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One for History Lovers: The Incredible Journey of First Aid As We Know It Today

First Aid as we know it today used to be quite different. It had to be carefully and methodically developed through the course of our collective history.


If we had to trace the earliest recorded history of first aid, it would have to be around the time of the ancient Egyptians. First aid was quite important as societies that existed around that time were constantly at war. It was the Egyptians that were the first recorded developers of bandages. No, it’s not because of the mummies. They legitimately used bandages as a means to treat surgical patients.

Later on, history would record the Greek and the Romans bandaging battle wounds. The Romans, in particular, were quite modern in their application of first aid. They had legions with the specific role of administering immediate care in makeshift field hospitals. As far as we know, the Romans are the pioneers of the concept of the combat medic.

It is to be noted that most first aid back then wasn’t as effective as there was very little importance to the cleanliness of the bandages being used. There wasn’t much importance in keeping a sterile environment either. When you’re in a war, you have to make do with what you had.

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When societies placed such a high worth on sea bounties, drowning became quite a common cause of death. It was around 1767 that there was quite an active movement to combat deaths by drowning. It wasn’t until William Hawes started publicizing the efficacy of artificial respiration as a means of resuscitation.

They even had a dedicated society for it. It was aptly named: Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned. It was later renamed into the Royal Human Society. They continued to promote resuscitation and deaths by drowning met a rapid decline.

Formalization of First Aid

The actualization of first aid didn’t come about until 1859. It was after the Battle of Solferino that Jean-Henri Dunant worked toward the formation of what we know today as the Red Cross. The term ‘First Aid’ wasn’t actually invented until 1870. It was a Prussian surgeon named Freidrich von Esmarch that coined the term “erste hilfe” which directly translates to “First Aid”.

The concept of teaching first aid to civilians was developed by the Order of St. John. It is through their efforts and many others that helped evolve first aid to what it is today.

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As We Know It Today

First aid has improved quite significantly since it was first founded. Our technology has allowed us to preserve life in ways that people in ancient Egypt couldn’t even dream about. The knowledge of basic first aid is now readily accessible to anyone who wishes to learn. Community centers often hold first aid classes in the hopes of growing more awareness.

Health is indeed wealth. Knowing first aid can ensure that those around you are in good hands. Sharing the knowledge of it increases your own chance of being saved through first aid.