March 28, 2015 in First Aid

Ah Spring… Finally!

Having been born in September, I am not much of a winter person… I simply enjoy the heat, sweat and the sun. Ok… being a first aid instructor, I should not promote staying in the sun, but come on! Who doesn’t like to go out on hikes, or on long nature walks, along the Dingli cliffs, or up Salibtal- Għolja in Siggiewi?

This may result in those stubborn strains and sprains, which result in spending the following five days at home nursing those painful joints! So I hope that the following points will assist anyone who sprained their ligaments or strained their tendons to regain their dexterity in no time!

Strains and sprains occur when we twist our limbs too much, or unexpectedly fall, causing us to pull or sometimes even tear ligaments or tendons. This will result in inflammation, soreness, some bruising and also the inability to walk properly. Whenever we strain or sprain our ankles we have to follow the R.I.C.E. method:

R – Rest; A strain or sprain requires quite a lot of rest in order to allow for the injured parts to regain normal function

I- Ice; this helps in both the pain and the inflammation. However a word of caution – Avoid placing ice in direct contact with the skin

C- Comfortable support; this is important to avoid any unnecessary movement, whilst also keeping the ankle secured

E- Elevate; elevation is required to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a result of an increase in blood flow to the injured part, for recovery to take place. This will lead to a build up of fluids. By elevating our injured part, gravity will assist in the removal of this excess fluid build-up.

Following the above should help us get back in those trekking boots rather quickly!

Having said that, First Aid should never replace a Medical Practitioner! Always seek medical advice on injuries, since some major complications might not appear immediately, but require further investigation.

Stay safe… and enjoy your countryside walks!

David Spiteri
EFRU Rescue and FA Instructor


June 30, 2014 in First Aid

It’s that time of year again!  Sea, sand, sun…it’s SUMMER!  Given the high temperatures that the Maltese Islands experience, it’s to be expected that many people spend every free moment cooling off in the sea or relaxing on the beach.

Beach and sea activities are great fun, but a fun day out can turn into a painful week ahead.  Sunburn can be either minor or rather serious.  Either way, it’s uncomfortable (painful if it’s a bad sunburn) and does not do your skin any good.  The best cure is prevention, and here’s how you can avoid looking like a lobster this summer…

Shade – staying in the shade is a great way to reduce the risk of sunburn.  Use a physical shield, like a beach umbrella.  Try to avoid spending too much time in the sun between noon and 3pm, as there is a high chance of getting sunburnt during that period.

Protective clothing – wearing light clothing that covers more skin is a great way to avoid getting burned.  Loose, light clothing can also help keep you cooler than shorter, tighter clothes.

Sun block – use a high factor sun block, especially during the hotter periods of the day (late morning to mid-afternoon).  Apply the sun block at least 10 minutes before going out into the sun in order to get the most benefits.  Re-apply sun block frequently throughout the day, particularly after swimming or perspiring a lot.  If you want to try to sun tan, use a slightly lower sun block, but avoid using products like tanning oils.  You can speak to your pharmacist for more information about the right products to use for your skin.

Drink lots of water – although the most obvious effect of over-exposure to the sun is sunburn, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration are serious and potential complications.  Drink lots of water and try and stay as cool as possible.

Treatment for Sunburn

If you need to treat sunburned skin, here’s what you should do:

  1. Cover the casualty’s skin with light clothing or a towel and help them to move out of the sun (ideally indoors).
  2. Give the casualty some cold water to sip.
  3. Cool the sunburned skin by dabbing the area with cold water for 10 minutes.  Alternatively, the casualty may prefer to soak in a bath of cold water for 10 minutes.
  4. If the sunburn is mild, use calamine lotion or a suitable after-sun lotion.  Check that the casualty is not allergic to any of the lotion ingredients before applying it.
  5. If the sunburn is severe or blisters start to form, continue cooling the area and seek medical advice.

If you missed our previous First Aid tips, check out our First Aid section for tips that might come in handy this summer, such as how to treat a jellyfish sting or a burn from a BBQ.

Stay safe, have fun and enjoy your summer!

Deborah Cefai

First Aid Tips – BBQ

March 29, 2014 in First Aid

Spring is in the air! …and with it comes picnics, cook-outs and barbecues. Such activities play a big part in our culture, and are great way to enjoy the outdoors and socialise with friends and family.

However, some responsibility needs to be taken when such activities are undertaken, namely avoiding littering the environment, leaving the place cleaner than when you found it and also making sure that no fires are started accidentally as a result of your campfire or barbecue.

