Select a topic area from the below lists to learn more.
The following are a selection of the most common questions which we are asked via email, on the website or from candidates on our courses. Click on any of the topics to find a basic answer to the question, where you'll also find links to more detailed resources.
We'll continue to add to these questions as they arrive. If you have a question that is not answered here, feel free to drop us a line.
"Adrenaline auto-injector" is the general name for a range of medical devices which are used in the short-term, emergency treatment of an anaphylactic (serious allergic) reaction. They are often also known by their most common brand-names: Epipen®, the Jext® Pen and the Emerade®
They are regularly carried by sufferers of extreme allergic reactions, and are used to reduce the symptoms of the reaction, giving time for important emergency treatment to be sought.
We have more detailed information on our adrenaline autoinjector page. If you have colleagues or people in your care who suffer from serious allergic reactions, you can find out more by booking an Anaphylaxis and Epipen course, or attending a First Aid at Work or Paediatric first aid course.
It's a life threatening allergy characterised by:
Collapse and unconsciousness follow swiftly. The whole body is affected by the reaction usually within minutes of exposure to the allergen.
If you'd like any more information, do take a look at our Anaphylaxis post or, if you work with people who suffer with the condition, your can book us to come to your workplace to run an Anaphylaxis course for you and your staff.
Angina is a condition that affects the heart. It affects the arteries that provide the blood flow to the heart muscle. Over time these arteries can become furred up with cholesterol plaques. Cholesterol is a fatty deposit that is found in the bloodstream but which can adhere to the lining of the arteries causing them to narrow and harden.
Angina attacks occur mainly when a person is exercising or doing something that requires the heart to pump faster. As the arteries have narrowed and hardened, they are unable to expand as much as they should to allow to extra volume of blood through. This mean that the areas of the heart that are requiring extra oxygen to pump harder are deprived of oxygen and begin to suffer from oxygen deprivation.
The heart pumps blood around the body and can increase the volume it pumps as required when we exercise or are anxious, but to do this requires more oxygen. If the arteries have become narrowed, the extra blood containing the additional oxygen can’t get through to meet the demand and so the area beyond the narrowing is deprived of oxygen. This causes the pain associated with angina.
As angina is usually associated with exercise it usually goes away with rest.
Asthma is the reaction caused when an asthmatic person comes into contact with one of their asthmatic triggers.
The muscle wall of their air passages contract, making the airways narrow and become inflamed and swollen. A sticky mucus is also produced by the cells lining the air passages that causes further narrowing.
Symptoms can be mild, causing discomfort and slight shortness of breath or they can be serious, in which case hospitalisation or even death may follow.
For more information on the condition, triggers, symptoms and treatments, take a look at our Asthma page.
A burn is used to describe the damaging of the skin by heat. A scald is simply a specific type of burn, which is caused by wet heat, for example boiling water from a kettle.
If you'd like more information on burns and scalds, take a look at our post: What are burns and scalds. Alternatively you can come along to one of our first aid courses. The Emergency First Aid at Work course covers them in minor detail. And there's more detailed information on the First Aid at Work and Paediatric courses.
Cardiac arrest is the medical term used when your heart has stopped working effectively as a pump to pump blood containing oxygen around the body.
When something goes wrong with either the pumping mechanism or the electrical activity that controls the heart then your heart may cease to beat effectively. This is known as cardiac arrest.
If no one is available to start cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) both the heart muscle and the brain suffer irreversible damage leading to death.
We've written a post on the causes, symptoms and treatments of cardiac arrest. It also has links to other useful resources.
CPR is the abbreviation for Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation. It is defined by the Collins English Dictionary (full version) as:
“an emergency measure to revive a patient whose heart as stopped beating, in which compressions applied with the hands to the patient’s chest are alternated with mouth to mouth respiration” .
Indications for commencing CPR are an unconscious casualty who is unresponsive and not breathing normally.
If you'd like more information, take a look at our 'What is CPR' post.
If you'd like to learn how to carry out cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, CPR training is one of the major elements of workplace first aid courses, and is also taught as annual updates in Dental CPD training and courses for healthcare professionals.
Diabetes is a condition caused by the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels normally. There are two types:
Type 1 diabetes usually manifests itself in early childhood or adolescence but can appear at other times in life. It is largely a genetic problem in which the pancreas fails to produce the hormone insulin to regulate the sugar levels in the blood. The sufferer has to inject him or herself several times a day with insulin in order to maintain normal levels. This is a lifelong condition, and accounts for between 5% and 15% of all people with diabetes.
Occasionally diabetes may develop in pregnancy when it is known as gestational diabetes and in most cases this condition does resolve once the baby is born.
