Coronavirus (Covid 19) updates to First Aid and CPR - Life Saving Training

Coronavirus (COVID19) Updates to First Aid and CPR


Although we’re in uncertain times, one thing is certain - people will continue to choke. They’ll still bump their heads. They’ll have slips, trips and falls. People will continue to have heart attacks, cut their fingers - or worse. That’s life.


We still need to help people as best we can. But COVID19 has changed the way we do First Aid for the foreseeable future.


First Aid during the Coronavirus (COVID19) Outbreak


The aim is to help those who need First Aid treatment whilst keeping yourself and others safe. That’s always been the case. But COVID19 gives us something else to consider.


Stop and think. Can the casualty help themselves with some support and direction from you? If they’re responsive and able, telling them how to treat themselves is going to be your safest option. You can even provide first aid kit from a distance so that you don’t need to get too close.


If they’re unresponsive or seriously injured - then they’re unlikely to be able to help themselves! That’s where things can get tricky. Remember checking for ‘Danger’ on your First Aid course? Well, COVID19 fits right in here.


As always - we need to protect ourselves from danger. If you’ve got a face mask, goggles and gloves - this would be a good time to put them on.

Figure 1 - When assessing for Danger, put on PPE if you've got it. 


As usual, try and get a response from the casualty and shout for help if they appear unresponsive.


Usually, next we’d open the airway. However, during the COVID19 outbreak, the Resuscitation Council UK has suggested to NOT open the airway (to minimise risk of infection). Instead, move straight on to check for breathing - with some minor alterations.


During COVID19, check for breathing by simply looking for the absence of signs of life and normal breathing. Don’t listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the casualty’s mouth, as we usually would. Again, this modification is to minimise the risk of infection.


If the person is breathing normally - make sure they’re not bleeding and look for any damage or broken bones as usual, then put them into the ‘Recovery Position’ and call 999.


How to do CPR during the Coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak


If the casualty is not breathing - they need CPR and early access to a defibrillator.


During COVID19, the Resuscitation Council UK recommends chest compression only CPR for adults- that’s CPR without rescue breaths. So, if an adult isn’t breathing normally:


  1. Call 999.
  2. Put on PPE if available.
  3. Put a piece of cloth or clothing over the casualty’s nose and mouth to minimise the chance of infection transmission.
  4. Start continuous chest compressions. Remember, for an adult we’re aiming for 100-120 chest compressions every minute (the beat of ‘Stayin’ Alive’), to a depth of 5-6cms (about the height of a credit card).
  5. Continue chest compressions - don’t give rescue breaths.
  6. Use a defibrillator if one is available.

Figure 2 - Put a piece of cloth or clothing over the casualty’s nose and mouth to minimise the chance of infection transmission, if you need to perform chest compressions.


How to do CPR for a child during the Coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak


Chest compressions and rescue breaths are still recommended for children. This is because if a child isn’t breathing, it’s unlikely to be caused by a problem with the heart - it’s more likely to be a respiratory problem. This means giving breaths can be crucial to the child’s chance of survival.


If a child isn’t breathing normally:


  1. Put on PPE if available.
  2. If you’re on your own, give 5 initial rescue breaths.
  3. Then, perform 30 chest compressions (to a depth of at least one third of the depth of the chest) and 2 breaths. Keep repeating 30 chest compressions to 2 breaths for about 1 minute before going for help.
  4. Call 999.
  5. Continue CPR with 30 compressions to 2 breaths and keep repeating.
  6. Use a defibrillator if one is available. Remember to use the child setting or child pads if the defibrillator has them.


First Aid Certificate Extensions During the Coronavirus (COVID19) Outbreak


If your First Aid certificate expired on or after 16th March 2020 and getting re-qualified has been interrupted due to Coronavirus (COVID19) - you may be eligible for a certificate extension.


You’ll need to be able to describe your reasons for delaying your training and show the steps you’ve taken to undertake First Aid training. This applies to First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work certificates. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently announced that if your certificate expired on or after 16th March 2020, you should re-qualify as soon as you can. You’ll need to re-qualify before 30th September 2020 at the very latest.


Potential Extensions to Paediatric First Aid Certificates


The Department for Education has made it clear that employers and First Aid certificate holders must do their best to arrange re-qualification training at the earliest opportunity.


If you have a Paediatric First Aid certificate that expired on or after 16th March 2020, you may be able to get a 3 month extension. You'll need to be able to explain why you/the First Aider has not been able to re-qualify and demonstrate what steps have been taken to access the training. If you are still unable to access training, you may be entitled to a further extension - but re-qualification must be completed no later than 30th September 2020.


Important Changes to Paediatric First Aid in Early Years Settings


If you work with children below the age of 24 months, at least one person with a full (12 hour) Paediatric First aid (PFA) certificate must be on the premises at all times - so this requirement hasn’t changed. Paragraph 3.25 and annex A of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets out more detail.


If children are aged 2 to 5 within an early years setting, providers must use their ‘best endeavours’ to ensure one person with a full 12 hour Paediatric First Aid certificate is on-site when children are present. ‘Best endeavours’ means you should identify and take all the steps possible within your power to ensure there is a 12 hour Paediatric First Aider on site when a setting is open, as per the usual EYFS requirement on Paediatric First Aid.


If after using best endeavours, providers are still unable to secure a member of staff with a full 12 hour Paediatric First Aid certificate to be on site, then they must carry out a written risk assessment and ensure that someone with a current 18 hour First Aid at Work or 6 hour Emergency Paediatric First Aid certificate is on site at all times when children are on the premises.


Online First Aid Training


Remember, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) specify that accredited First Aid training cannot be delivered wholly online. Practical elements and assessment must be delivered face to face so that competency can be properly assessed. 


Final Thoughts


Confident, effective First Aiders will always be necessary in all settings. Keeping up to date is part of being a good First Aider - as things always change, whether that’s down to developing medical evidence, or a global pandemic! Hopefully this blog has helped a little, but if you have any questions at all, just get in touch, as we love to help!

Figure 3 - Keep up to date so you're a good First Aider!


 Ian Blackburn is the Technical Director and Lead Trainer/Assessor at Life Saving Training and an operational Casualty Carer (Medic) for Mountain Rescue. Ian achieved a Law degree before honing his skills as an expert trainer in a variety of high profile management, training and development roles. Frustrated by the lack of quality First Aid training available, in 2012 Ian embarked upon a mission to create Life Saving Training. Ian has a keen sense of humour, enjoys mountaineering, climbing, trail running and is a Rescue Diver. We'll have more from Ian and Life Saving Training soon, but you can find more from them on their website and blog here;