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If someone you knew had a seizure, would you know how to help? Seizures can be frightening to see, but it is easy to care for a person who is having a seizure. However, most seizures only last a few minutes and the person usually recovers fully without any complications.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of seizures include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Uncontrollable muscle movement
  • Eyes rolling upward into the head
  • Drool or foaming at the mouth
  • Uncontrolled repetitive motions (partial seizures)

They have many different causes. One common cause is epilepsy, a chronic seizure disorder that can often be controlled with medication. Other causes of seizures include the following:

  • Fevers or infections
  • Head injuries
  • Heat stroke
  • Poisons (including drugs)
  • Drug or alcohol withdrawal
  • Diabetic emergencies
  • Audio-visual stimulation (flashing lights)
First aid - Seizure - YouTube
Watch this clip to learn how to respond to a person having a seizure. Caring for Seizures

To care for the person having a seizure, follow these steps:

  1. Protect them from injury.

    Move furniture and other objects that could cause injury out of the way and protect the person’s head with a soft object (such as a blanket).

  2. Do not restrain the person.

    Holding the person down or trying to stop the seizure from happening could cause further injury to the person and possibly to you.

  3. After the seizure, move them onto their side.

    The person may be drowsy and disoriented for up to 20 minutes after the seizure. Place them on their side in the recovery position.

  4. Tilt their head back and check for breathing.

    Tilting back the head opens up the airway and makes it easier for the person to breathe. Try it yourself and see!

  5. If necessary, call 9-1-1.

    If you do not know the person or the person’s medical history, or any of the following applies, call EMS/9-1-1 and get an AED.
    – The seizure lasts more than a few minutes
    – The person has had several seizures in a row
    – The person appears to be injured
    – The person is pregnant
    – The person is experiencing a diabetic emergency
    – The seizure takes place in water
    – This is the person’s first seizure or the cause of the seizure is unknown
    – The person does not wake up after the seizure or is unresponsive for an extended period.

For more tips on how to navigate a life-threatening emergency, download the (free) official Canadian Red Cross first aid mobile app, available on iTunes and through Google Play.

The post First Aid for Seizures appeared first on The Pulse.

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About 4 people a day die of illicit drug overdoses in BC – more than suicides, homicides and vehicle deaths combined. This number is staggering, and we wanted to help.

Now we can proudly say that Alert First Aid is a registered Take Home Naloxone site! This means that we are now able to provide training and take-home naloxone kits to people at risk of an opioid overdose and people likely to witness and respond to an overdose (such as family or a friend of someone at risk). We’re only one of over 1,300 sites – you can read more about this awesome program here.

Instructor Kaitlyn and the participants in our very first free Naloxone training session in April at our Victoria Training Centre. What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids. Opioids slow everything down (including breathing), and include heroin, methadone, fentanyl, morphine, codeine and oxycodone. They can be prescribed or used illegally.

You can get naloxone in BC without a prescription to give as an injection into a muscle.

What is an overdose?

An overdose happens when the body is exposed to a toxic amount of a substance – or a combination of substances. The body becomes unable to control processes required for life (breathing, heart rate, body temperature). Not everyone who overdoses will die. However, if you do not treat an overdose quickly, lack of oxygen can cause brain damage.

An opioid overdose looks like this:

  • slow, shallow, irregular or no breathing (less than 1 breath every 5 seconds)
  • unresponsive
  • Unusual snoring, gurgling sounds, choking
  • Blue lips or nails, pale cold or clammy skin
  • Tiny pupils
Naloxone Administration

We’re offering regular free training sessions on how to use Naloxone (check out our Facebook page for upcoming events). However, if you’re not able to make it, or prefer to learn from the comfort of your own home, here is a 15-20 minute interactive lesson on how to respond to an overdose, put together by BCCDC Harm Reduction Services.

The post Take Home Naloxone Program appeared first on The Pulse.

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Good Samaritan laws are in place to protect first aiders from financial liability. The government has designed these laws to encourage bystanders to provide first aid in emergency situations.

These laws assume that a first aider will do their best to save a life or prevent further injury. They require the first aider to use common sense – no emergency tracheotomies, for example – and a reasonable level of skill, and to only provide care that is within their training.

Good Samaritan laws protect first aiders who act in the same way another similarly trained, reasonable and prudent person would in the same situation. Use your common sense and stay within what you were trained to do, and you cannot be held responsible for the injuries suffered by the injured person.

