First Aid

What does ABC Stand for in First Aid? – A Complete Guide

Ricky Kambray
Ricky Kambray

The ABCs of first aid are crucial things that need to be performed instantly when approaching a victim. But what does ABC Stand for in First Aid? In first aid, ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. This means ensuring that the airway is clear, checking to see if the patient is breathing and observing the circulation (pulse or observation of colour and temperature of hands or fingers).

There are crucial things to consider while providing first aid in an emergency situation. Obviously, you must have the proper knowledge to apply this first-aid technique to a victim. Otherwise, you will worsen the victim’s physical state. This is the purpose of our article.

In this write-up, we will thoroughly acquaint you with the ABC of first aid, its importance and its exact application on a victim with some graphical presentation.

Besides, our other blog gives you a comprehensive idea of why first aid is important.

Let’s get started.

Close-up of 3d doctor with green checkmark and first aid kit box.

What does ABC Stand for in First Aid Treatment?

First aid ABC consists of three different components. Let’s explore what ABC stands for in first aid in more detail.

  • A stands for Airway
  • B stands for Breathing
  • C stands for Circulation/Compression

Let’s begin with the application of ABC in first aid treatment.


First aider showing airway demo on a dummy.

A blocked airway can impair a person’s ability to breathe. You can assist in opening someone’s airway by doing the following:

  • Place one hand on the person’s forehead,
  • Gently tilt their head back,
  • While tilting their head, gently and carefully elevate their chin with two fingers from your other hand,
  • If they are unresponsive, you must begin the breathing technique as soon as possible.

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Young woman instructor showing how to throw back dummy head for breathing during the first aid group training indoors.

Breathing provides oxygen to the body, which allows it to function. That is why it is essential to assess whether or not someone is breathing.

Follow these methods to assess if a person is breathing normally:

  • Place your ear right over the person’s mouth while looking down at their body.
  • Notice the following signs of breathing:
    • the sound of their breathing
    • the warmth of their breath on your cheek 
    • the movement of their chest going up and down
  • Continue for no more than 10 seconds.

If they are unresponsive and not breathing, contact 999/112 for emergency assistance and begin CPR immediately. During cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), you must perform rescue breathing and chest compressions. We will thoroughly discuss how to perform CPR later. In the meantime, ask for help from someone to bring a defibrillator (AED/ automated external defibrillator).


Instructor showing CPR demonstration on a dummy in a group setting.

While breathing provides oxygen to the blood, the heartbeat transports this oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, organs and tissues can begin to die if they do not receive enough oxygen. 

Performing chest compression helps restore blood circulation to the heart, brain, and other organs. CPR begins with 30 compressions of the chest, followed by two rescue breaths. 

Hands-only CPR Demonstration

 Instructor showing CPR demonstration on a dummy.

Follow the hands-only CPR if you are not a medical professional or do not have any first aid training. To carry out a chest compression:

  • Kneel beside the victim and place the heel of your hand on the centre of their chest. Then, place your other hand on top of the first hand and interlock your fingers.
  • Lean over the victim with your arms straight. Using your body weight (not just your arms), press down hard for around 5-6 cm (2 to 2.5 inches) before releasing the pressure and allowing the chest to rise again.
  • Repeat at a pace of 100 to 120 compressions per minute until an ambulance comes or for as long as you can.

CPR with Rescue Breaths

Instructor showing Rescue breath demonstration on a dummy.

  • First, place the heel of one hand on the centre of the person’s chest, then put the palm of the other hand on top and push down 5 to 6 cm (2 to 2.5 inches) at a constant rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
  • Provide two rescue breaths after every 30 chest compression.
  • Gently tilt the person’s head and elevate the chin with two fingers. Pinch the casualty’s nose. Then, seal your mouth over theirs and blow into their mouth steadily and firmly for around 1 second. Make sure their chest lifts. Give two rescue breaths.
  • Continue with 30 chest compressions and two rescue breath cycles until they begin to recover or emergency assistance comes.

If the helper returns with a defibrillator, instruct them to turn it on and follow the voice prompts while you continue CPR. In the meantime, place the casualty in the recovery position if they show symptoms of becoming responsive, such as —

  • coughing 
  • opening their eyes
  • speaking
  • and breathing regularly

Keep an eye on their level of response and be prepared to perform CPR again if required.  

When an electric shock through the defibrillator stops a cardiac arrest and hopefully lets the heart restart, you can proceed to check if the victim has severe blood loss and spinal injury and call for an emergency immediately.

The Updated Guidelines

The American Heart Association revised its first aid recommendations in 2010, and as part of this, the ABCs are now performed in the following order: CAB.

There are several explanations for this change:

  • Addressing circulation initially by chest compressions ensures vital blood flow to organs such as the brain and heart.
  • Chest compressions can be done immediately. However, examining the airway and administering adequate rescue breaths can be time-consuming.

According to studies, as compared to ABC, the CAB strategy was more effective in delivering timely intervention.



What is the importance of ABC in first aid?

The importance of the ABC technique in first aid is as follows:

  • It has the potential to save lives.
  • It can provide immediate pain relief.
  • A person knowledgeable about this first-aid technique can speak more effectively with a healthcare practitioner.
  • You will feel more secure if your coworker knows this ABC method.
  • Children are safer if their parents are familiar with first aid procedures.

What does DRABC Stand for in First Aid?

DRABC stands for the steps to be taken in the initial assessment and management of an emergency in first aid:

D – Danger: Ensure that the area is safe for the victim and the first aiders.

R – Response: Ask the victim if they can hear you while gently shaking their shoulders to get a response.

A – Airway: To prevent the tongue from obstructing the airway, tilt the head back and elevate the chin.

B – Breathing: Spend no more than 10 seconds looking, listening, and feeling for breathing.

C – Circulation: If there is no pulse, start performing CPR.

What are the 3 p’s of first aid?

The three P’s of first aid, a comprehensive approach to dealing with emergency circumstances, are an acronym that stands for:

  • Preserve life
  • Prevent further injury or harm
  • Promote recovery.

What to put in a first aid kit?

A first aid kit should include basic medical supplies to assist you in responding to a variety of emergency cases. These include:

  • Bandages 
  • Adhesive tape
  • Gauze pads and rolls
  • Antiseptic wipes or solution
  • Scissors
  • Instant cold pack
  • Disposable gloves
  • CPR mask
  • Pain relievers
  • Thermometer etc.

What do you do on a first aid course?

Individuals taking a first aid course learn how to handle medical crises, including assessing a patient’s health, administering CPR, controlling bleeding, treating shock, and tend to wounds. Participants may have the chance to apply these skills on mannequins or in other simulated situations.

Is CPR always 30 to 2?

For the adult victim, two-person CPR will consist of 30 compressions to 2 breaths. On the other hand, the two-person CPR ratio for the child and infant should be 15 compressions to 2 breaths. 

What are the 7 steps of CPR in order?

CPR has seven fundamental steps:

  • Examine the situation
  • Ask for help
  • Open the airway
  • Examine the breathing
  • Begin chest compressions
  • Provide rescue breaths
  • Continue CPR procedures

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, after going through the entire write-up, you have a pretty good idea of the topic, “What does ABC Stand for in First Aid?” Your skill in applying ABC (Airway, Breathing and Circulation) can save a casualty’s life from life-threatening events.

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Ricky Kambray

Hey this is Ricky Kambray an award-winning first-aid trainer with over 20 years of healthcare and teaching expertise. Highly certified general nurse regularly appears in the press discussing accident prevention and first aid advice.