When you visit any healthcare facility, you may hear the medical staff talk about vital signs. Read on to learn more about how to take vital signs.
As the name suggests, vital signs are an essential component of the assessment process. First aiders need to know how to take these vital signs. It is crucial in monitoring and evaluating the progress of the victim.
Healthcare professionals consider four vital signs: temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure. There are different assessment techniques and tools used to get a person’s vital signs. For temperature, you will need to use a thermometer; for blood pressure, a blood pressure apparatus; and for respiration and pulse, a watch with second hand.
What are the different vital signs?
Temperature : This measures how hot the body is. The normal body temperature is 37-38°C (98.6-100.4°F). Temperature greater than 38 C is considered hyperthermia or fever, usually suggesting an infection. On the other hand, temperature falling below 34 C is considered hypothermia and requires immediate action. It is important for the body to achieve the normal body temperature to ensure proper cell reaction.
Pulse or heart rate : This measures the speed of the heartbeat (measured in beats per minute). The normal pulse rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. You may encounter pulse rates that are below or above the normal range. Any changes in pulse rate may suggest problems with the heart. Taking first aid training courses will equip you with the right assessment skills. Remember that there are different points in the body where you can measure the heart rate. It is important that you know how to locate these assessment points.
Respiratory rate: This measures how fast or slow the person breaths. It is measured by observing and counting the number of chest rises and falls in a one-minute period. The normal rate is 12-18 breaths per minute. For accurate measurement, you should use a watch with a second hand. In first aid training course, you will be taught how to count the respiratory rate using the Look, Feel, and Listen techniques. This is a more accurate way of assessing breathing in cases of emergencies.
Blood Pressure : This vital sign measures the amount of force that is exerted by blood as it is circulated through the body. It is composed of two digits which corresponds to the systolic (the pressure of blood when the heart pumps) and diastolic (the pressure of blood when the heart is at rest). The normal blood pressure is near 120/80. In case of shock, the blood pressure drops to a life-threatening level. On the other hand, if the blood pressure shoots up, it can lead into a hypertensive emergency.
It is important to note that every person may have a slightly different ‘normal’ vital sign. This means that you may tolerate a slightly lower or higher measurement. For example, some individuals may tolerate a blood pressure of 106/70 while others may not. Others may even tolerate higher blood pressure. In emergency cases or first aid situations, the accepted normal range of vital signs is used as baseline.