SAMPLE questions – what does that even mean?

‘SAMPLE’ helps to make sure we ask some of the key things we need to know when providing first aid to someone (after we’ve done things like the ABCs, of course):

  • Signs & Symptoms
  • Allergies
  • Medication
  • Provokes
  • Last meal/food & drink
  • Events leading up to the accident, injury or illness

Let’s start with the easiest: Sample question 1 is the one we hope you’d be asking anyway, so…

SAMPLE 1 – Signs & Symptoms

  • What do they feel? (Symptom)
  • What do you see? (Sign)
  • Include vital signs:
  •             Pulse: rate, rhythm, strength
  •             Breathing: rate, quality, depth
  •             Level of consciousness
  • Any pain (what is it like – see below)?
  • Any obvious trauma?
  • Changes to skin colour, temperature, clammy/sweaty?

SAMPLE 2 – Allergies

Epi-Pen Adult and Epi_pen Jr.

Epi-Pen adult and Junior. “Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh!”

Check if they have any, to food or anything else. Medical allergies will be useful for EMS/Hospital to know as well. Is the condition caused by the allergy, or is this just ‘nice to know’ right now? Are they allergic to things in your first aid kit (you don’t still use latex gloves, right)? Anything in the area which they are allergic to – because if there is, you might need to move!


Are they on any and can they tell you what it’s for? Is this related to what you’re dealing with or is it just an incidental finding? Did it cause the problem and/or could it treat the problem? Document everything you find out! Also, don’t assume that any medication they happen to be carrying is theirs because they could just have collected it for someone.

Past Medical History

Has this happened before? Something like it? What other conditions do they have? Are nay related to what you’re dealing with or are they just useful to know about. How do they relate to the medications listed above. Could they become a problem soon (eg: if they have diabetes, do they need to eat soon?)

Last meal/food & drink

What have they eaten & drunk today and is it affecting their condition? See ‘the causes of unconsciousness’: Fainting? Diabetes? Poisoning (including alcohol)? Don’t give them anything to eat or drink unless it’s specifically part of the treatment.

Last SAMPLE question – Events leading up

….to the accident, injury or illness: This is the ‘what happened’ question. Let them tell their own story. Seek information from bystanders (remember: involve others). Look around at the environment, you may have no other choice if they’re unconscious.

Of course there’s plenty more to ask and plenty more to do, but this was a review of the SAMPLE questions. Read this blog for lots more topics, or join us in class for a full day of training.