How Valuable Are YouTube’s New First Aid Videos?

How Valuable Are YouTube’s New First Aid Videos?
  • YouTube has introduced the arrival of first aid information health shelves: curated video playlists that provide easily accessible, reliable information in emergency situations.
  • Emergency physicians support the videos, but doubt they’ll provide practical value in a moment of crisis. Calling 911 is usually best.

Last month, YouTube announced a new health initiative: curated video playlists intended to provide quick, reliable information when first aid is necessary.

The videos, referred to as “first aid information health shelves,” demonstrate first aid procedures ranging from how to perform CPR to how to identify a heart attack or stroke. When you look up one of the included conditions, these videos will appear pinned to the top of the search results page.

“People are looking for information they can digest quickly, and videos are a big part of that,” Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Director and Global Head of Healthcare and Public Health Partnerships at Google and YouTube, told Verywell. “We want to make public health public, and present information in a way that’s easy to find, engaging, and important.”

Graham said most YouTube users engage with the first result of their search, so it’s essential that the first result be accurate. To produce the videos, YouTube teamed up with the Mass General Bringham group of hospitals and the Mexican Red Cross and plans to partner with more accredited sources in the future.

Topics included in first aid shelves include:

  • How to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • How to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking individual
  • How to apply a tourniquet to stop bleeding
  • What to do when you suspect an individual is having a heart attack
  • Signs of stroke and when to call 911 for neurological changes
  • How to protect a person having a seizure
  • What to do in the event of an opioid overdose

While the videos will surely provide an educational service, emergency personnel are unsure they’ll have real practical value in the event of a health crisis.

“These YouTube videos may be a helpful resource to determine what level of care to seek, to treat minor emergencies, or provide education ahead of time,” emergency room physician Jared L. Ross, DO, NPR, FACEP, FAAEM, founder of Emergency Medical Services Education & Consulting, LLC, told Verywell. “However, I am skeptical of the ability of a layperson to learn to perform CPR or properly apply a tourniquet in the heat of a medical emergency from a video.”

Ross also expressed concern that turning to YouTube could delay a call to 911 for emergencies where time is of the essence, such as a stroke.

Ross emphasized the following conditions warrant an emergency room visit:

  • Chest pain
  • Neurological changes or loss of consciousness
  • Any signs or symptoms of stroke
  • Seizures
  • Severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis
  • Bleeding that does not stop
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Drug overdose

If you experience any of the following conditions, Ross said you may not necessarily need care in the emergency room—urgent care, a telehealth appointment, or a primary care provider visit can usually suffice:

  • A fever without other urgent symptoms
  • Minor rashes, cuts, or bug bits
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ear infections
  • Minor allergic reactions, such as hives
  • Upper respiratory conditions like sinus infections, hay fever, or sore throat
  • Lower respiratory infections like a cold or the flu, without difficulty breathing
  • Mild nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Suspected sprains or strains
  • Minor cuts with controlled bleeding

If you are in doubt, seek medical attention, as some conditions may worsen without prompt treatment.

Ross recommends taking a first aid and basic life support course so you can be prepared for an emergency before one happens.

“There are huge benefits to getting first aid training in a setting where you can be hands-on,” he said. “Watching someone perform skills on a screen is not the same as doing them yourself.”

What This Means For You

YouTube’s new first aid videos are credible educational resources for learning how to deal with health emergencies. But in the event of an actual emergency, you will likely need to act fast and won’t have time to digest video content. If you are unsure what to do, call 911 or head to the emergency room immediately. When in question, it’s better to seek care promptly than to wait.


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