First AID Acronyms You Should Know

First AID Acronyms You Should Know

As an ER doctor and physician, I am well aware that what comes as a second nature to me isn’t always known to my patients or to their families. Mnemonics (also known as acronyms) are a great way to remember key emergency information. The information shared could possible help when dealing with ER wait times and also relieve the anxiety that comes with dealing with medical related issues.

Most community colleges offer low-cost courses in paramedics, with no pre-requisites and the opportunity to pick up a certificate as an emergency first responder. If you ever take a first aid course, these are a few of the acronyms you may see that need to be remembered. Although it’s not mandatory in everyday life that you know these acronyms, they are great for you to know in the case that anything happens to you or a family member.

Below are the acronyms that are commonly know in first aid and the meaning behind each one:


Signs & symptoms

  • A sign is something you see with your own eyes. A symptom is something the patient feels and tells you about, such as dizziness or chest pain.


  • Ask if the patient has ever had any allergic reactions to any medications. Also enquire about environmental allergies, for example food and insect stings.


  • Ask if the patient takes any prescription medicines. This can sometimes give you an indication of a possible medical problem and a new line of questioning.

Previous relevant medical history

  • Ask about relevant medical history. Obtaining an in-depth history may sometimes not be necessary but information such as two heart attacks last year and a coronary bypass three weeks ago is essential.

Last oral intake

  • Ask about the patient’s last intake of food and drink, this is especially important if the condition could be caused by food or drink.

Event history

  • What happened in the time leading up to the injury or illness?

Why would they need to know this?

  • This is commonly a question asked to patients to better understand and assess what may be going on.




  • Sometimes, airway obstruction can be partial or complete. Signs of a partially obstructed airway include a changed voice, noisy breathing and an increased breathing effort.


  • If breathing is insufficient, assisted ventilation must be performed by giving rescue breaths with or without a barrier device. Trained personnel should use a bag mask if available.


  • Color changes, sweating, and a decreased level of consciousness are signs of decreased circulation.

Why would they need to know this?

  • This is easily the most popular acronym in the world of first aid and CPR. This helps people relate to the simplicity of CPR. CPR and ABC have been partnered for decades.





Why would they need to know this?

  • Assessing a person’s level of consciousness in an emergency situations can help responders and potentially save them precious minutes when treating a person when they arrive. You can take several actions to assess a person’s level of consciousness or to help stabilize an unresponsive person while waiting for responders in the event of an emergency.


Rest / Reassure

  • Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.

Ice / Immobilize

  • Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat to the area that hurts. Do not apply ice or heat directly to the skin. Place a towel over the cold or heat pack before applying it to the skin.


  • Compression, or wrapping the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don’t wrap it too tightly, because this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.


  • Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.

Why would we need to know this?

  • This acronym has many variations to it and has changed throughout the past decade. It is popular for treating bruises, sprains and strains.



    • Assess color of skin by comparing with unaffected areas.


    • Ask patient about the presence or absence of sensation (e.g. numbness, tingling, or inability to feel pain). To do so, you can pinch each finger or toe and ask the patient to identify which one you are pinching (ask the patient to close his/her eyes for this).


    • Ask patient to move all of the involved fingers or toes and assess for the presence of pain with the movement.

Why would we need to know this?

  • This is meant to assess pain and pressure areas. If the patient is unable to communicate, assess behavior changes, such as restlessness in the adult, or fussiness in the pediatric patient.

If you are not certified in first-aid, do not attempt to perform any medical attention that requires training. Be sure to call 911 if you notice someone is in dire need of help. These are simply acronyms that you can use to assess health concerns and situations in everyday life.

Dr. Jerisa ER

As one of the nation’s acclaimed doctors, board-certified in Emergency Medicine Dr. Jerisa Berry a.k.a “Dr. Jerisa ER” is also a nationally recognized speaker, media consultant, and author. She is on staff at several emergency facilities in South Florida and is co-owner of a medical clinic, Vital Care Medical Center, Inc. with her husband. Dr. Jerisa is founder of, where she helps single ladies and career-minded women take control of their fertility.

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