Assess the level of consciousness during first aid

Any changes in the level of consciousness of an individual who suffered an injury to the head during sports-related activities or vehicular accidents can indicate how the brain is functioning. The scale that is utilized to measure the level of consciousness of an individual is known as AVPU which stands for alert, verbal, pain responsiveness and unresponsive. Understandably, once the level is determined, the appropriate first aid measures can be provided.

Is the individual alert or oriented?

Once you suspect that an individual sustained an injury to the head, your initial move is to speak in a loud voice to the individual repeatedly if he/she can respond verbally. You have to ask the individual the following questions:

  • His/her name
  • Where he/she is
  • What day and time it is
  • What happened

You have to note down the questions that the individual was able to answer. In case the individual can answer at least one of the questions, he/she has an A on the AVPU scale.

Responsiveness to verbal stimuli

level of consciousness

If you speak loudly to the injured individual and he/she moves, open his/her eyes, groans and mumbles, but able to respond, the individual has a V on the AVPU scale.

If you speak loudly to the injured individual and he/she moves, open his/her eyes, groans and mumbles, but able to respond, the individual has a V on the AVPU scale. You have to note down the time and indicate V for the level of consciousness.

Responsiveness to painful stimuli

Rub the breastbone of the injured individual using your knuckles and observe his/her face for any movement. You have to note the level of responsiveness and if he/she makes sound or moves, you have to indicate P on the AVPU scale.

Important considerations when checking the level of consciousness

  • Take note that the number of questions an individual can answer basically indicates how oriented he/she is.
  • You have to ask the injured individual the questions stated above to determine if there are any changes. If the individual could no longer answer any of the questions, you have to move on to the following steps to assess the responsiveness to verbal or painful stimuli.
  • Repeatedly assess any changes to the level of responsiveness of the individual to verbal stimuli and note any changes. In case the individual could no longer respond to verbal stimuli, you have to move on to the following step to check the responsiveness to painful stimuli.
  • When assessing the responsiveness to pain, you can pinch the individual.

If the individual is not responsive to pain, he/she is considered unconscious. This is indicated as U on the AVPU scale. Majority of deaths in the outdoors or wilderness are caused by head injuries. Any individual who sustained a blow to the head must be checked by a health care professional right away. Any changes in the level of consciousness must be reassessed regularly over a period of several hours. Always remember that any injury to the brain usually take several hours before it can affect the level of consciousness. In case the symptoms continue to persist or the individual has a specific medical condition, it is recommended to consult a doctor.

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