Illness Assessment - First Aid Guide

Written By: First Aid Training Bangkok

Important Information

Use this skill to determine what first aid may be needed in the event that Emergency Medical Services is either delayed or unavailable and should only be performed on conscious and responsive patients.

When giving information to the EMS personnel, avoid using the word 'normal'; Try to give measured rates per minute and descriptive terminology.

Normal Signs and Symptoms

A sign is 'something that you see, hear or feel' such as a wound, bleeding, discolourations, or deformities. Whereas a symptom is 'something that the patient tells you is wrong' which may be nausea, thirst, dizziness, or pain.

During assessment first aid it is difficult to determine if the patient's signs and symptoms are normal unless you know what normal is, although what may be normal for one person may not be so for another. There are accepted normal ranges for breathing rate, pulse and skin temperature and the following is meant as a general guide;

  • The average breathing rate for an adult at rest is 12 to 20 respirations per minute
  • The average pulse rate for an adult at rest is 60 to 90 beats per minute
  • The average skin temperature for an adult should feel warm and dry to the touch

Assessment first aid is the treatment of conditions that are not immediately life threatening uncovered during either an illness assessment or an injury assessment. For example, applying a bandage to a wounded patient is assessment first aid and lay rescuers can greatly reduce suffering and long term disabilities by applying their first aid skills.

SAMPLE; Performing Illness Assessment

Write down or have someone else record the illness assessment information

Put on your protective gloves and barriers and use the mnemonic SAMPLE to help during your illness first aid assessment

Signs and Symptoms
  • How does the patient feel now?
  • Determine the patient's pulse rate using the carotid or radial pulse (Rapid, Strong, Weak, Slow)
  • Determine the patient's respiration rate; Is the breathing Rapid, Slow, Laboured, Wheezing, Gasping?
  • Does the patient complain of; Shortness of breath, Dizziness, Light-headedness, Chest pain, Numbness, Tingling in Arms/Legs?
  • Is the patient's skin; Warm, Hot, Cool, Clammy, Wet, Very Dry?
  • What is the colour of the patient's skin under the lip; Pale, Ashen, Red, Blue, Yellowish, Black & Blue blotches?
  • Is the patient allergic to any food, drugs, airborne matters etc.?
  • Has the patient ingested or taken anything that they may be allergic to?
  • Does the patient take medications? Did the patient take medication today?
  • If possible, collect all medications to give to EMS
Pre-existing Medical Conditions
  • Does the patient have a pre-existing medical condition?
Last Meal
  • Did the patient eat recently? What was eaten?
  • Ask the patient to describe the events leading to the illness. When did the first symptoms occur?
  • Where was the patient when the first symptoms occurred?
  • What was the patient doing when the first symptoms occurred? Has the patient been exercising?

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