First Aid

VI. First Aid

First aid is the first help or immediate care given someone who has suddenly sickened or been hurt in an accident. First-aid training continues through the program of the Boy Scouts of America as concrete evidence that we are prepared to help others in need.

It is important that one person in each touring group be trained in the principles of first aid, know how and when to put this knowledge to the best use, and thoroughly understand the limitations of this knowledge.

It is strongly recommended that adult leaders in Scouting avail themselves of CPR and first-aid training by the American Red Cross or any recognized agency to be aware of the latest techniques and procedures. However, some of the first-aid techniques found in BSA literature are not the same as those professed by the American Red Cross. Frequently, modifications depend on the Scout's ageā€”this could be a factor in the Scout's judgment and physical dexterity.

First-Aid Kits

A first-aid kit well stocked with the basic essentials is indispensable. Choose one sturdy and lightweight, yet large enough to hold the contents so that they are readily visible and so that any one item may be taken out without unpacking the whole kit. Keep a list of contents readily available for easy refilling. Keep the kit in a convenient location. Make one person responsible for keeping the kit filled and available when needed. Quantities of suggested items for your first-aid kit depend on the size of your group and local conditions.

Suggested First-Aid Kit Contents

  • Bar of soap
  • 2-inch roller bandage
  • 1-inch roller bandage
  • 1-inch adhesive
  • 3-by-3-inch sterile pads
  • Triangular bandage
  • Assorted gauze pads
  • Adhesive strips
  • Clinical oral thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Sunburn lotion
  • Lip salve
  • Poison-ivy lotion
  • Small flashlight (with extra batteries and bulb)
  • Absorbent cotton
  • Water purification tablets (iodine)
  • Safety pins
  • Needles
  • Paper cups
  • Foot powder
  • Instant ice packs

Because of the possibility of exposure to communicable diseases, first-aid kits should include latex or vinyl gloves, plastic goggles or other eye protection, and antiseptic to be used when giving first aid to bleeding victims, as protection against possible exposure. Mouth barrier devices should be available for use with CPR.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

This specialized skill to endeavor to revive victims of cardiac arrest (no breathing, no pulse) may be taught to Boy Scouts and Venturers by an instructor currently trained by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association. Teaching this skill to Cub Scouts is not recommended.

Preliminary skills related to CPR are found in the Boy Scout Handbook and the First Aid merit badge pamphlet (rescue breathing, choking, and steps to take for CPR).

Reference: Health and Safety Guide, No. 34415

Protection Considerations for Bloodborne Pathogens

Many people are concerned about the rapid spread of HIV (the AIDS virus) and try to avoid exposing themselves to this hazard. Health professionals and amateur first-aiders like those of us in Scouting may find ourselves faced with special concerns in this regard. Therefore, we must know how to act and how to instruct the youth we lead. Try to maintain the BSA's tradition of rendering first aid to those in need. Recognize that often the victims we treat with first aid are friends and family members whose health we are familiar with. Therefore, in such cases, except when we know they have infectious diseases, we should not hesitate to treat them.

The Boy Scouts of America Recommends

Treat all blood as if it were contaminated with bloodborne viruses. Do not use bare hands to stop bleeding; always use a protective barrier. Always wash exposed skin area with hot water and soap immediately after treating the victim. The following equipment is to be included in all first-aid kits and used when rendering first aid to those in need:

  • Latex or vinyl gloves, to be used when stopping bleeding or dressing wounds
  • A mouth-barrier device for rendering rescue breathing or CPR
  • Plastic goggles or other eye protection to prevent a victim's blood from getting into the rescuer's eyes in the event of serious arterial bleeding
  • Antiseptic, for sterilizing or cleaning exposed skin area, particularly if there is no soap or water available.

Individuals (medicine, fire rescue, and law enforcement Venturing crew members; volunteer first-aiders at camporees, Scouting shows, and similar events) who might have been exposed to another's blood and body fluids should know the following:

  1. The chartered organization and its leaders should always explain and make clear the possible degree of exposure to blood or body fluids as a result of Scouting activities.
  2. As a precaution, adult volunteers or youth members should consider a hepatitis B vaccination. The cost of the shots will not be borne by BSA, nor is the chartered organization required to underwrite the cost.
  3. The chartered organization may arrange to have shots given at a reduced rate or free of charge.
  4. If vaccination is recommended, any adult volunteers and youth members who decline the shots, either at full cost to them or at a reduced rate, or free, should sign a refusal waiver that should be retained by the council for five years.


Near-drowning is a term used to describe a fatality that occurs several hours after resuscitation or revival of a drowning victim. Near-drowning accidents are usually witnessed and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is delivered at the scene. Lung rupture can occur during the submersion or consequent to the resuscitation efforts. Pneumonia is a later complication in the injured lung. To ensure that water-accident victims do not become near-drownings, they need to be admitted to a hospital with a respiratory intensive care unit and monitored for at least 24 hours to watch for complications. The hypothermic victim requires special attention.