You are here:

Winter first aid advice

winter sprain

The Met Office has issued weather warnings for widespread ice as Arctic conditions hit the UK. During this time there may be delays to the regular ambulance service but St John Ambulance volunteers are on standby, ready to respond. The organisation is also urging everyone to know some first aid so that they can be the difference between life and death.

Providing support

Howard Rayner, Operations Adviser, St John Ambulance, said voluntary ambulance crews are on standby all over the country. They are ready to help back up ambulance services when needed.

'In severe weather, regular ambulance response can be disrupted as journey times are increased by the difficult conditions. Our trained and equipped volunteers provide extra support, answering emergency calls in many areas, on behalf of the ambulance trusts or transporting patients to urgent hospital appointments, like dialysis. We also use our 4x4 vehicles to help NHS staff reach patients in inaccessible areas, who rely on home visits. Our volunteers have been treating people for slips and falls as well as answering 999 calls for conditions such as heart attacks.

'While waiting for help to arrive, first aid can be the difference between lives lost and lives saved and we advise people to ensure they have some basic first aid knowledge.'

While waiting for help to arrive, first aid can be the difference between lives lost and lives saved and we advise people to ensure they have some basic first aid knowledge.

Howard Rayner
Operations Adviser, St John Ambulance

How to differentiate between a sprain and a fracture

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a strain/sprain and a fracture, they all can be painful, tender and swollen. If you are unable to bear weight on the limb, if there is any obvious deformity or have any doubts about the seriousness of the injury then always seek medical advice.

  • Fracture advice
  • In the case of a sprain it can be treated using the RICE procedure (Rest, Ice, make Comfortable and Elevation). The injured part should be rested and supported and, if a recent injury, an ice pack should be applied to reduce swelling, make sure that the ice does not come into direct contact with the skin. Apply a comfortable support to the injured part with soft padding held in place with a support bandage, finally support the limb ion a raised position to help minimise bruising.

What to worry about if you hit your head

Most head injuries are minor and involve a headache which improves with rest and painkillers. In some cases the headache can worsen, there may be nausea, confusion, strange behaviour – immediately or within 48h.


If someone has a nasty fall, accident or injury you may need to treat them for shock.

How to spot signs of hypothermia and frostbite

Hypothermia and frostbite are rare but as some areas of the country are experiencing temperatures of -18C it’s useful to know the symptoms.

5 ways to be the difference

First aid can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved. It’s important to know life saving procedures so you can be the difference in an emergency.

Get a free first aid guide that takes you through these five first aid techniques.

*Howard Rayner has since left this organisation (Updated 2015).