Nationally Accredited First Aid Courses

first aid pro logo

First Aid Terms & Acronyms You Need To Know

Common first aid terms and their meanings

Table of Contents

Sharon McCulloch

In moments of crisis, swift action can transform a potentially grave situation into a manageable one. Yet, in such high-pressure scenarios, the real question is: will your memory serve you accurately?

To address this concern, safety professionals have devised mnemonic aids—ingenious strategies designed to trigger your recall with ease. These acronyms, spanning a range of first-aid procedures and emergency responses, are your secret weapon. They empower you to remain composed, respond with agility, and effect meaningful change in a medical emergency.

In a crisis, your actions can save lives, but confidence comes with proper training. Join First Aid Pro’s nationally accredited first aid courses to transform your knowledge into real-life rescue skills. Don’t just learn; become the calm in the chaos, ready to respond when it matters most.

Enroll now, embrace your potential as a lifesaver, and be the difference in an emergency. Your journey to becoming a first aid responder starts here with First Aid Pro. Act now, enroll today!

Let’s delve into the essential first-aid acronyms that everyone should have at their fingertips.

List of First Aid Terminology

first aid training 2023 11 27 05 22 37 utc

Though highly useful, navigating the world of medical terminology can be intimidating. However, as these terms crop up more frequently in first aid and healthcare environments, they become more familiar to a broader audience. Whether uttered by a paramedic, a physician, or patients describing their ailments, these terms are now more commonplace. Additionally, they often feature in various medical records, monitoring documents and even in the media and television medical dramas

Grasping these medical terms and acronyms is a crucial initial step in effectively delivering first aid treatments and medications. While they may initially seem perplexing, continuous exposure and training will demystify common first aid concepts, enabling you to confidently utilise these terms as and when required.

While it’s not imperative for daily life, having a grasp of these terms is incredibly beneficial for managing an unexpected and life threatening situation involving yourself or others. Below, you’ll find a list of prevalent first aid terms and acronyms, along with their corresponding meanings.


DRSABCD is a vital mnemonic (and acronym) utilised in critical, life-threatening scenarios. It represents: Danger, Response, Send (for help), Airway, Breathing, (start) CPR, and Defibrillation. This sequence of steps is crucial for first responders to recall in handling severe accidents. In all emergency situations, it’s important to adhere to the DRSABCD Action Plan.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

CPR, a critical life-saving method, includes chest compressions and rescue breathing. The chest compressions (given at a rate of 120 compressions per minute) help maintain blood circulation during a cardiac arrest, while rescue breaths involve exhaling air into the victim’s mouth to provide oxygen.


For effective CPR, keep in mind the CAB sequence:

  • Chest compressions: Firmly press on the center of the person’s chest, aiming for 100 compressions per minute.
  • Airway: After approximately 30 compressions, slightly tilt the person’s head back and lift their chin to open the airway.
  • Breathe: Close the person’s nose, form a seal over their mouth with yours, and deliver two breaths into their mouth.

Additionally, hands-only CPR, which involves only chest compressions without rescue breaths, can be equally effective in situations where the person is witnessed collapsing. The American Heart Association advises full CPR, combining compressions and breaths, for infants and children, individuals who have drowned or overdosed, or those who collapse due to respiratory issues.

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

Automated External Defibrillator AED

AED or a defibrillator 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 brief initial evaluation aimed at assessing the victim’s overall health, injuries, and conditions. This process is crucial for identifying and addressing immediate life-threatening issues, thereby averting further complications.

Basic Life Support (BLS)

Basic life support is a level of medical care given to victims of life-threatening injuries or illnesses until they are given full medical care. It can be administered by a trained first aider, a paramedic, or an emergency medical technician.


SAMPLE is an acronym or mnemonic used by first responders during the secondary assessment. It stands for Signs & symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past Medical History, and Events leading up to the present injury – hence the acronym SAMPLE.


The RICE (or RICER) method is a common first aid treatment for soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and bruises. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (Recovery). The RICE method is widely recommended for treating mild to moderate soft tissue injuries and can be initiated immediately after an injury and continued for the next 24-48 hours.

Recovery Position

First aid responder placing person in recovery position

A key aspect of first aid care involves the recovery position. This involves positioning a conscious individual in a manner that guarantees their airways remain unobstructed and clear, eliminating the risk of choking from vomit or other fluids.


In cases of severe accidents and injuries that go beyond minor bruises or sprains, it’s crucial to address major bleeding with the ABC method:

  • Alert: Call for medical assistance or have someone else do it.
  • Bleeding: Identify where the bleeding is coming from.
  • Compress: To halt the bleeding, apply pressure. Use bandages or a clean cloth over the wound, pressing down with your hands. If necessary, a tourniquet can be employed or improvised using a cloth to constrict blood flow between the wound and the heart.


Quick recognition of stroke symptoms is vital for prompt action and can be life-saving. Being aware of the typical signs and symptoms enables rapid response and effective intervention. The BEFAST acronym is a helpful tool to recall the critical indicators of a stroke:

  • Balance: A sudden loss of balance or coordination.
  • Eyes: Vision changes, including potential vision loss.
  • Face: One side of the face may droop, making it challenging to smile.
  • Arm: Weakness or numbness in one arm, often accompanied by an inability to raise both arms evenly.
  • Speech: Slurred speech or trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Time: Immediate recognition of these signs and seeking medical help quickly is essential, as timely treatment is key in reducing stroke-related damage.


