First Aid

What if someone collapsed, was drowning, had stopped breathing or started choking on your watch? Would you know what to do? None of us want to be in the situation of feeling helpless. Sure we can call 111, but what can we do while we wait for the ambulance to arrive. The best thing you can do to be prepared is take a first aid course. We’ve put together some tips here just to get you started.


  • Check if the person is alert. Ask if they’re OK. If they answer then ask if they know where they are to find out if they’re thinking straight.
  • If they become unresponsive, check for their pulse.
  • Check for breathing. Listen for the sound of their breathing and feel their chest to see if it rises and falls.
  • If anything comes up negative, call 111 now.

If the person isn’t breathing, and doesn’t have a pulse, start CPR. It stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and keeps oxygen flowing around someone’s body when their lungs or heart have stopped working.

If someone is choking, at first they might be able to breathe and cough. Although breathing may be noisy, air can still enter and leave the lungs. If someone can still breathe, the best course of action is to do nothing, and see if they can clear it themselves by coughing.

But if their airway is totally blocked and they can’t breathe, they may turn a pale colour, clutch at their throat, and be unable to speak.


  • Stand behind them and hit their back between the shoulder blades. Try up to five times.
  • If this doesn’t clear it, put your arms around them under their ribcage and pull upwards, up to five times.
  • If it still hasn’t worked, alternate between the back blows and the stomach thrusts until the ambulance arrives.


  • Place the baby face down on your lap, supporting the babies head, and give firm but gentle back blows between the shoulders.
  • If this doesn’t clear it, place the baby face up across your lap and give five firm but gentle sharp chest thrusts just below the nipple line.

If someone is feeling unwell and you need advice, but it is not an emergency, call Healthline. You’ll talk to a trained nurse who can give you advice on what to do next. This is a free service.

If you’re on holiday, they can also tell you where the nearest hospital, doctor, or medical emergency department is.

Healthline, open 24/7, ph 0800 611 116

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