What to do for Head and Spinal Injuries? Emergency First Aid Training & Courses

Red Cross Certification in Whitby, Ontario

You never know when emergency situations can arise, and having first aid training can mean the difference between life and death.

Head and spinal injuries can be life threatening. Improper handling of an injured person with a head or spinal injury can cause long- term effects such as paralysis.

A head or spinal injury should be suspected if the mechanism of injury suggests an impact or blunt force to the head, neck or back. If a person appears to have a head injury, you should also suspect a spinal injury and vice versa.

Besides the mechanism of injury, the history of the event – including any signs or symptoms – can provide clues regarding the extent and nature of the injury. For example, if there has been a motor vehicle collision and a person is seriously bleeding from the head and tells you they cannot move their lower body, suspect that they have hit their head hard enough to cause serious head or spinal injuries.

If a head or spinal injury is suspected, discourage any movement and support the head and neck in the position you found them in order to protect the injured person from further injury.

Check for Responsiveness

If the person is conscious, identify yourself as a first aid provider and obtain consent from them before providing care. If dealing with a child or infant, seek the permission of a parent or guardian. Ask them if they are okay. Find out from them what happened and where it hurts. If the injured person is seriously hurt or is experiencing a medical emergency, call EMS/911.

A person’s responsiveness or level of consciousness (LOC) determines the type of care he or she should receive. A fully conscious person is aware of their surroundings, is in control of muscle function and can communicate. An unconscious person is not aware of their surroundings and shows no response to verbal communication.

It is important to monitor and note a person’s level of consciousness. Any decline in the level of consciousness signifies that the injured person’s condition is worsening. A semi-conscious or unconscious person lying on their back may experience breathing problems due to saliva or other fluids collecting in the throat or if the tongue blocks the airway.

Once consent is given, tell the person not to move if you suspect a head or spinal injury. Immediately support the head and neck in the position found. You can now confirm level of consciousness.

An effective way to assess and describe level of consciousness (conscious, semi-conscious, unconscious) is to check the person’s ability to open their eyes (eye-opening response), to speak (verbal response), and the ability to move their muscles.

If an adult (over the age of eight years) is unconscious, assume consent. Gently tap the adult and shout, “Are you okay?” If the person does not respond, open their airway and check for breathing for no more than 5 seconds.

Call EMS/911 if Needed

If the person is unconscious and/or not breathing, alert EMS/911 immediately. Send a bystander to make the call. Tell the bystander to call 911 and ask for an ambulance. Tell them what is wrong, where you are, and to report back to you with confirmation that EMS is on the way. If possible, have someone meet the ambulance outside and escort the paramedics to the scene.

If you are alone, shout for help to attract others. If no one comes and the person is unconscious, place the person in the recovery position (described later in this chapter) and make the call yourself. If the person is an unconscious child or infant (under 8 years old) who is not breathing, perform five cycles or two minutes of CPR first and then call EMS/911. Since the leading cause of death for children and babies is respiratory related, they have a better chance of being revived if CPR is started immediately. If they are still unconscious and not breathing after two minutes of CPR, then make the call to EMS/911. Consider carrying the person to a phone if possible.

Being trained in first aid and CPR will give you the knowledge and confidence to be able to remedy emergency situations, and it’s a precaution you just may be thanked for later. Contact us today and you’ll be on the road to having the knowledge and preparedness that may one day save a life.

By Nick Rondinelli
CEO – Heart to Heart First Aid CPR Services Inc
Author of “Ready, Set, Rescue’ copyright 2019

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