For example, a “reasonable and prudent” person would:

  • Move a person only if the person’s life was in danger
  • Ask a responsive person for permission to help (consent) before giving care
  • Check a person for life-threatening conditions before giving further care
  • Call EMS/9-1-1
  • Continue to give care until a more highly trained person takes over

Good Samaritan laws may not protect the first aider if their actions are grossly negligent or reckless, or if the first aider abandons the person after starting care.

There is no general legal duty to help someone in an emergency except for a person who is involved in a motor vehicle accident. That person must stop and give all possible assistance to the other persons involved.

Good Samaritan Act for Drug Overdose

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides some legal protection for people who experience or witness an overdose and call 9-1-1 for help.

The act can protect you from:

  • Charges for possession of a controlled substance (i.e. drugs) under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
  • Breach of conditions regarding simple possession of controlled substances (i.e. drugs) including pre-trial release, probation orders, conditional sentences and parole.

This act applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing an overdose. The act protects the person who seeks help, whether they stay or leave from the overdose scene before help arrives. It also protects anyone else who is at the scene when help arrives.

This act does not provide legal protection against more serious offences, such as:

For more information, visit Health Canada’s webpage describing the Act.

  • outstanding warrants
  • production and trafficking of controlled substances
  • all other crimes not outlined within the act

The post What are Good Samaritan laws? appeared first on The Pulse.

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Well, it’s February and winter finally hit Victoria. With our normally very temperate weather, it’s not often that we think about cold-related illnesses, but here’s a crash course for you.

The view from our new location on Johnson Street in downtown Victoria.

Cold-related illnesses are any conditions caused by exposure to colder temperatures. Some are less severe (like superficial frostbite) and some are life-threatening (hypothermia).


Frostbite is a local, superficial injury caused by freezing of the skin (and even the underlying tissues, in more extreme cases). Toes, fingers, hands, ears, and noses are particularly prone to frostbite.

Before frostbite occurs, a person’s skin may appear shiny and rosy (sometimes called frost nip). This is a warning that frostbite is imminent. If you see these signs, advise the person to move to a warmer environment or protect their skin with layers of clothing.

There are two kinds of frostbite:

Superficial frostbite is when the skin freezes but the underlying tissues don’t. Sometimes, it can produce clear blisters after the skin thaws, but little or no tissue loss typically occurs.

Signs & symptoms:

  • Hardened skin
  • Skin that looks paler than the area around it
  • Pain or stinging in the area, followed by numbness

Deep frostbite occurs when the tissues beneath the skin (tendons, muscles, and blood vessels) freeze. Inside the body, ice crystals and swelling begin to damage or destroy the body’s cells, blood vessels, and nerves. Deep frostbite can produce dark, hemorrhagic blisters when the tissue thaws, and is more likely to result in tissue loss.

Signs & symptoms:

  • Waxy skin that is colder than the area around it
  • Skin and underlying tissue that is hard and solid to the touch
  • Skin that is white, blue, black, or mottled
  • Complete loss of feeling
How to Prevent Frostbite
  • Never ignore numbness: if an extremity feels numb or tingly, take steps to warm it immediately
  • Cover up vulnerable areas such as the cheeks, nose and ears when outside in the cold
  • Wear mittens instead of gloves when possible
  • Maximize foot insulation but avoid a tight fit around the toes
  • Wear clothing in layers and adjust as necessary so that you are not overheating and sweating
  • Keep well hydrated
  • Keep clothing dry and change out of wet clothing as soon as possible

Common factors that increase the risk of frostbite are moisture on the skin, exposure to wind, insufficient insulation and clothing/equipment that reduces or constricts blood flow.

What to do for Frostbite
  1. If possible, remove jewelry or anything else that may restrict blood flow to the affected area
  2. Thaw the area only if you’re sure it will not freeze again
  3. Warm the affected area using warm water, if available, or body heat (e.g., by placing the person’s hands in his or her armpits or on the abdomen). You should be able to place your own hands in the water for a minute without feeling too warm.
  4. If the frozen area has thawed, don’t break any blisters. Protect them with loose, dry dressings. Place gauze between the fingers and toes if they are affected.
  5. If possible, elevate any thawed extremities above the level of the heart.
  6. Because frostbite can be extremely painful, the person may wish to take an over-the-counter painkiller.
  7. Rehydrate the person by provided plenty of fluids.
  8. Encourage the person to seek medical attention.

Never rub the frozen area or put snow on it! Rubbing the area can cause the ice crystals within the cells to damage the surrounding tissues, and rubbing snow will only worsen the condition.


Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops to 35 degrees Celsius or lower. Hypothermia becomes life threatening when the core body temperature drops below 28 degrees Celsius.

People with smaller body types, lower overall body weights, and lower body-fat content are much more likely to experience hypothermia. Young children and the elderly are the most at risk.

Signs & symptoms:

Cold Stress (Not Hypothermic)

  • Shivering
  • Normal mental status
  • Able to care for self

Mild Hypothermia

  • Vigorous shivering; complaining of the cold
  • Decreased physical function
  • Difficulty taking care of self

Moderate Hypothermia

  • Weak and intermittent shivering or shivering that later stops
  • Sometimes complaining of the cold
  • Lack of coordination or speech; confused or unusual behaviour
  • Impaired judgement
  • Possible unresponsiveness

Severe Hypothermia

  • Shivering has stopped
  • Unresponsiveness; breathing has slowed down or stopped
  • Body feels stiff
  • No pulse
How to Prevent Hypothermia
  • Prepare for activities in cold environments by wearing appropriate clothing:
    • Wear a hat and clothing made of tightly woven fibers (e.g., wool, fleece)
    • Avoid cotton because it soaks up water and stays wet
    • Wear clothing in layers so that they can be added or removed according to weather conditions and exercise intensity. Remove some clothing before working to reduce the amount of sweat and keep clothing dry.
  • Keep clothing dry. If clothing gets wet, change into dry clothing as soon as possible.
  • Carry and consume high-energy foods that have a lot of sugar.

Common factors that may lead to hypothermia include sweating while outdoors in cold weather, cold/wet/windy conditions, cold-water immersion, dehydration and taking medications to eliminate water from the body.

What to do for Hypothermia Canadian Red Cross treatment for various levels of hypothermia.

When caring for hypothermia, handle the person very gently and keep them horizontal. Only move the person if absolutely necessary, and take care to avoid bumping or jostling them. Remove wet clothing, but only in an area sheltered from the cold environment.

You can also apply a hypothermia wrap to minimize heat lost. It consists of a number of layers of insulation and heat-reflecting material.

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness occurs when a person’s eyes are exposed to ultraviolet rays. It most commonly occurs when the sun’s light is reflected from snow, ice, sand, or water into a person’s eyes.

To help prevent snow blindness, wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays and prevent light from shining in from below, above or the sides.

Signs & symptoms:

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Swelling of tissue around the eyes
  • Pain, itchiness, or a burning sensation in the eyes that may become intense
  • Temporary colour changes in vision, or even vision loss

These signs and symptoms may not appear for several hours following exposure to bright, snowy conditions!

What to do for Snow Blindness
  1. Place the person in a darker environment, if possible, or cover their eyes.
  2. Apply a cool, damp cloth to reduce pain and burning.
  3. If the person’s vision is affected, seek medical attention.

To read more about cold-related illnesses (or anything else first-aid related), please read the Canadian Red Cross Comprehensive First Aid Guide.

The post Brrr…it’s Cold Outside appeared first on The Pulse.

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Sometimes classroom learning just isn’t enough – a couple months ago, we had the opportunity to teach part of a Marine Advanced First Aid course for the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) on one of their boats. And not just at the dock – members took our instructor Mike out to the open ocean!

It was a fun exercise for all parties, and really brought the Marine Advanced First Aid training to the next level. The customized course allowed participants to practice real-world scenarios exactly where they would be using their skills.

Here are some pictures taken throughout the day!

Leaving the harbour! Our instructor…sorry, captain Mike. Working together to stabilize the head and neck in a simulation. More scenarios on the boat. Checking responsiveness.

Working together. More teamwork and problem solving.

The post Marine Advanced First Aid…on a boat! appeared first on The Pulse.

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Recognizing the signs of a stroke early could save a life.

The acronym FAST is a quick and easy way to remember what to check for, and to get someone who is having a stroke the help they need right away.


Is one side of the face drooping? Is it numb? Ask the person to smile – is their smile uneven or lopsided?


Is one arm weak or numb? Ask them to raise both arms. Are they out of sync or does one arm drift downward?


Is the person having difficulty speaking? Slurred words? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence – for example, “I can say a simple sentence,” or, “Today is Thursday.” Can they repeat it back to you? Are they hard to understand?


If you notice symptoms of a stroke, time is of the essence, so it’s time to call 9-1-1 right away (and note the time the symptoms started to pass on to first responders)! Early intervention is so important for the treatment of strokes.