Some important tips to remember are:
1. Make sure that the area is free from flammable materials, such as dry grass, trees, etc.
2. If you build a fire, build a safe compartment for it using stones lying around (not from rubble walls!).
3. Should you use a lighter fluid to start the fire or barbecue, cap the container after you use it and place it a safe distance away from the fire.
4. Once you’re ready, allow the charcoal or wood-ash to cool completely before you leave. Ideally, charcoal is left to cool for 48 hours to make sure there are no hot embers left. However, to speed up this process, you can pour water on the charcoal or wood to extinguish any hot embers.
5. After pouring water on the embers, stir the charcoal or wood-ash to allow the water to enter the depths of the pile. Although the outer parts of the charcoal or wood-ash pile may be cool, the inner parts may still be hot and can start a fire.
6. Once the charcoal or wood-ash is cool and all embers are properly extinguished, wrap them in some aluminium foil and dispose of them in a proper rubbish bin. Avoid burying the ashes, particularly if lighter fluid was used or if the charcoal contained some form of additive to allow quick lighting, as such chemicals are not good for the environment.
7. Brush up on your first aid for burns – click here

Most importantly, have fun and stay safe!

First Aid Courses

December 31, 2013 in First Aid

“Follow a first aid course?!!! Seriously, what for?”

“I have better things to do than waste my time and energy on a first aid course!”


If this is your reaction to the thought of attending a First Aid course, then take a look at the following scenarios.  Do you know what to do if….

– while watching a movie and laughing over some crunchy popcorn, someone suddenly starts to choke…turns blue…and loses consciousness?

– your parent is having a heart attack in front of you?

– a child falls and is bleeding heavily?


Do you know how to handle such situations?

Do you want to feel like you can help if such things should happen?

Do you think you can ever forgive yourself if you couldn’t help simply because you passed up the opportunity to take a First Aid course?


Do you still think it may be a waste of time?


Don’t be a victim of regret. Act now before it’s too late! Accidents are never planned and it’s up to you to be prepared for any emergency.  Contact the EFRU on www.efru.org and follow a basic First Aid course today!

Our courses are spread over 10 lectures of 2 hours each, including a workshop as well as a final practical and theoretical exam.


What is special about the EFRU course?

Very simple.  Apart from being recognised by the Malta Association of Surgeons, our course is designed with the aim that everyone certified by the EFRU will not only get a certificate, but also the confidence to deal with real life incidents.  The scope of the First Aid workshop is to discuss and simulate several scenarios, with each participant being provided with the opportunity to treat a “casualty”.  The idea is to assist candidates in translating the theoretical element into practice since, after all, practice makes perfect.  At the EFRU, we believe that the best lessons come from experience and hands-on practice.


Will I get the opportunity to try out some of the skills?

Of course! Each group is kept small so that all participants will be able to practice the skills they learnt during the lectures and receive individual attention during the practice sessions.

Recent course participant: Lourdes

This was Lourdes’ first experience in following a first aid course.  However, she didn’t just want a certificate; she was after hands-on practical knowledge.  Being a cyclist, she always wanted to follow such a course so as to be of help to her friends should the need arise. A little push from her nephew was all she needed to actually attend, and complete a first aid course. When asked about how prepared she feels in case she comes across an accident, she claimed that, after following the course, she feels that she can actually make a difference and provide help to a casualty.  As Lourdes put it, “it’s not as impossible as one may think once you know the basics”.

When asked about the course content and its delivery, Lourdes stated that the content was interesting and that it was also easy to follow, given that the instructors simplified it; understanding that the people in front of them were new to the course content.  The instructors ensured that what they were saying actually got across by asking random questions and regularly asking for feedback, as well as inquiring about any difficulties. They also catered for an audience with different abilities and skills. Furthermore, the instructors shared their personal experiences, which made the course more appealing and the participants were able to relate the course content with real scenarios.

As for the exam which was divided into two parts – practice and theory – Lourdes said that, while it was not easy, it was not very difficult either.

“The exam was aimed at testing my knowledge and preparing me for real life accidents.”

Being a cycling enthusiast, Lourdes expressed the wish to participate in the EFRU’s next cycling tour.


Sylvana Cremona
EFRU Volunteer


December 30, 2013 in First Aid

The festive season is here!  Inevitably, this implies that there are lots of parties on a daily basis, groups of friends meeting up in the pubs or clubs, and all-round celebrations and merry-making!  Such social situations usually call for a drink or two or three…but what if someone misses their limit and drinks too much?  Do you know what to do?

Even if you do know what to do, it’s always a good idea to refresh your memory, so take a look at our advice below.

Why is excessive consumption of alcohol dangerous?

Alcohol – when taken in moderate amounts – will affect the brain and body, often resulting in a “warm fuzzy” feeling and a more “relaxed and confident” person.  This is because alcohol causes blood vessels near the surface of the skin to widen (dilate), resulting in increased blood flow to the skin, which in turn causes the “warm fuzzy” feeling.  Alcohol also impacts the brain by depressing the activity of the central nervous system, which results in being “relaxed and confident”.  The depression of the activity of the central nervous system also affects reaction times, which is one of the reasons why you should never drink and drive!

