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Online First Aid Courses: What's Available, and Which One is Right for You

February 8, 2017 | Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC | Comments

There are many different types of first aid courses available online. If you’re considering taking a class or getting certified, you have many different options beyond the traditional basic first aid training. Here’s an overview of the types of first aid classes available, and who they’re generally designed for.

Basic First Aid

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety division provides good guidelines for what should be included in a basic first aid course. Basic first aid courses are ideal for people who may be required to provide basic medical assistance to someone who is injured, but who don’t need complete CPR training. In addition, those who are CPR-certified may also need a separate First Aid certification to satisfy OSHA requirements.

basic first aid courses

Most online first aid courses will train you in treating minor and moderate cuts and burns, loss of consciousness, choking, heat stroke and fainting, bites and stings, sprains and strains, and managing the scene of an accident. The training you receive in these classes is meant to keep the patient stable while medical professionals get to the scene, and not to replace professional healthcare if needed. Depending on the program, CPR instruction may be included.

First aid certification is ideal for anyone who wants to serve as the first line of defense against both minor and major medical issues; and it may also be required or useful in a range of professions. These include:

  • Security workers
  • Hotel employees
  • Certified Nursing Assistants
  • On-site safety professionals working in construction, transportation, forestry, or manufacturing
  • Adult foster care providers
  • Electricians
  • High school teachers and coaches
  • Home health care aides

Pet First Aid

It isn’t just people who need first aid. Pets are just as capable of getting into scrapes, and pet first aid classes are becoming more and more popular. There are a number of pet first aid classes available both for pet owners and veterinary professionals, and the skills taught in these classes can help you save a pet’s life (see an overview of pet first aid skills here). While each program is different, most pet first aid classes cover treating cuts and burns, snake bites, heat stroke, choking and ingestion of poisonous substances, gastrointestinal issues, and sometimes even CPR for pets.

First Aid for Opioid Overdoses

Opioid abuse is rapidly becoming a public health problem. Addicts are not always who you’d expect; many become addicted after being prescribed opioid painkillers by their doctors. Approximately 16,000 people die annually from opioid overdoses in the United States every year.

picture of opiod painkillers

As a result of the rising rates of addiction and the threat of overdose, many states have instituted free classes offering Narcan training to the public. Narcan, also known as Naxolone, is a drug that attaches itself to the brain’s opioid receptors, preventing it from absorbing the ingested drug. Narcan has been shown to stop an overdose in its tracks, and has saved many lives.

This training is ideal for healthcare professionals who treat drug overdose patients, as well as those who work in recovery centers. However, you don’t need any previous healthcare experience to take the class, and the public is encouraged to attend—especially those who may know or live with people who take opioid pain medication or struggle with addiction.

First Aid for Coaches and Sports Professionals

These courses are targeted toward treating athletic injuries. They are ideal for coaches at all levels, and generally cover treatment of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses; recognizing and treating spine, head, and neck injuries; management of skin infections and conditions; and treatment of unconscious patients. CPR and AED training may be included, or may be offered as a separate course.

Wilderness First Aid

Often, wilderness first aid programs involve spending several days camping while learning the first aid techniques in a natural environment. However, some have blended learning components, where students can take part of the course or test online. Wilderness first aid courses are generally advanced and designed for situations where medical help is not nearby. Usually, a CPR / AED certification is a prerequisite.

people hiking in a forest

Topics covered may include wound care and prevention of infection, treatment of allergies and anaphylactic shock; hypothermia; heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses; injuries to the head, brain, spine, and neck; burn treatment; broken bones; strains and sprains; altitude sickness; and assessment.

  • Infection prevention and treatment
  • Mild and moderate burns
  • Shock
  • Cuts and wounds
  • Choking

These classes are ideal for wilderness guides, forestry service employees, and others who work outdoors in remote environments. They are also appropriate for scouts and scout leaders, as well as anyone who enjoys backcountry hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities in remote environments.

First Aid for Infants and Children

Pediatric first aid courses focus on treatment of illnesses and injuries in the very young. Children and infants must be treated differently than adults in a wide range of medical situations, and a first aid class targeting them is ideal for anyone who works or lives with infants and young children—including daycare providers, teachers, camp counselors, parents and foster parents, and caregivers.

Infant with a band aid

Topics typically covered under these classes include:

  • Allergies and anaphylactic shock
  • Bug bites
  • Sprains and strains
  • Sudden illness
  • Recognition of child abuse and neglect

Some pediatric first aid classes also provide certification in CPR and AED for infants and children.

There are many different types of first aid classes out there—and the right one for you depends on why you’re interested in taking the classes. From pet to pediatric first aid, there’s something for everyone—at all levels of experience. Taking a first aid class is an excellent idea for both experienced medical professionals and those with no medical background—as this training can be instrumental in saving lives.


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