Most people have a basic knowledge of health, medicine, and nutrition information, particularly as it relates to knowing if there’s an emergency (i.e., the signs of a stroke or heart attack). However, there are other basic things to know related to health that can help you save the life of another person in an emergency, as well as your own life.
#1: Vital Signs
The three main vital signs are body temperature, pulse rate, and rate of breathing. Blood pressure is also something taken by doctors and emergency medical technicians and is sometimes considered a vital sign. Pulse rate and respiration rate can be taken by anyone, and you can also check your temperature and blood pressure yourself with tools (i.e., a thermometer and blood pressure cuff).
A normal body temperature is somewhere around 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius), while a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic). A normal pulse rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, while a normal breathing rate is 12 to 16 breaths per minute.
#2: The Basic Food Groups
Everyone should be aware of the basic food groups to make informed choices on a healthy and balanced diet. Sources vary on how many food groups there are (some foods are groupe), but the main food groups in order of importance are:
- Vegetables (leafy greens, reds, oranges, beans, lentils, and starchy vegetables)
- Whole Grains (brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.)
- Fruit (berries, melons, other fruits, and 100% fruit juices)
- Protein (poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, lean beef and pork)
- Low-fat Dairy/Dairy Alternatives (milk, cheese, and yoghurt, including those made from soy, almonds, coconuts, etc.)
- Oils and Unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados and avocado oil)
Refined grains, fatty red meat, high-fat dairy, and saturated fats should be limited as much as possible. This also includes added sugars and alcohol. Limiting the bad foods and consuming more of the goodwill reduce your risk of developing several health conditions.
#3: Hand Washing
This topic comes up most often during flu season and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as hands are the quickest and easiest ways to transfer germs. Proper and effective hand washing includes scrubbing with soap for 15-20 seconds before rinsing with warm water. A surgical scrub requires many more steps, including scrubbing hands and arms using a nail cleaner and scrub brush— all of which usually takes about three to five minutes. For the average person, a surgical scrub isn’t necessary for clean hands.
#4: First Aid
In an emergency, basic first aid can save an injured person’s life while waiting for paramedics to arrive with more advanced medical treatment. Bleeding, burns, and broken bones are three examples of basic first aid treatments everyone should know. Stopping excessive bleeding is an example of saving a life, as a person can bleed out in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. Making a tourniquet can stop excessive bleeding.
First and second-degree burns can be treated by first removing the source of the burn, and then by treating the affected area with cool running water for several minutes. Aloe vera and over-the-counter burn medications can also be applied. Third-degree burns must always be treated by a doctor. Finally, broken limbs can be treated by using a splint— without trying to straighten the limb— whereas broken bones elsewhere (e.g., hips, spine, etc.) should be treated by a professional.
#5: CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is also a life-saving first aid technique that everyone should know how to do properly. It involves additional steps (compared to hands-only CPR), such as checking the airway of the unconscious or conscious person and using rescue breathing. You can learn CPR online or in person.
Another life-saving technique related to a person not breathing is the Heimlich manoeuvre. This is used when something (usually food) is obstructing a person’s airway— which stops breathing and can lead to unconsciousness or death. If a person can talk or cough, the Heimlich manoeuvre may not be necessary. However, if the person is unconscious, CPR may be the better option.
All of the information listed above can either help save a life or prevent an illness. Eating healthy reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and even some cancers, while hand washing can prevent various types of infections. Knowing your vital signs can signal if something is wrong in the body. Finally, knowing CPR and basic first aid can help save the lives of others.