First aid

It can take a while after finding a person who needs help for the emergency services to arrive.


It can take a while after finding a person who needs help for the emergency services to arrive. During this time, laypeople can also provide valuable assistance and support. All that’s needed is basic knowledge and some practice: any action that helps is valuable and can even save lives!

What can I do myself?


  • Only provide help if it doesn’t put you in danger!
    • Fire, water and electricity, falling objects, etc.
  • Get an overview: Who needs help? Are there other helpers? Can I handle the situation?
  • Fetch an AED device (defibrillator) if there is one close by (even if you don't need it)

Follow the ABC principle

  • A: Airways
    • Talk to the patient, clear the airway (e.g. remove any objects that block the mouth), keep the airway clear (e.g. open mouth slightly)
  • B: Breathing
    • Check for breathing: is the chest rising and falling? Can you feel air coming from the mouth or nose against the moistened back of your hand?
    • Not breathing: start rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can be learned at a special first aid course)
  • C: Circulation
    • Check the pulse: e.g. on the side of the neck (never check both sides simultaneously)
    • If there’s no pulse, start resuscitation (CPR can be learned at a special first aid course)
    • Resuscitation usually at a 30:2 ratio; i.e. 30 chest compressions (“heart massage”) followed by 2 breaths

Lie unconscious persons on their side

  • Only for persons who are breathing independently and have a pulse
  • With the person lying on their back, kneel on the floor at their side
  • Bend the person's knee farthest from you to a right angle, use your hand to stabilise them, if necessary
  • Take their other arm and fold it so their hand rests on the shoulder closest to you (their elbow is now close to their chin)
  • Take the bent knee with one hand and the opposite shoulder with the other
  • Carefully roll the person towards you onto their side
  • Gently tilt the head back, open their mouth
  • The bent knee should now be on top and the head should be supported by the hand of the bent arm, as if they're sleeping

Using an AED device (defibrillator)

  • Open the device
  • Turn the person onto their back, open their clothes, dry them if they're wet
  • Attach the sticky pads to the person’s chest as shown in the picture on the defibrillator
  • Turn the defibrillator on, and do exactly what the device tells you to do


  • For severe bleeding, apply pressure to stop the bleeding, maybe apply a pressure bandage
    • As clean or sterile as possible: use a clean cloth, bandages, etc.
  • Lie the person down, elevate the injury
  • Don’t use a belt or something similar to tie off the bleeding

There are separate articles for sports injuries, poisoning and burns.

Sports injuries

Apply the RICE guidelines
  • R: Rest
  • I: Cool with ice
  • C: Compression, slight pressure on the injured site
  • E: Elevate the affected limb
  • See glossary entry for poisoning
  • See glossary entry for burns

When to see a doctor?

  • A doctor or the emergency services should be called when you:
    • can't handle the situation
    • come across an accident
    • would have to put yourself in danger to provide help (e.g. after a fire)

Right way to call the emergency services

  • Only after you’ve obtained an overview
  • Only after you’ve tried to contact the person needing help / applied the first measures
    • WHERE are you?
    • WHO is phoning?
    • WHAT happened?
    • WHEN did it happen?
    • HOW MANY people are affected?
    • Give PHONE NUMBER for return calls
    • Stay with the patient until the emergency services arrive

Further information

Samariter Schweiz (Swiss Samaritans)

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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