Proper Helmet Removal in First Aid

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CPR and First Aid Training Room
CPR and First Aid Training Room

Helmets are intended to protect the face, head, neck and spine and prevent possible injuries due to motorcycle accidents and many sporting events. However, in case of an accident, you may need to remove the helmet in order to administer first aid or initiate resuscitation efforts. When removing the helmet, the head and neck should be held rigid to prevent further damage to surrounding structures. Take note that improper removal of the helmet can lead to serious complications. Proper removal of helmet is a special first aid skill that can be learned through advanced first aid courses.

In helmet removal, your goal is to stabilize the head while manipulating the helmet out of the head or cutting through the helmet. As much as possible, helmet removal should be done as a two-rescuer procedure. One rescuer ensures stability of the head and neck while the other rescuer performs the extrication or cuts the helmet.

If the helmet has a protection shield, the protection shield can be lifted to reveal the airway while keeping it in place. If it has a face guard, the face guard can be cut while providing manual stabilization. Before you cut through the helmet, you should make sure to avoid injuring the victim by placing protective coverings (such as folded blankets, piece of cloth or towel) directly over the face and neck. You can use a bolt cutter or any suitable device to remove or cut the face guard.

Never attempt to remove the helmet if it results in increased pain, or if removal is impossible or very difficult, unless pulmonary resuscitation is necessary or airway obstruction is apparent.

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Helmet removal by one person – First Aid for motorcyclists

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In advanced first aid course, you will be taught how to collaborate with another first aider in removing the helmet. Remember that helmet removal is a two-rescuer situation. After explaining the procedure to the victim, the first aiders should follow this procedure:

  1. Rescuer 1 is positioned at the top of the patient’s head and applies manual stabilization with one hand on the lower jaw. Depending on the type of helmet, stabilization may be applied using the fingers while the rest of the hand is on the side of the helmet.
  2. Rescuer 2 cuts, removes or opens the chin strap, then puts one hand below the victim’s chin and the other behind the lower head to prevent head tilt.
  3. After the Rescuer 2 stabilizes the head and neck, Rescuer 1 can release manual stabilization and slowly remove the helmet. Gently pull out the lower sides of the helmet to clear the ears. If the victim wears eyeglasses, make sure to remove the glasses.
  4. After the helmet is removed, Rescuer 1 reestablishes manual stabilization and opens up the airway using jaw-thrust maneuver.
  5. Rescuer 2 can release stabilization and then apply extrication collar, if available, or make-shift stabilization collar (such as rolled towels on both sides of the head). Keep the victim’s body well-aligned and continuously monitor the victim while waiting for emergency services.

There may be variations with regards to the positioning and roles of the first aiders.

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