The ability to treat basic injuries and identify situations that require medical attention is a valuable life skill. A first aid training course can get you started with the basics and improve your response to a variety of illnesses and injuries. First aid training courses are available online or in-person and are generally inexpensive. Courses may include certification and a corresponding test. If your employer or volunteer organization requires first aid certification, the most convenient option for training is usually online.

To choose a first aid certification course, you’ll want to review the topics it covers to get an idea of what you can expect to learn. First aid training courses may vary in coverage- there is a wide range of topics to cover regarding common injuries that can benefit from first aid treatment. However, there are a few core elements that every first aid training course should cover. Here are are few of the essential topics to make sure your first aid training covers.

Assessing the Scene

Every first aid course should have a preliminary discussion regarding how to identify situations that require first aid or immediate action. Understanding when to take action and provide first aid is important, but it’s equally important to know when the right course of action is to call for medical assistance. Your first aid course should cover the basic symptoms for more severe medical emergencies so you know when it’s appropriate to call 911.

Treating Shock

Shock occurs when there is reduced blood flow through certain vital organs in a person’s system. Shock is often a severe condition, but you may be able to fully treat it with a few straightforward first aid steps. First, lay the person down. Then, elevate the victim’s legs to increase potential blood flow through the central organs. The person experiencing shock should be kept still whenever possible and should be in a relaxed position. In severe cases where the person in shock isn’t breathing, you may need to administer CPR. Find more information about treating shock and recognizing the related symptoms here.

Minor Cuts and Scrapes

For most cuts and scrapes, begin first aid by applying pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped or has reduced, wash the affected area with soap and water- this is often the most effective way to prevent an infection. Next, apply an antibiotic, such as Neosporin or petroleum jelly. Next, cover and bandage the wound. The bandage should fit snuggly, but it can cut off blood flow to nearby extremities if it’s too tight.


Responding quickly with proper first aid techniques to an incident where someone is choking can save lives. Choking refers to when someone has an obstructed airway that’s preventing normal breathing. First, ask the person if they can speak or cough- if they can, it’s likely you won’t need to intervene with first aid. For severe choking incidents, administer five back blows, followed by five abdominal thrusts. Learn with this article on first techniques for choking.

Insect Bites and Stings

Many insect bites are often minor, but you should treat them as soon as possible to reduce swelling, itching, or other complications. If possible, remove the stinger with the edge of a credit card or similar surface. Avoid using tweezers- they may break the stinger or divide pieces under the skin. Wash the area thoroughly as soon as possible. An over-the-counter hydrocortisone product is usually the best option for reducing swelling and itching.

Basic Burn Treatments

For minor burns, begin first aid by running the affected area through cold water whenever possible. This helps to cool the burn down immediately, which often reduces the severity of the pain. Remove jewelry or tight clothing from the area in case the affected area begins to swell. Pain relief medications such as ibuprofen are handy for basic burns. For anything beyond a first or minor second-degree burn, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Frostbite and Heat Stroke

There is a wide variance in first aid treatments for temperature-related emergencies. Frostbite refers to an exposed area (usually an extremity) receiving very little or no blood flow because the body’s major organs or central systems are cold. Treat frostbite by warming up the affected person’s entire system- not just the exposed area. Heatstroke refers instead to when the body is overheating and severely dehydrated. To treat heat stroke, move to as cool an area as possible and drink plenty of fluids. A cold bath or shower is often the easiest way to cool down your system. Read this article for more heatstroke treatment and diagnosis options.


Broken bones require medical attention, but a few first aid techniques can offer immediate care. Keep the victim still and the area around the fracture free from weight or movement. Make a splint for the injured area that can serve until the medical professionals arrive. On no account should you touch or move the affected area- this has the potential to make the injury more severe.

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

Many first aid techniques require specific treatment supplies- band-aids and Neosporin only scratch the surface. A first aid training course should cover the basics of stocking a first aid kit for your home. A first aid kit is essential for any home but can also be a necessity for camping or hiking trips. Make sure to review and replace the contents of your first aid kit at least once every six months.

Introduction to CPR and AED

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) use often require additional certification beyond a first aid training course. CPR is a lifesaving technique that you’ll want to become familiar with as soon as possible. There are several courses available online or in-person that combine first aid and CPR techniques, so you’ll always know how to respond in the event of a medical emergency.