When Clint Eastwood saw a man desperately choking, the actor not only made his day, he saved his life.
Eastwood, 83, had learned the Heimlich maneuver years ago and remembered exactly what to do, performing the move perfectly on the man and dislodging a piece of cheese stuck in his airway.
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“I looked in his eyes and saw that look of panic people have when they see their life passing before their eyes,” Eastwood said.
While the incident made headlines because a movie star was involved, knowledge of basic first aid along with assertive action saves lives every day, experts say.
“It’s that kind of knowledgeable and decisive move that makes all the difference in life-threatening situations,” Jeffrey Pellegrino, a member of the Red Cross Advisory Council who teaches emergency prevention at Kent State University, tells Newsmax Health.
“Recognizing that another person is in dire straits and taking immediate action is the first step in first aid. Don’t wait for the other guy to step in because it may be too late.”
- When someone is choking: If a person can’t speak and appears to be choking, encourage coughing by rapping your fist firmly between their shoulder blades. If that doesn’t work, quickly do the Heimlich maneuver: Get behind the person, placing your hands just above their belly button. Make a fist with one hand and place the thumb side of your fist just above the navel. Grasp your fist with the other hand and give quick, forceful thrusts upward to dislodge the object. When applying the maneuver to a child, take care not be so forceful as to cause injury.
- When someone appears to be having a heart attack: Pellegrino notes that symptoms can vary from person to person, so the best way to tell if he or she is in distress is to ask them how they feel and note if they are becoming pale, nauseous, or vomiting. Chest pain or pressure radiating to the jaw or neck and down the arm are classic symptoms, but not everyone experiences these signs. Dial 911 and give the person two, low-dose (81 mg) uncoated aspirins or break a standard-dose aspirin in half. If the person stops breathing, perform CPR. Clear the airways by tilting the head back and lifting the chin. Begin chest compressions until the paramedics arrive. If you don’t know CPR, the 911 operator can tell you how to do them.
- If a person suffers a seizure: Most seizures last a minute or two, so the most important thing is to ensure the victim’s safety by making sure they don’t hurt themselves as their muscles thrash. Clear away furniture and other obstacles. Call 911. Medics will have medication to help.
- When a person has severe bleeding: In 95 percent of cases, applying direct pressure with a clean cloth to the wound will stop the flow. If necessary, use a piece of clothing. The use of a tourniquet is reserved if the blood loss appears life threatening. Use a belt or whatever is available to pinch off the flow of blood, placing the tourniquet between the wound and the heart.
- When a person has fallen: If the victim is in extreme pain and can’t get up, call 911. “Be careful you don’t jeopardize your own health to save another,” Pellegrino says. “For example, if the victim has been hit by a car and is lying on the street, stop the next vehicle and use it as a barrier. Enlist the help of the driver to call 911.” If the victim is unconscious, apply the ABC’s of first aid: Check the airways, breathing, and circulation. If necessary, perform CPR to revive the person until help arrives.
The Red Cross offers free phone apps that demonstrate what to do in common emergencies. They can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store by searching for American Red Cross.
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However, they are not considered substitutes for first aid/CPR training.
“I would encourage everyone to take classes to learn CPR, and other first aid maneuvers so they become familiar and confident with procedures,” says Pellegrino. “We are human beings and accidents will happen. It’s important to ourselves and our loves ones that we are prepared.”
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