Other Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

The acronym FAST is a great guideline, but does not encompass every possible symptom of a stroke. They affect the brain, which means there can be many different symptoms, depending on which part of the brain is affected.

Here are some other symptoms you might see:

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech or written words
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If anyone shows any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

The post Do You Know The Warning Signs Of A Stroke? appeared first on The Pulse.

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Emergencies come in all different forms – natural disasters, bad falls, a medical emergency, etc. – and it’s important to be prepared in case one happens. In fact, it’s the very first step in the Canadian Red Cross Comprehensive Guide for First Aid & CPR!

You should have all your emergency items easily accessible – keep a first aid kit in your home and in your car, and know the location of the first aid kit and AED at work. Download the Canadian Red Cross First Aid App (it’s free!) to your phone so that you have instructions to follow in case you ever need them.

To be ready for an emergency at home, you should also:

  • Keep any important information about yourself and your family in a handy, easily accessible place. Include your address, everyone’s date of birth, health card numbers, medical conditions, allergies and prescriptions and dosages, as well as contact information for your doctor(s). Show this to anyone who might be caring for your kids, just in case something happens when you’re away.
  • If you still have a landline, post the numbers for the police, fire department, emergency medical services (EMS) and Poison Control Centre near every phone in your home. Save all these numbers as contacts in your cell phone too. 
  • Teach children how to call for help.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them regularly. 
  • Keep first aid kits in your home and in your car. Make sure everyone in  your family knows where to find them and what is in them (and how to use what’s in them).
  • Review and practice the first aid skills you learn so that you will have the confidence and knowledge to respond in an emergency.
  • Make sure your house or apartment number is large, easy to read and well-lit to make it easier for EMS personnel to find you in case of emergency.
  • Assign the letters ‘ICE’ (In Case of Emergency) to contacts in your phone – for example, your doctor, spouse or mother – to allow emergency personnel to reach someone who might know some important facts about you (as the potentially ill or injured person).
  • If you have a chronic medical condition like diabetes, epilepsy or allergies, consider wearing a medical identification product to alert EMS personnel if you are unable to do so. These don’t just come in bracelet form anymore – there are now apps you can download on your phone that create digital identification tags, able to be viewed even when your phone is locked.
First Aid Kits

You can assemble your first aid kit yourself, or buy one ready-made. We recommend the Canadian Red Cross Deluxe First Aid Kit. No matter which route you go, you’ll want to make sure that you check on it regularly. Replace anything that’s broken, expired or no longer sterile. 

Your first aid kits should include:

  • Emergency phone numbers for EMS/9-1-1, your local Poison Control Centre (hint: in BC it’s 1-800-567-8911 – save that to your phone right now) and your personal doctor(s)
  • Home and office numbers for anyone who can help you out in an emergency (family, friends, neighbors..)
  • Sterile gauze pads in assorted sizes
  • Tape to hold roller gauze on wounds
  • Roller gauze, pressure dressings, tensor bandages and/or self-adhesive wrap to hold gauze in place
  • Triangular bandages to make slings
  • Adhesive bandages (bandaids) in assorted sizes for minor cuts and scrapes
  • Scissors to cut tape and gauze
  • Tweezers to remove splinters
  • Cold packs for soft tissue injuries
  • Disposable vinyl or nitrile (non-latex) gloves to protect yourself
  • Flashlight, glow stick or other light source to see what you’re doing in the dark
  • Antiseptic (BZK) towelettes to clean around wounds
  • Emergency blanket to treat for shock
  • Barrier device (like a face shield or pocket mask) to protect yourself while performing CPR

Workplace first aid kits must meet provincial/territorial legislation and occupational health and safety guidelines. In BC, you can find WorkSafeBC’s guidelines here.

There’s a reason that preparation is the first step in the first aid manual – in a life-threatening emergency, every second counts. By preparing for emergencies, you can help ensure that care begins as soon as possible – for yourself, a family member, a co-worker, or a member of your community.

The post Responding to an Emergency – How to Prepare appeared first on The Pulse.

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The Canadian Red Cross has just launched their new Psychological First Aid Program!

The Red Cross designed Psychological First Aid to promote resiliency and reduce the impact of loss and trauma. It provides knowledge and skills for people to live life through understanding stressors and traumas that impact them. It helps participants understand how to recognize when someone else is experiencing distress and how to offer help.

This is such an important program, and really rounds out anyone’s first aid skills. Anyone providing (or receiving) first aid should be aware of self-care and develop skills to cope with stressors.

