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Should you give water to a crashed rider?

First Aid for Motorcyclists course knights helmet removal
Ambos arrive at a crash scene

First Aid For Motorcyclists course organisers say they are often asked whether it is ok for a first-aider to give a crashed rider some water or even something to eat.

Their advice has been “best not to” because often a casualty will end up requiring surgery and this may interfere with the anaesthesiology.

Anaesthetic/recovery nurse Jeni Carter, who attended a recent Sydney FAFM course explains why you should only provide the tiniest of sips if a casualty pleads for water.


“The purpose of acid in the stomach is to break down food. If you’ve just eaten and then require an anaesthetic, you could possibly regurgitate (vomit) that food and it could come up the ‘food’ pipe and down the ‘wind’ pipe and end up in your lungs,” she says.

“Acid in the lungs can cause aspiration pneumonia which can lead to death.”

The FAFM course, designed by highly qualified and experienced first aiders Tracy Hughes and partner Roger Fance, is currently touring around the nation to reach riders who couldn’t attend their popular Sydney courses.

First aid
Tracey and Roger hit the road

Their course points out that knowing when the patient last ate can help and that when the body goes into shock in a crash, one of the things that shuts down is digestion.

“So in a major trauma where the body is shunting blood to the brain, heart and lungs and putting its energy into keeping those organs going, then food will just sit in the stomach for a while,” says Jeni.

“There is currently lots of discussion going on about timing regarding fasting times prior to surgery. We used to tell patients on a morning list that they had to fast from midnight. No food or water.

“Now we say no food from midnight but they can have clear fluids up to two hours prior to admission. It depends on the anaesthetist.”First aid water

Jeni says that even sucking lollies and chewing gum gives the stomach a signal that food is on the way just by the mechanics of chewing and creating saliva. That is why the stomach fills with acid getting ready to break down the food.

“It has been put to me before ‘but what if I’ve just been to Macca’s and then have an accident?’ Then we treat your airway differently,” she says.

“We would definitely tube the patient if going for surgery but as we put the tube in, the anaesthetic nurse would apply pressure to the throat area to minimise the chance of regurgitation until the tube is in place and the cuff on the tube is blown up.

“Of course people are going to eat while they’re out and that’s why we have different ways of dealing with different situations”.

Jeni described the FAFM course as “fantastic”.

“Best first-aid course I’ve ever done and I’ve been doing them for over 40 years.”

  1. After an accident a person usually experiences some level of shock,
    During a state of shock the body can look for sources of sugar one of which being alcohol
    So it is quite possible that having even one light beer and having an accident could put you over the limit. So it is very possible that the stats on drink driving involved accidents are scewed by this effect

  2. I was thinking of what to carry at all times that might be useful to crash victim. A few things with multiple uses and “cant go wrong” to have? A bottle of clean water. Duct Tape and Electrical tape. A blanket or drop cloth maybe stout enough to carry or drag someone to a safer location off the road A clean white tee shirt and maybe a pair of white cotton socks all in zip lock bag to keep em clean. Some type of lightweight but sturdy stick suitable to use as a splint. Flat fiberglass would be awesome… A length of cord or even better electrical wire. Several surgical gloves. A clean disposable paint brush. (to gently brush small gravel and debris from wound site….a Tube of Antiseptic ointment especially for small stuff and road rash. Assortment of adhesive bandages especially extra large ones. A roll of elastic bandage “ace bandage” Roll of gauze and some gauze sponges …clean plastic trash bag maybe one large and a couple small ones. Some scizzors and maybe a knife. Based on my own experience I feel like could do some good with the above I could for example cut away clothing and create a pressure dressing and even roughly splint a fracture …even a compound fracture. And I could of course dress some bad road rash, treat for shock etc. Oh and I would toss in pad and pencil to write down contact info of injured persons family/friends to give them a heads up what happened and maybe find out important health clues for the victim like pre-existing conditions allergies etc. Also bear in mind any of this stuff you carry could obviously also come in handy for YOURSELF in case YOU are a victim

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