What does SAMPLE stand for in first aid?

The acronym SAMPLE can be used in the assessment of all patients but it is especially helpful when dealing with medical patients. SAMPLE is taught on a wide variety of first aid, EMT and lifeguarding courses. So what does it stand for?

Signs and symptomsFirst aid SAMPLE

A sign is something you as a first aider observe (ie, see with your own eyes!) or record. For example, a patient suffering a heart attack may be very pale and sweaty. 

A symptom is something the patient feels and tells you about, such as dizziness or chest pain.


Ask if the patient has ever had any allergic reactions to any medications. Also enquire about environmental allergies, for example food and insect stings.


Ask if the patient takes any prescription medicines. This can sometimes give you an indication of a possible medical problem and a new line of questioning.

Past medical history

Ask about relevant medical history. Obtaining an in-depth history may sometimes not be necessary but information such as two heart attacks last year and a coronary bypass three weeks ago is essential.

Last oral intake

Ask about the patient’s last intake of food and drink, this is especially important if the condition could be caused by food or drink.

Events leading up to the illness or injury

What happened in the time leading up to the injury or illness? 

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John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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