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People use the term “first aid card” to refer to two slightly different things, both of which are related to first aid. In the first sense, a first aid card is a certification card which indicates that someone has received first aid training. In the second sense, the card is an instructional card which includes basic first aid techniques. People carry instructional cards so that they can use them to refresh their skills before providing first aid, to ensure that they act appropriately for the given situation. These cards are also used as study aids by people taking first aid classes.
Certification cards are issued by organizations and people who provide first aid training. In order to get a card, someone usually needs to complete a class and pass a test of first aid skills. The card will include the person's name, the year the course was taken, and the level of first aid the person is qualified to perform. When people apply for jobs in which first aid skills are required or helpful, they can provide their first aid card as proof of completion of a first aid course.
Instructional cards are carried by people who have completed first aid courses and want to keep their skills fresh, or by people studying first aid who want a convenient study guide. A typical instructional first aid card is a fold-out wallet-sized card. The fold-out design ensures that the card can be compacted to a small size which makes it easy to carry. Designs include cards which simply fold up, small printed booklets, and flow-chart style cards which people can fold and unfold to follow a series of recommendations for a given situation.
Most first aid cards are laminated, so that they will hold up as they are carried around and used. Numerous companies publish these cards, often in coordinating sets so that people can purchase a set of cards covering a wide range of circumstances. Each card gives an overview of a topic such as first aid for bleeding, first aid for suspected spinal injuries, and so forth. Specialized cards for specific conditions such as diabetes are also produced.
Patients with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy may carry first aid cards. Carrying an informational first aid card allows the patient to communicate with bystanders if she or he becomes incapacitated. The card also provides information about what to do, so that people can intervene to stabilize the patient until medical help is provided. Such cards may include a printed introduction indicating that the person presenting the card has a chronic illness and is asking for assistance. While people are not obligated to render aid when presented with such a card by a stranger, it is considered an honorable thing to do, and many nations have good Samaritan laws to protect people from liability if they intervene to aid a stranger.