The ABC's of first aid used to be:
- A for Airway
- B for Breathing
- C for Circulation
It was the gold standard of all first aid assessments. Heck, it was the gold standard of all medical assessments, period.
Before figuring out if a victim has a broken arm, make sure he is breathing and has good color. Before treating the headache, make sure she has an airway. Before doing chest compressions, be sure to tilt the head, lift the chin, and look, listen and feel for breathing.
The importance of airway has given way to blood flow, but make no mistake: Airway is still a foundation of first aid.
First aid is all about the airway. The concept is pretty sound: without a way for air to get into the lungs and back out again, most of the rest of the bodily functions are pretty superfluous. Not to mention, without an airway, most of the other bodily functions will cease rather quickly.
So, what is the airway? You may have heard of the lungs, those airbags that feed oxygen to the bloodstream? Well, they're placed kind of deep in the chest (like in the middle) and have to have air piped in. That passage is the way air is brought to the lungs: the airway.
The airway is not really one pipe. It's more like a tree with a bunch of branches flipped upside down. Those pipes all have names. The trunk of the tree -- the first, biggest pipe of all -- is called the trachea. That's the pipe that goes from your throat through your neck into your chest. It's the part we think of in first aid when we say "airway."
It's also known by millions as the windpipe, not to be confused with windbag, which is what some people call me.
Regardless whether you call it a windpipe, an airway or the trachea, it's arguably one of the most important organs in your body. Treat it well and stay healthy.
First Aid Phraseology is an occasional look at the common words and phrases used in first aid and emergency medical services. Have a term you'd like to know more about? Email me and I'll touch on it in a future post.