When alcohol is taken in excessive amounts, the above effects are amplified.  The “warm” feeling gives way to feeling cold as the body loses too much heat because of the increased blood flow to the skin.  The skin or certain parts of the body may start to feel numb and balance is also affected, due to the depression of the central nervous system.  Also, since the brain activity is influenced by alcohol, a change in behaviour is likely, such as aggression or doing things that are out of character.  Eventually, excessive alcohol consumption may result in severely impaired consciousness and possible unconsciousness.  At this point, it becomes alcohol poisoning.

What should you do?

If you come across someone who is suffering from alcohol poisoning, there are several things you can do (or even just extremely drunk).

  1. Cover the casualty with a coat or blanket to protect them from the cold.
  2. Check for any injuries, particularly head injuries.  The casualty may have lost their balance and hit their head on something.
  3. If the casualty is lying down or unconscious, turn them on their side.  In case they vomit, this position will avoid any possibility of choking on their own vomit.
  4. Keep an eye on them and make sure they’re breathing and have a pulse.  Keep monitoring until the casualty recovers or is placed in the care of a responsible person.  If their heart stops beating, begin CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) immediately and call 112 for emergency help.

If you have any doubt about the casualty’s condition, call 112 for emergency help.

What should you not do?

Some people have had a lot of experience with helping out in such situations.  However, sometimes their methods may differ from those recommended.

  1. Do not induce vomiting.
  2. Do not give hot stimulating drinks, such as coffee.  Alcohol and coffee both have a dehydrating effect, so if the casualty wants something to drink, give them some room temperature or lukewarm water.

Deborah Cefai
EFRU Rescuer

Those stinging things – Jellyfish

July 9, 2013 in First Aid

Hot weather, swimming, barbecues – it’s all part of the summer life in Malta. Unfortunately, so are jellyfish stings.

Question is, with all the home remedies and different theories out there, what exactly is the proper way to handle a jellyfish sting?
Read on to find out…

How do they move around?

We’ve all seen jellyfish and we all know that if the wind or current are blowing in towards the beach, there’s more of a chance that jellyfish might be lurking around waiting for the chance to sting us.  But are jellyfish actually able to move towards us and sting us?  The answer is a simple no.  Jellyfish go wherever the current takes them.  So the only way you’ll get stung is if you bump into them or if the current brings them to you.

Why do Jellyfish sting?

Jellyfish have a transparent jelly-like body (hence the name) with lots of tentacles hanging down from it.  It’s these tentacles that have “stingers” on them (or cnidoblasts).  The stingers act as both a defence mechanism and also a way to capture prey.  Once the tentacles touch against a living thing, threads inside the stingers spring out at the victim like tiny darts and release a chemical that is designed to paralyse jellyfish prey or make larger animals move away (defence).  Although this chemical can kill a very small aquatic animal, its sting is not usually fatal to humans.

What should do you do if someone gets stung?

Now on to the important part, how do you treat a jellyfish sting?

  • Rinse the area with a lot of sea water or vinegar for around 30 minutes.
  • If tentacles are still stuck to the skin, gently and carefully remove them.  If necessary, use a credit card or something similar to gently scrape at the skin surface and remove any tentacles left behind.
  • Be careful not to break the tentacles or move them onto an unaffected area of skin, as some stingers may still be active.

What should I not do?

  1. Do not rinse the area with fresh or tap water, as this may re-activate the stingers (make them sting even more).
  2. Do not rinse the area with cola, juice, urine, or anything other than sea water or vinegar.
  3. Do not use any creams, lotions, pastes, etc unless told to by a doctor.
  4. Do not rub the area.  This will just make the situation worse.

Should I go to a hospital?

Most jellyfish stings are mild and do not require medical treatment.  However, it is important to seek medical help if in doubt or if any one of the following applies to your situation:

  1. The person stung is a young child.
  2. The person shows signs of an allergic reaction (e.g. difficulty breathing, rash on the skin)
  3. The sting covers more than half an arm or leg.

Always remember:  If in doubt, get help!

Deborah Cefai
EFRU K9 / Rescuer

Simple First Aid: Minor Burn

September 27, 2012 in First Aid

A minor burn is quite a common injury at home, during BBQs etc. Even though it can be easily treated with basic first aid and then left to heal naturally, no burn should ever be underestimated.
What should you do in case someone gets burned?

Comic by Le Makoo – www.lemakoo.com

Remember, your aims are to:
– Prevent infection
– Stop the burning feeling and relieve pain
– Reduce swelling

Always Never
– Wear gloves when handling the patient (or if no gloves available, wash your hands VERY thoroughly)- Remove any jewellery that might stop the blood circulation or irritate the burn (e.g. rings, bracelets, etc). – Apply oils, creams, ointments, or ice- Burst blisters- Touch the burnt area

Pay particular attention and take the patient to a doctor if:
– The casualty is a child
– The burn is all around a limb (e.g. an arm or a leg)
– It is larger than 1% of the body surface (i.e. the size of your palm)
– The burn is in the neck, throat, mouth, genitals and trunk/torso (i.e. chest, stomach and back)

Sylvana Cremona
EFRU Rescuer