First Aid for the Squeamish?

I posted about this very same subject before, but a couple of years ago and in a rather obscure comment on this site, so I thought I’d start a thread in the forum for more visibility. One big gap in my prepping, something I struggle with, is preparing for first aid. I’m pretty squeamish around injuries, blood and guts, burns, pain, descriptions or images of any of the above, etc. I do okay in everyday life with minor cuts or trips to the dentist. I’m okay with most shots. But start describing burns to me, or show me a picture of a wound and I start feeling really weak and nauseated.

For this reason it’s been really hard to think in any kind of systematic way about assembling a first aid kit, let alone learning how to use it for administering major aid to someone.

Just to give one example, a few years ago I ran into someone who was involved with her neighborhood first responder training for disasters. She talked to me about some of the first aid skills she was acquiring. For example, she said, in an emergency, if you have to operate on someone with no special tools, you can use an empty bag from fast food snacks — like chips — to create a makeshift barrier between you and the person being operated on. Let me just tell you that that was more than enough for me to start imagining how my neighbor might be operating on me without anesthetic using potato chip bag and a knife and I felt like I was gonna pass out.

I’m not sure how to get past this limitation of mine or how to work with it and prepare anyway. A couple of years ago when I posted about this someone suggested that I do a desensitization process where I start out practicing on things that absolutely do not look like injured people and then gradually increase the likeness to something that does. Admittedly, I have not done this, because the whole thing is hard to think about and because I can’t approach it enough to even be able to figure out what I should be practicing.

I’m thinking that I’m probably not the only person who has this issue. Wondering if anyone has any thoughts about it here


  • Comments (13)

    • 5

      Same boat. My partner is the more first aid minded person between us, and I’m lucky she’s fine with it. The idea of using a tourniquet freaks me out so I’ve just put the idea out of my mind after a while. But it’s a gap in my preparedness for sure. 

    • 8

      My only advice is also to learn the basic skills with a friend/partner.  If you know someone who is an EMT/Paramedic/RN/PA/MD they would be a good resource.  As far as skills basic splinting, bandaging larger wounds (just draw a line with a sharpy or pretend, doesn’t have to be graphic) and applying a tourniquet.  Learning the recovery position and rolling someone into it is a really convenient and overlooked skill that maintains an airway with no equipement.  Practice those basics until you own the skills, then consider taking a formal class.  Most are not really graphic at the first aid/first responder level.  Good luck.  

      • 4

        do you think virtual first aid classes are worth it? given how things are right now, i’m not completely on board with in person lessons but maybe this would be an exception

      • 4

        I don’t think they are a substitute overall, but yeah, right now they are a great idea.  Look for high quality stuff, for example NOLS has some quick videos related to wilderness first aid online for free.  They are great because it is an isolated skill that you can then practice.  But you need to practice.  You can use it as a time to slowely build a kit, and when you do that put together a training kit.  You don’t need a ton for that, but a few items.  Like if you are doing bandaging, put a bunch of bandaging stuff in your real kit and then add a couple pieces of gauze, a gauze roll, and maybe a trauma dressing into your training kit.  Then practice.  

      • 3

        makes sense. will check out the free ones you mentioned definitely

    • 4

      Understood, I got a class of first aids just before the Coronavirus pandemic starts. Now, practicing first aid procedures seems very important to me.

      I checked some articles related to first aids from this website and I loved it. I would love to have more content related with first aids.


      • 4

        good for you, man. i missed my window of opportunity for in-person classes. kinda kicking myself about it, but there’s a ton of solid video content available. not a replacement but at least i feel less clueless. 

      • 4

        You and me both. It was mid-February when I was thinking about signing up for a first aid class. Then on March 7th I went into my personal lockdown and thought “alright, going to have to ride this wave out, so it’s going to be a few months” and now here we are.

    • 10

      I guess I don’t have advice that addresses the problem head on (but will be keeping an eye on this to see if anyone else does!), but just a reminder to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”–if assembling a first aid kit is a mental block, maybe just pick up a pre-prepared first aid kit for the time being. And if a proper course and practice is an issue, maybe start doing the simple text-based material in the Red Cross First Aid app.

    • 6

      I’m not super squeamish, but I try bear one really important thing in mind: Someone else’s life will depend on my ability to push beyond any squeamishness; or my life may depend on someone else pushing beyond theirs.

      Not not a whole lot is going to prepare you for squirting or gushing blood, guts, a broken bone sticking through flesh, or the trauma of a gunshot wound. The best you can do is to mentally prepare yourself with knowledge and understanding in advance. Walk yourself through the steps of treatment and realize, as you practice your sutures, bandaging, use of a tourniquet: if you find youself in such a situation will be messy and someone’s life will depend on you taking action.

    • 3

      Watching first aid or surgery videos on YouTube can help you desensitize and get some exposure to this world of medical injuries. You learn about how the body works and how to treat various things too. Just take it in small doses and click away if you need to. I sometimes need a nice Disney movie or something uplifting to watch after to get my mind off of the video. But over time I have found that I can handle more gruesome videos for longer. Maybe I’m just weird, but I want to be able to look at a wound and treat it without puking or fainting.

      There are very popular videos of popping giant zits like the size of a quarter. I still haven’t had the stomach to watch those yet…

    • 3

      Hi, Jonnie. I have the same issue. Blood, especially the mental image of gushing blood, triggers my flight-fight response. However, I didn’t get either flight or fight in that card draw. I got “play dead” so I have a tendency to dizziness and fainting when I feel threatened. It’s not a helpful response in a health emergency. However, I have been on the first aid team at one workplace and have been continuously licensed in first aid/CPR/AED for over five years.

      One of the biggest things that helps me is focusing on action steps and blocking out the mental images. For example, instead of allowing myself to dwell on the image of blood gushing from a wound, I force myself to picture a square of gauze and myself pressing the gauze on the wound. I also start mentally or verbally repeating instructions to myself. I assure you in an emergency, the person you are helping will not be particularly concerned by you talking aloud to yourself. What also might help is practicing first aid steps on an uninjured inanimate object. Try using a tourniquet on a teddy bear for example. When you can handle a teddy bear or other dummy without blood, try using wine, red grape juice, or red Kool-Aid to simulate blood. Then start watching the videos other people suggested to desensitize yourself.

      My final tip is to know yourself (as you clearly already do) and prepare for your own reaction. What helps you snap out of fainting? What will trigger you? I know the smell of blood can trigger me. I also am fully prepared that in an emergency, after the paramedics arrive, I will have to sit in a corner somewhere with my knees up and head down and fight for consciousness after I no longer have tasks to focus me.

    • 1

      I hate getting my blood drawn, can’t look at it when it’s faked on TV. By donating blood regularly and slowly watching a little here and there could be a way to ease my way into being less squeamish.