- Emergency first aid is exactly that - the first response to a life-threatening (or limb-threatening) medical emergency, either an illness or an injury. More advanced medical care will happen after first aid in this case. This type of first aid includes CPR, clearing an airway obstruction, responding to anaphylactic shock, splinting a broken bone, and severe bleeding control.
- Non-emergency first aid is the treatment we initiate ourselves for minor medical needs. We may or may not seek more advanced medical care after the initial response. This includes taking over-the-counter medications for minor pain or allergies, cleaning and bandaging cuts or abrasions, and minor bleeding control.
To get the best out of emergency first aid, it's important to know how and when to summon help. 911 is the preferred method, but misconceptions about calling 911 may make it more difficult than expected. In cases of non-emergency first aid, there are deep wells of information available to help -- like the internet or calling your physician's office.
First Aid at About.com provides information on both types of first aid, without really discerning between the two. There is an assumption that 911 will be called during a bona fide medical emergency. Just in case, however, there are step-by-step instructions here for CPR and other emergency treatments.
You're encouraged to look around About.com First Aid before you actually need any of the information here. Sign up for the free email course on First Aid 101 and follow the weekly lessons. If you have questions, contact the Guide to First Aid or join the discussion on the First Aid Forum. For non-emergency questions, come back for answers whenever you need them.