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A handy guide to basic and emergency first aid

Knowing first aid is a valuable skill which can help your family as well as others. This guide offers an overview of both basic and emergency first aid for different conditions and circumstances, and lets you know how to be of assistance until professional help arrives.

Basic first aid

Bee stings

  • Brush the sting away, do not pull it out

  • Raise the affected limb and apply a cold compress

  • If the person whose stung is known to be allergic, seek urgent medical assistance

Burns and scalds

  • For burns, flood with cold water for up to 10 minutes

  • For scalds, remove saturated clothing before cooling

  • Cover the area with a clean, non-stick dressing or wrap in plastic cling film

  • Loosen any tight clothing and remove jewellery if possible

  • Seek medical advice unless the burn is very minor

  • Do not break blisters

  • Do not pull away burnt clothing

Electric shock

  • Always disconnect power before administering first aid

  • If the person is unconscious, place them in the recovery position and clear the airway

  • If the person is not breathing, start resuscitation immediately – remember: airway, breathing, circulation

Epileptic seizure

  • Avoid injury by removing hard objects near the person and protecting their head

  • Do not restrict movements or place padding between teeth

  • When the seizure ends, turn the victim promptly into the recovery position and clear the airway

  • Observe the victim and allow them to rest until fully recovered


  • Assist the person to lie down and raise their legs slightly

  • Loosen any tight clothing at their neck and waist

  • Ensure a supply of fresh air

  • Allow them to rest until fully recovered

Foreign body

In a wound:

  • Only remove the object if it is on the surface and easy to do

  • If embedded, pack around it and avoid direct pressure

  • Cover with a dressing and bandage

  • Seek medical advice promptly

In an eye:

  • Do not attempt to remove it from the coloured part of the eye

  • Only attempt removal if it is on the surface of the white part of the eye, but not if embedded

  • Either wash the eye with running water or gently lift object from the surface with a moistened swab

  • If in doubt, or pain persists, cover with a pad and promptly seek medical advice


  • Clean with soapy water or saline (a weak salt in water solution)

  • Cover with a clean dressing

  • Change the dressing daily and leave open once the wound is dry

Infant seizures

  • If feverish, remove clothes and allow air to cool the skin

  • If unconscious, turn them into the recovery position and keep the airway open

  • Promptly seek medical advice

Nose bleed

  • Keep the person sitting down with their head tilted slightly forward

  • Pinch nostrils shut for at least 10 minutes

  • Do not blow nose for several hours


  • Call the Poisons Information Centre for specific advice on 0800 POISON or 0800 764 766

  • Take the container with you to the phone and read off the label or if the poison is unknown, save some vomit if possible

  • Describe any stomach pains, vomiting, drowsiness, burning or staining of lips or mouth

  • If unconscious, give nothing by mouth, turn victim promptly into the recovery position and call 111 for an ambulance

Sprains and bruises

When in doubt, treat as you would for broken bones. Otherwise:

  • Apply a firm, supporting roller bandage

  • Support in a raised, comfortable position

  • Apply a cold compress for up to 10 minutes

  • If pain persists, seek medical advice

Emergency first aid summary


  • Assess the whole situation for safety

  • Move the person only if in immediate danger


  • Check if the person is conscious or unconscious

  • Check for response to speech and touch

  • If there is no response, turn the person into the recovery position

Send for help

  • The emergency number in New Zealand is 111

  • Call for an ambulance as soon as possible but do not leave the person unattended


  • Clear and open their airway by:

  • Clearing the mouth of any foreign matter such as blood, vomit or food

  • Tilting the head back and supporting the lower jaw

  • Checking for breath. If the person is not breathing, begin chest compressions (30 fast compressions followed by two quick breaths)


  • If the person is bleeding, apply a sterile, clean pad over the wound and maintain firm pressure for at least 10 minutes

  • If bleeding from a limb, raise the injured part

  • Secure the dressing with a bandage

  • Try to avoid contact with another person’s blood by using a dressing or piece of clothing

Broken bones

If there are any broken bones:

  • Cover any visible wounds with a clean dressing

  • Support and immobilise the injured part in the most comfortable position

  • Avoid moving the person unnecessarily

Build a basic first aid kit

Building a basic first aid kit will help you respond quickly to emergency situations in your home or while travelling.

It’s a good idea to customise your first aid kit to include items relevant to specific family members, but here’s a list of what a basic first aid kit should include. You’ll find these items at your local Unichem.

First aid kit checklist

  • Directions on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • Adhesive tape

  • Alcohol-free cleansing wipes

  • Antibacterial cream or ointment

  • Antihistamine tablets

  • Disposable gloves (at least 2 pairs)

  • Cotton buds

  • Crepe-rolled bandages of several widths

  • Eye pads (2)

  • Gauze swabs

  • Instant cold packs

  • Non-stick dressings and wound pads

  • Pain relief tablets

  • Plasters of various sizes

  • Plastic bags for the disposal of contaminated materials

  • Safety pins

  • Scissors and tweezers

  • Skin rash cream (eg hydrocortisone 0.5% cream)

  • Sterile saline and water

  • Digital thermometer

  • Triangular bandage

  • Wound closure strips

If you are travelling include additional items such as:

  • Anti-diarrhoea medicine

  • Insect repellent

  • Sunscreen


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