Mental Health First Aid is a course or program that teaches the skills to respond effectively to signs of mental illness. It will equip you with the skills and knowledge to identify a problem and provide initial help to someone who may have poor mental health or experiencing a crisis.


first aid paramedic in training treating third de 2023 11 27 05 07 50 utc

SCALD is an essential acronym to remember when evaluating the severity of a burn injury, which are common in domestic accidents. Prompt and effective first aid is crucial to halt the burning process and lessen the risk of long-term complications.

SCALD assists first aiders and responders in assessing a burn to determine the need for medical evaluation. SCALD stands for:

  • Size: The extent of the burn, often gauged by its surface area or percentage, plays a significant role in determining its severity. However, other aspects of SCALD should also be considered. The size of a burn can be roughly estimated using the victim’s palm, which typically represents about 1% of their body surface area.
  • Cause: The origin of the burn is key. Burns from chemicals, electricity, or radiation tend to be more severe.
  • Age: The elderly, children, and infants are more vulnerable to complications from burns. These groups are particularly susceptible to infections and might need specialised medical care.
  • Location: Burns on certain body parts, like the face and groin, are more prone to infections and complications and may require attention from burn specialists.
  • Depth: The burn’s depth is a critical indicator of its severity. Burns are categorised as superficial (1st degree), partial thickness (2nd degree), or full thickness (3rd degree).

Summing Up

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve navigated through the essential first aid terms and acronyms, each a crucial piece in the puzzle of emergency response. From DRSABCD to SCALD, these mnemonic tools are not just words but lifelines that can make the difference in critical situations. Understanding and implementing these procedures can empower you to act decisively and effectively, potentially saving lives.

However, knowledge alone isn’t enough. Practical skills, hands-on experience, and the confidence to use them are equally vital. That’s where registered training organisation First Aid Pro steps in. Enrolling in a nationally accredited first aid course at First Aid Pro can transform this knowledge into practical skills. Their expert-led training will equip you with the proficiency to apply these critical first aid techniques in real-life scenarios.

Don’t let hesitation or uncertainty be a barrier in an emergency. Take the next step in becoming a competent first responder. Enroll in a First Aid Pro course today, and be the difference in someone’s life tomorrow.

Frequently Asked Questions

DRSABCD is a mnemonic for Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, Start CPR, and Defibrillation. It outlines the steps to take in life-threatening emergencies.


In short form, for effective CPR, follow the CAB sequence: Chest compressions at the center of the chest, Airway management by tilting the head back and lifting the chin, and Breathing by delivering two rescue breaths.

Put simply, the recovery position involves placing a conscious person on their side to keep the airway clear and prevent choking from vomit or fluids. It’s crucial in first aid to ensure breathing isn’t obstructed.

Yes, hands-only CPR, which involves continuous chest compressions without rescue breaths, can be effective in certain situations, especially if you’ve seen the person collapse. It’s recommended for adults in certain situations.

BEFAST stands for Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech, Time. It’s a mnemonic to remember the key signs of a stroke and emphasises the importance of quick medical intervention.

An AED is a portable device used to administer an electric shock to a person in cardiac arrest. Follow the device’s voice instructions: attach the pads to the person’s chest and let the AED analyse the heart rhythm before delivering a shock if needed.

SCALD is an acronym to assess burns, standing for Size, Cause, Age, Location, Depth. It helps determine the burn’s severity and whether medical evaluation is needed.

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (Recovery). It’s a treatment method for soft tissue injuries like sprains, strains, and bruises, aimed at reducing swelling and pain.

Follow the ABC method: Alert medical personnel, Bleeding identification, and Compress the wound with a bandage or cloth, applying pressure to stop the blood flow. Use a tourniquet if necessary.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) equips you with skills to recognise signs of mental illness and provide initial help. It’s crucial for supporting someone experiencing a mental health crisis or showing early symptoms of mental illness.

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.

Popular Posts
Recent Posts
An adhesive bandage and a first aid kit on a table
Bandage Alternatives — What To Use When You Don’t Have Bandages

Discover effective substitutes for bandages in emergencies with this comprehensive guide. Explore homemade alternatives, sticky tape options, wilderness solutions, and tips for managing allergies. Stay prepared for first aid situations with practical advice from FirstAidPro

supporting patient at therapy
Essential Steps in Mental Health First Aid

Mental health is often shrouded in misunderstanding and stigma. Delve deeper into mental health in your workplace and beyond. Mental health first aid is a crucial aspect of our collective well-being, yet it often remains misunderstood and stigmatised. In this article, we delve into the key steps of mental health first aid, aiming to demystify this essential practice and equip you with the knowledge and skills to offer support in times of crisis.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Rescue team (doctor and a paramedic) resuscitating the man on the street.
Demystifying CPR: Understanding Its Vital Role in First Aid

Delve deeper into CPR, its relationship with first aid principles, the different types & the protocols that guide it.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) serves as a vital bridge between life and death in critical situations. By maintaining blood circulation and oxygenation to vital organs during cardiac events or respiratory failure, CPR can significantly increase the chances of survival. Learn more about CPR’s importance, techniques, and its role in first aid principles in our comprehensive exploration.