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Common First Aid Terms & Acronyms to Know

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Sharon McCulloch

The world of first aid uses many terms and acronyms to help us remember different treatments for specific injuries or illnesses. There are so many of them that it can make medical terminology seem even more daunting than it already is.

The first step to effectively administer first aid is understanding the terms and acronyms used. They might be confusing at first, but with time and training you can learn these common first aid concepts and use them to provide basic life support in a real life first aid emergency.


Triple Zero — 000

The emergency ambulance number in Australia. Triple Zero (000) is the number to call for any medical emergency, serious accident or crime.



DRSABCD is an acronym or mnemonic used to remember the essential steps necessary to intervene in life-threatening situations such as cardiac arrest.

It stands for Danger, Response, Send (for help), Airway, Breathing, Circulation and Defibrillation.

  • Danger refers to checking that the incident area is safe, and removing any hazards from the scene if possible before entering it to provide first aid to victims present.
  • Response refers to checking the consciousness of victims present. Shout their name and ask them to squeeze your hand to check for signs of consciousness.
  • Send for help is fairly self-explanatory. Call emergency services, or if you are unable to do so, get someone nearby to call them for you.
  • Airway is the first of these steps that directly relate to performing CPR. Ensure the victim’s airways are clear of obstructions, and tilt their head back so that if CPR becomes necessary your rescue breaths will be able to reach the person’s lungs.
  • Breathing relates to checking if the person is breathing. Look, listen, and feel for signs of breath, such as a rising and falling of their chest.
  • CPR is the step in which you begin performing CPR. We’ll cover this acronym in the next section.
  • Defibrillator relates to using a defibrillator on the victim if one is on hand. A defibrillator can be dangerous if used incorrectly, and one should only be used if you’ve been trained in how to do so.


CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

CPR is a lifesaving technique that involves chest compression and rescue breaths. 30 chest compressions should be delivered followed by two rescue breaths. Rescue breathing should be delivered via an airtight seal around the person’s mouth. Continue until the person regains consciousness, until an emergency medical technician or paramedic arrives, or until you are no longer physically able to. Taking a CPR course or a first aid training course which includes CPR is essential to mastering the correct depth of compressions and the timing of the rescue breaths.


An IV drip with a green tube attached, delivering essential fluids and medication to a patient.

AED (Automated External Defibrillator)

AED, or Automated External Defibrillator is simply the acronym for what is known in the short form as a defibrillator. An AED is a portable device that delivers controlled electric shock across the heart. The delivered shock will attempt to reset the heart and get it to beat on its own again.


Primary Survey

The primary survey is a quick, initial assessment of the victim’s health, injuries and conditions. It is conducted to detect and treat immediate life threats and prevent further complications.


Recovery Position

An important part of first aid treatment is the recovery position. It is where you will place a conscious person in a position that will ensure clear and open airways, with no risk of vomit or fluid that will cause you to choke. Learn how to put someone in the recovery position safely through taking a first aid course.



SAMPLE is an acronym used to remember the questions to ask a victim during the secondary assessment. It stands for Signs & symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past medical history, Last oral intake, and Events leading up to the present injury.

The questions are straightforward and are as follows:

  • Signs and symptoms: What information can you gather from the casualty about what hurts, how they feel, and any injuries they may have?

  • Allergies: Do they have any allergies?

  • Medications: Are they taking any medication?

  • Past medical history: Any relevant past medical history?

  • Last oral intake: When and what did they last eat or drink?

  • Events leading up to the present injury: What was the casualty doing prior to the injury?


A person sitting on the floor with a backpack and medical supplies, ready to provide aid and assistance.


RICE is an acronym for the steps to be taken following sprains, strains and dislocations.

It stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression, and
  • Elevation

Rest after the injury, place an icepack on the wound, compress it with a bandage, and keep the injured part of the body elevated.  

Additionally, the RICER acronym adds one more step: Referral. This step highlights the importance of seeking professional medical advice, especially when the injury does not show signs of healing.

The benefits of the R.I.C.E. method for minor injuries is that it helps with reducing the swelling, easing pain, and speeding up healing.



The FAST acronym in first aid is used to identify if someone is having a stroke.

It stands for:

  • Face
  • Arms
  • Speech, and
  • Time

It involves simple tests to assess the possibility of a stroke, such as checking for facial weakness or drooping, whether the person has the strength to raise their arms, and assessing speech clarity. The final step, Time, refers to the need to act F.A.S.T in a stroke emergency by quickly contacting emergency services.


Put Your Knowledge to the Test

This is just scratching the surface of some of the most commonly used, and the most helpful, basic first aid terms around. Knowing these acronyms is a great first step, but it’s only half the battle. To actually put these practices to use in a real world first aid emergency, the best way to learn the necessary skills is by taking a first aid course with FirstAidPro Adelaide. In addition to the practical skills you’ll also learn how to best stock a first aid kit and how to safely deliver first aid medication. Knowing what to do could mean the difference between life and death for many people.

The content on this website offers general insights regarding health conditions and potential treatments. It is not intended as, and should not be construed as, medical advice. If you are facing a medical emergency, dial 000 immediately and follow the guidance provided.

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