Type 2 diabetes generally develops later in life, although the trend is that the onset of type 2 diabetes is becoming earlier. Type 2 diabetes is generally caused by the pancreas failing to produce enough insulin and so the person needs to carefully regulate their diet and in particular their carbohydrate intake. In addition, they will usually need to take medication in order to control their condition. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85% and 95% of all people with diabetes.
Note: Type 2 diabetics may go to develop type 1 diabetes and so require insulin, but type 1 diabetics never revert back to type 2.
For more information, see our post on diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.
Fainting is a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness which results in the casualty falling. It happens when the blood flow to the brain is reduced.
The brain needs a lot of oxygen to keep it functioning and any reduction in blood flow to the brain will result in fainting. Usually someone will recover from a faint quickly, as once the casualty has fallen over blood flow to the brain is restored.
A variety of factors can cause fainting, including:
Symptoms of impending fainting include:
If someone feels faint the best thing to do is to help them lie down and gently elevate their feet. This encourages blood flow to return to their brain. Loosen tight clothing at the neck If someone has not regained consciousness within 2 minutes then place them on their side in the recovery position to maintain their airway and dial 999 or 112. Stay with the person until help arrives.
Most faints are very short lived and don’t need further medical attention, if however faints are occurring regularly then professional medical attention needs to be sought.
A fracture is a broken bone. With over 200 bones in the body there is plenty of potential to cause some harm and it is often difficult to tell whether one is broken or whether there is just soft tissue damage. If in doubt always seek medical advice.
The only way to accurately determine whether a fracture has happened is to x-ray the affected bone. Damage to bones occurs usually as a result of the following forces:
Fractures tend to present in 4 main ways:
If you suspect someone is having a heart attack:
Be prepared to resuscitate if they become unconscious.
The First Aid at Work course also covers heart attack symptoms and treatment in more detail.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, in fact a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are two entirely different situations. A heart attack is the most common cause of cardiac arrest.
A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops functioning altogether.
Cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. This means you are unconscious and not breathing. CPR must be performed immediately.
A heart attack is one of the most common causes of cardiac arrest along with choking and electrocution.
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle itself is blocked and the area beyond the blockage is starved of oxygen. This causes that part of the heart muscle to die. The damage to this part of the heart is permanent.
During a heart attack the heart is usually still able to function, although it will not be working properly. The disability caused by this depends on the area of tissue damaged by the oxygen starvation.
If the damage is great enough it will disrupt the heart’s electrical pathways and cause a cardiac arrest.
If you'd like more information, take a look at our more detailed article on cardiac arrest and heart attacks.
A sprain is an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are tissues that attach bones together.
A strain is damage caused to muscle fibres, usually caused by stretching or tearing of the fibres. Most muscle strains happen when the muscle fibres are overstretched or forced to contract too tightly.
We have an article on treatment of sprains and sprains if you'd like more details.
A stroke is a condition that affects your brain. It is to the brain what a heart attack is to the heart.
Your brain needs a good supply of oxygen to function and it gets this via our blood supply. A stroke happens when the blood supply is cut off to part of the brain, causing some of its cells to die.
Sometimes this is caused by blood clots, in the same way that heart attacks occur or sometimes it happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
A stroke is a medical emergency and the person needs urgent medical care to reduce the clot or stop the bleeding.
Take a look at our article to find out about the signs and symptoms of stroke.
An appointed person is someone who's responsible for first aid equipment and procedures within an organisation. This role is particularly relevant in the smallest of organisations which have no trained first aiders.
In other organisations, this role is absorbed into the role of the first aiders, or the manager(s) responsible for first aid.
There is no formal appointed person training. However training for the activities carried out by an appointed person is included in workplace first aid courses such as the Emergency First Aid or First Aid at Work courses.
Those activities can include managing first aid kits, being responsible for signage, calling emergency services or recording illnesses and injuries.
We would always recommend having trained first aiders within your organisation, even if your workplace is small enough for them not to be legally required. Having first aid skills in place before an emergency is always much better than getting trained after something bad has happened.
A first aider is someone who has undergone formal training, and has current first aid certification, that is approved by the HSE (usually via an Awarding Organisation). They must therefore hold a valid certificate in either:
In each case, these certificates must be issued by a training organisation approved by the HSE. This can be awarded by a recognised awarding body of OfQual / Scottish Qualifications Authority.
You should use your risk assessment to determine whether your first aiders should hold the FAW or the EFAW certificate.
HSE strongly recommend that all first aiders undertake a First Aid skills update to refresh their skills annually.
The number of first aiders you need depends on the circumstances in your workplace, such as the level of risk that you've identified and number of employees you have.
