As a family physician in Vancouver, Dr. Ali Ghahary is medically trained to deal with many types of unforeseen circumstances. But what happens when a doctor isn’t present or help (such as paramedics) can’t get to you quick enough?

As scary as it might be to think about, unexpected things can happen – whether you’re directly involved or an innocent bystander, knowing basic first aid can be a lifesaving measure.

Household accidents, especially involving younger children and seniors, are quite common. For example, falls, bone breaks or sprains, burns, choking, and even ingesting hazardous substances. As concussions are commonly associated with falls, it’s important to get the injured individual to remain as possible. If a person is suffering from a cut or a burn, run the affected area under cold water for approximately 10 minutes and then cover it with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage. When it comes to choking, it takes just 6 minutes for the brain to expire as a result of lack of oxygen, so knowing both CPR and the Heimlich maneuver is important as it can clear upper airway obstructions.

It’s also a good idea to be prepared for natural disasters such as hurricanes (and subsequent flooding that can possibly happen as a result), fires and earthquakes. When it comes to natural disasters, electricity can sometimes be cut off for days – even weeks – at a time. There’s also a chance that you may not have access to clean drinking water and/or food. As such, knowing basic first aid skills in any natural disaster is crucial – but you should also consider having a first aid kit in your home.

Typically, a first aid kit should consist of things like bandages, scissors, tweezers, safety pins and antiseptic wipes, as well as things such as disposable non-latex gloves, flashlights, emergency blankets, a battery-powered radio, water and pre-packaged food (i.e. granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit.) While it’s quite easy to put together a first aid kit at home on your own, and can actually be seen as a fun project for school-aged children to help their families with, you can also purchase already-put-together first aid kids from the Canadian Red Cross. They are also available for purchase at many department stores and pharmacies.

If you are interested in learning more about first aid and want to know where there are first aid courses available in your area, click here.