First Aid Manual

It is appropriate that a Webmag issue with an emphasis on health should include a review on the standard UK First Aid Manual: The Step by Step Guide for Everyone, endorsed by the St John Ambulance, St Andrew’s Ambulance Association and British Red Cross.

The Ninth Edition is now out, updated and with “all-new photographs and illustrations [to] show you exactly what to do in any situation”. The task facing the editors was formidable. There are so many possible things that can go wrong with the human body where the right response applied speedily can save lives that it must have been difficult to cram it all in one book.

The manual is 288 pages long, and the editors’ task was not simply the volume of information which they had to make available, but the need to organise it so that it was absolutely clear what had to be done in a crisis and what the risks were. This meant dividing the book up into main sections (based on parts of the body and the main causes of injury), then subdividing into specific subjects, and finally laying out each page so that information could be assimilated quickly.

The manual obviously needs to meet the needs of people being trained in First Aid, and therefore needs to be comprehensive, but it is also most unusual – for a book – in needing to provide information in situations where every minute lost can make a significant difference to an injured person.

I have described these editorial problems because the guide fulfils these requirements brilliantly. The illustrations are to the point and clear, mainly photographs but also some drawings. The text is direct and easy to understand. Medical text books are often abstruse, with complex specialist terms; in the manual such language is limited to the words that are unavoidable. We may not talk every day of hyperglycaemia, but there is no other word for it.

So, who is the book for? Certainly it is for use in training First Aiders, which is why it is sponsored by the three key organisations which provide First Aid in the UK. There are not enough people trained in First Aid, and it is appropriate to use this point to plug the need for training. Every place of work should have someone trained in First Aid at all times, and it will not be a waste of resources if a few more people are trained than is required by regulation. (What will you do if it is the trained First Aider who needs First Aid?)

There is also an argument, though, that every household should have a copy too. There are of course those who argue that a little knowledge is a bad thing, and that someone who has only partial knowledge may do the wrong thing. But they have even more chance of doing the wrong thing if they rely just on their “common sense”. (Might it not seem quite sensible to put greasy ointments on burns, for example?) What is more, the little knowledge might save a life. Do you remember the story of the small boy who recently saved his younger brother’s life by using the Heimlich Manoeuvre? It’s not a technical term used in the Manual, but they recommend “abdominal thrusts” as the third option if a person is choking. Fortunately, we rarely have to provide First Aid, but you never know when you may be the first person to come across an accident or someone who has had a heart attack.

Are there any criticisms of this book? Just two, to be picky. I thought the design of the cover and the title page were too fussy. Do we really need to be told who the sponsors are three times over on the title page? When the design of the rest of the book is so good, these fell short. Secondly, a dozen pages fell out of my copy, inadequately bound. This is not up to DK’s standard, and I may be the only person whose copy fell short in this way, but it could be important, because this is a book that is likely to have heavy wear, and there could be an argument for a spiral-bound version.

Review in brief : an excellent publication; every household should have a copy.

(2009) First Aid Manual: The Step by Step Guide for Everyone

Dorling Kindersley


ISBN: 978-1-4053-3537-9

Ninth edition

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