The program includes 3 participant level courses. Psychological First Aid – Self-Care and Psychological First Aid – Caring for Others are online courses. Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a classroom-based course.

Through the Red Cross Look, Listen, Link, Live model, participants will build a personal understanding of the effects of stress, loss and grief, and how to develop skills for self-care (helping individuals understand personal protective factors).

Psychological First Aid – Self Care

This online course assists learners in developing a personal understanding of the effects of stress, loss, trauma and grief. Learners will be introduced to the Red Cross Look, Listen, Link, Live model and will learn how to cope with the effects of various types of stress. This course can be taken in combination with the Red Cross Caring for Others online course to supplement and strengthen an overall wellness program.

Red Cross recommends that learners be at least 14 years of age or have the support of an adult.

At the end of the online module, participants must successfully complete the test. Participants that do not achieve 100% can review the module content and try as many times as necessary to advance and complete the course.

This course should take about 45 to 90 minutes to complete.

To sign up for this online course, click here.

Psychological First Aid – Caring for Others

This online course is very similar to the Self Care module, with an emphasis on applying the skills learned towards caring for other people.

Like the Self-Care module, Red Cross recommends participants be at least 14 years of age or have the support of an adult throughout the course. The course itself should take between 45 and 90 minutes to complete.

To sign up for this online course, click here.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) – In Class

If you’re not as tech-savvy, or just prefer a more in-depth, guided course that takes place in a classroom with other real people, there is also an 8-hour Psychological First Aid course you can take at one of our training centers.

If you want, do the two online courses ahead of time to give you a leg up. You can also just come as you are and start from the beginning.

This course is great for anyone dealing with people often, especially people dealing with stress regularly. As you know, this can take a toll on your own mental health, and self-care (not just supporting your clients) is so important.

To take a look at our course schedules, click here.

Private/Group Courses

As with any of our courses, if you or your organization has a group of people who could benefit from a Psychological First Aid course, just let us know.  We teach private courses all over Vancouver Island, and can come to you. Give us a call at 1-866-282-5378 or send us an email at info@alertfirstaid.com for more details.

The post Introducing Psychological First Aid! appeared first on The Pulse.

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I had just arrived in a town I had moved to for work. While unpacking and cutting down boxes alone in my new apartment, I accidentally nicked my wrist with the utility blade I was using (the blade stroke that cut me came as I was just admonishing myself for using bad scout manners by drawing the blade towards myself and resolving to push the blade away from me on the next box).

I’ll spare you most of the gory details, but suffice to say my blood was pulsing impressively out of my wrist. After clamping my hand over the cut and running it under water, the bleeding was not stopping.

I had just taken an extensive first aid course, and knew to put my wrist above my heart. I immediately did so, and in a mild panic and only a t-shirt on, I knocked on my neighbors door. When he answered I promised it was not as tragic as it looked, and asked if he might help me.

He kindly offered to drive me to the nearest clinic as the blood flow was slowing, and graciously did not bat an eye when it was determined he would have to help me put some pants on in order to go. He sat with me and brought me home after stitches; an act of kindness to a stranger that I have never forgotten.

Lessons learned: 1. Always cut away from yourself, 2. Always listen to your inner voice, and 3. Always wear pants when handling a blade!

Michele Hibbins, Victoria, bC

The post Always Wear Pants When Handling a Blade appeared first on The Pulse.

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My keys are already a little bulkier than most, with car keys, house keys, work keys, and a key for my bike lock, but I also carry a little keychain pouch with a CPR face mask and a pair of gloves.

Yes, I know this is just one more thing to carry around, but it’s only one more little thing and it’s SO IMPORTANT.

I never want to be in the situation where I could save someone’s life, but I hesitated because I didn’t have any way to protect myself from their blood, vomit, or any other bodily fluids that might be around in an emergency situation.

I really truly WANT to help people, and don’t want to miss an opportunity to save a life, but I definitely don’t want to put my mouth directly on a stranger’s and end up sick or with a mouth full of someone else’s vomit.

I don’t want stopping someone’s massive bleed to pose any risk to my own safety.

I don’t want to sweep anyone’s mouth for an object they might be choking on without some sort of barrier between me and them.

And sure, I might still give breaths in CPR, or stop someone’s bleed, or sweep someone’s mouth without gloves or without a CPR mask, but I might hesitate. And that extra time might make all the difference.

The post Why I Carry a Pocket Mask (and You Should Too) appeared first on The Pulse.

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