First Aid On The Run


I hate to say it but I have come across several situations on my runs that have forced me to use my First Aid certification.  Running as well as other sports and activities have the risk of injury.  Most often these injuries are minor but there is the chance that you might come across a more serious situation and your help might be needed.  Having some knowledge of basic first aid can help to ensure your safety as well as that of others.

Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and I recommend that you do some research on basic first aid, or better yet get certified.  My goal is to simply share some ideas that might help keep you and other runners safe on the path.

Always assess a situation before taking any action.  Any time you come across a situation where someone has been injured you must first take a brief moment to look around you.  Is there an external reason why a person is hurt?  By going near the injured person will you have to risk your own safety?  For example, a downed wire can cause an electrocution.  But if you do not take a moment to determine why a person is unconscious, you could run the risk of electrocuting yourself by coming near the injured person.  Another excellent example is a potential drowning.  One time my husband and I came across a person who had jumped into the East River in New York.  He could not swim and another person jumped in to help him.  Often times the person who comes to the aid of a drowning victim is not necessarily a strong swimmer.  The victim can pull their help down under the water in a panic, leaving their aid helpless.  This can lead to two drowning victims.  Know your limits and if it is not safe for you to approach the situation call for help.

Check the person.  Once you know the scene is safe check on them.  Tap them on the shoulder and ask, “Are you okay?”  If you get a response find out what has happened.  If you do not get a response give them a little shake and say, “Are you awake?”  Are they breathing?  Do they have a pulse?

Once you have determined the problem call for help.  After you know what the injury is you should immediately call 9-1-1.  Stay as calm as possible and clearly state where you are and what appears to have happened.  If a person is unconscious but you do not know why, let the responder know.  Don’t make assumptions.  9-1-1 responders are equipped with the knowledge to help assist you until help can arrive.

If there are multiple people at the scene ensure that someone has definitely called 9-1-1.  Sometimes things get hectic during an emergency situation.  People assme that someone else has called for help when in fact, no one has.

Recruit help.  Look around and ask for others to help.  Ask if anyone is a first responder.  Perhaps there is a doctor or a nurse around or someone who has training in first aid.  People are usually willing to help but sometimes hesitate to step forward.  Urge others to join.

If a victim isn’t breathing administer CPR.  And don’t worry, anything is better than nothing.  Good news, the rules have changed for CPR.  If you know the victim and feel comfortable giving them rescue breaths you should do 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths and then repeat until help has arrived.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing rescue breaths you can simply do just chest compressions (100 times per minute).  Recruit help here because this can be exhausting.

The key is to start helping right away.  Don’t worry about being perfect.  During my first aid training we were repeatedly reminded that any help is better than no help.  Check out this tutorial for more information.

Edited to add this fantastically informative and funny video on administering CPR thanks to Alice runs!

Some other important things to remember.

Always try to stop any bleeding, but is important to avoid touching an open wound.  Use what you have around you.  My husband was once at the scene of a terrible skating accident.  Before he had time to think he stripped off his shirt and used it to apply pressure to a serious wound.  His quick thinking helped tremendously.

If a person has food, blood, or vomit in their mouth roll them onto their side in the recovery position.

Never try to move a broken bone or reset it!

If you come across an emergency situation during the winter make sure you use your layers to cover any injured victims.  Ask others to share their layers.  Injury victims can easily go into shock and keeping them warm really helps.

Be safe and alert when you are running.  If you do come across a situation that requires your help, stay calm.  Your calm demeanor and assistance can be a life saver.  Again I am not an expert on first aid.  Reading this definitely does not take the place of certification.  I encourage everyone to get their own certification.  It is a quick and educational process and you will be so glad you are well informed.

Have you ever come across an emergency situation during a run?

12 thoughts on “First Aid On The Run

    • Thanks so much! I have come across way too much emergency situations between running and working at an ice rink. We both are on the same page here, especially after what happened this fall on the path. I sure would want to be able to help.

  1. A friend of mine, her husband was taking the dog for a walk and came across a guy sitting in his front yard against a tree but the lawnmower was still running. Thinking that was a bit strange, he went over to check on him and he was unconscious and not breathing (heart attack). The wife was out back and didn’t know anything was happening. My friend’s hubby performed CPR and called an ambulance. Saved the guys life.

  2. Great post! As I former lifeguard, I’ve used some of these skills in real life. Its important to be educated on basic first aid. Sometimes those crucial minutes before an ambulance arrives can mean the difference between life and death!

  3. Great tips! I always wonder if I should have gloves with me in case I come across blood for some reason! I’ve never *knock on wood* had to use any of my first aid training and hope I never have to but am glad I have it.

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