Also, where employees work on different shifts, in different buildings or across different sites, you'll need extra first aiders.
And you should also make sure that you have enough first aiders to allow for forseeable absences, such as holidays, off-site meetings etc.
You should identify all of this information during your risk assessment. Once you've done so, you should put in place suitable plans to make sure that your risks are minimised, and that suitable first aid provision is available to care for casualties.
Being a first aider is a responsible position, so you need to think about the most suitable staff you have to carry it out.
If your company’s risk assessment has indicated that the company needs one first aider (at a time), at least two should be trained to the same level. That will ensure that you have suitable cover when one is off-sick or on holiday.
First aiders must be able to immediately leave their normal duties without notice to be able to attend to a person who has become ill or injured.
The first aider needs to be someone who can:
The length of time a certificate lasts depends on the type of qualification.
All of the regulated first aid certificates are valid for 3 years from the date of qualification. These include:
In each case, if a member of staff wishes to continue to be a first aider, they should complete and pass their course before their existing certificate expires. If they have not done so, they can’t be a workplace first aider until they have requalified.
In addition, anyone wishing to extend their full First Aid at Work certificate through attending a 2-day requalifier course must do so before their existing 3-day certificate expires. If they have not done so, they will need to attend a full 3-day course to renew.
In addition to renewing their certificates every 3 years, the HSE strongly recommends that all first aiders undertake annual refresher training in the years between full requalifying courses.
This is intended to help first aiders keep their skills up to date, and improve their ability to recall and perform first aid as and when it is required. With good safety practices and a slice of luck, first aid skills are only called on very rarely. So taking an annual 1/2-day first aid at work refresher can be invaluable in keeping your first aiders on top of their game.
Dental CPR and Medical Emergencies courses are usually renewed every 12 months, and contribute to Dental Practitioners' 5-year CPD cycles.
Most GP Practice CPR certificates are renewed every 12 - 18 months, as a part of their 5-year CPD cycles.
Renewals for education courses depend very much on the type of training, and the level and type of requirement in the setting.
For regulated (RQF) Paediatric first aid courses, staff must renew every 3 years to remain as Paediatric First Aiders. And as with other working environments, their workplace first aid certificates must also be renewed every 3 years to remain valid.
Courses such as Anaphylaxis training, Managing Medicines and Infection Control can be as determined by the person responsible for first aid in the setting. We'd recommend renewing at least every 2-3 years, depending on the numbers of pupils or staff who are affected by the range of conditions covered by the courses.
Currently there is no mandatory expiry or renewal period on first aid for mental health certificates. We would recommend that you review your requirements as part of your risk assessment, and renew as skills are fading, or as staff turnover leaves your workplace short of staff trained in mental health first aid.
Of course all of the above renewal timescales should take into account staff turnover, sickness and change of circumstance. If one or more first aiders leaves the organisation, look at how many first aiders you have left, and compare this with the numbers you identified in your risk assessment. If the leaver has taken you below your minimum, make sure you get further staff trained.
Similarly, if staff move from one site to another, change shifts, or go on long-term sick, again take a look at whether you have enough first aiders to meet your needs.
Ever since 2011 there has been a new British Standard BS8599 for first aid kits.
Although this standard is not mandatory for companies, it gives a good indication of the contents that you should be looking to have in your kits.
The Standard itself has been updated several times since 2011, with in-vehicle kits being added in the BS8599-2 (2014) update and a second update BS8599-1:2019 in January 2019.
The British Standard Kits come in 4 sizes, small, medium, large and travel. Your risk assessment will tell you which size of kit and quantity is suitable for your environment.
We've produced a post which gives you a list of recommended first aid kit contents for each of the four kit sizes. Also, it gives you advice on locating and replenishing your kits.
A risk is the chance, whether high or low, of a hazard causing harm to individuals, and the level of harm that could be caused.
Examples of risks are:
As part of an organisation’s risk assessment, effort should be made to identify (and ideally document) the full range of hazards present in the workplace, and to record the potential risks that they pose to staff and visitors.
Workplace first aid training, first aid kits and other equipment and measures required to counteract these risks should be recorded, along with a plan of how to implement them. This plan should then be implemented to a timetable. Finally, the plan should be reviewed on a regular basis, to ensure that the information and response remain relevant.
RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.
It was introduced in 1995, and has since gone through a few updates and enhancements.
It tells you:
It also helps you to plan your recording processes, and as a result, gives you the information you need to reduce the number of such incidents in the future.
We've produced a guide to RIDDOR reporting which provides you with lots of easy-to-understand information on how to comply with the regulations.