically affect the quality and time of a person’s recovery and reduce the potential harmful effects of whatever trauma they have suffered. So calling them early and getting them to the scene fast is vital.


If in doubt as to whether you should call an ambulance, always err on the side of calling them. The operator can help you assess whether or not they need to come and how serious the emergency is.


Knowing what to do and how to do it is one of the key factors in being able to deliver fast and effective first aid.


When you are trained and know what to do in an emergency you don’t tend to create unnecessary delays or waste time trying to figure out what to do. You know what to do and how to do it, so you act fast. Speed is often the biggest factor in saving lives.