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Common First Aid Terms and Acronyms You Should Know

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The world of first aid uses many terms and acronyms to help us remember different treatments for specific injuries or illnesses. This article will explain the meaning of most first aid terms and acronyms, making it easier for you to save lives.


List of First Aid Terms

Medical terms can be daunting. The good thing is they are often used in first aid and clinical settings, so more people have become aware of them. You may hear these terms from a paramedic, a doctor, or even from patients telling you about their own illness or condition. They may also appear on records and monitoring cards.

The first step to effectively administer first aid medication and treatment is understanding the terms and acronyms used. They might be confusing at first, but with time and training, you will understand common first aid concepts, and you can use these terms whenever the need arises.

Although it is not mandatory to know these terms in everyday life, it is great to know them if anything happens to you or someone you know. Below are the common terms and acronyms relating to first aid and the meaning behind each one.


  • Triple Zero – 000

The emergency ambulance number in Australia. Triple Zero (000) is the number to call for any medical emergency, a serious accident or crime.


DRSABCD is an acronym or mnemonic used in any life-threatening situation. It stands for Danger, Response, Send (for help), Airway, Breathing, Circulation, and Defibrillation. This acronym is what every first responder should remember when dealing with serious accidents. In any emergencies, follow the DRSABCD Action Plan.

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

CPR is a lifesaving technique that involves chest compression and rescue breaths. Chest compressions assist in blood circulation during cardiac arrest, and rescue breathing is the blowing of air into the victim’s mouth to supply oxygen.

  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

AED or a defibrillator is a portable device that delivers controlled electric shock across the heart. The delivered shock will attempt to reset the heart and get it to beat on its own again.

  • Primary Survey

The primary survey is a quick, initial assessment of the victim’s health, injuries, and conditions. It is conducted to detect and treat immediate life threats and prevent further complications.

  • Recovery Position

An important part of first aid treatment is the recovery position. It is where you will place a conscious person in a position that will ensure clear and open airways, with no risk of vomit or fluid that will cause you to choke.


SAMPLE is an acronym or mnemonic used by first responders during the secondary assessment. It stands for Signs & symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past Medical History, and Events leading up to the present injury – hence the acronym SAMPLE.

  • RICE

The RICE method is a self-care technique mostly used for sprains, strains, and dislocations. It helps with reducing the swelling, easing pain, and speeding up healing.

  • MHFA

Mental Health First Aid is a course or program that teaches the skills to respond effectively to signs of mental illness. It will equip you with the skills and knowledge to provide initial help to someone who may have poor mental health or experiencing a crisis.

  • Basic Life Support (BLS):

Basic life support is a level of medical care given to victims of life-threatening injuries or illnesses until they are given full medical care. It can be administered by a trained first aider, a paramedic, or an emergency medical technician.



Learning basic first aid terms and acronyms can help you respond to an emergency. You will be able to reduce pain, keep them breathing, and minimise the consequences until EMS arrives. Knowing these terms could mean the difference between life and death for many people.

It is a good idea to take a First Aid Course to learn all these terms and the actions you can take to help someone.

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