Medical emergencies are life-threatening conditions which need immediate intervention. The way you react during these medical emergencies can make a difference between life and death. You can do so by identifying the warning signs of such situations and responding appropriately.
1) Heart attack
When the heart does not get the blood it needs, the cells get damaged and the heart muscles die due to an oxygen deficit. When a major portion of the cells die, it leads to heart attack.
The most important symptoms of heart attack are pain and discomfort in the chest region. Additionally, shortness of breath, stomach discomfort, fainting, sweating, pain in the neck or jaws or shoulders may be present. Symptoms are different in men and women. Men may have cold sweats, and pain may be felt descending through the left arm. Women are more likely to have shortness of breath, stomach upset, dizziness, and tiredness.
Do not ignore these symptoms. Survival is possible if the patient gets treated within 90 minutes of the attack. Before the person reaches the hospital, an aspirin tablet can lower the risk of clot formation. Allow the patient to sit in a comfortable position. Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can double the chances of survival, if breathing is not normal or the patient is unresponsive.
2) Traumatic head injury
Traumatic head injury occurs when an object hits hard on the head. It is a dangerous condition, which needs to be handled immediately. Otherwise, it can lead to brain damage or brain dysfunction.
Symptoms include nausea, headache, dizziness, loss of consciousness for some time or a state of confusion or memory loss. Sensory problems include ringing in the ears, blurring of vision, changes in taste and smell, and photophobia.
Immediately call for medical help. Then check for the person’s airways, breathing and blood circulation. If required start with the CPR. If unconscious, do not move the victim till medical help has arrived. If bleeding is present, firmly press one or more cloths on the wound. Apply ice packs to the swollen areas.
Burns are caused by heat either due to fire accidents or explosions or in the case of suicidal attempts. First aid help varies with the cause of burns.
- If burns are caused by heat, immediately cool the burns with cold water till the pain gets relieved. Do not use ice blocks to cool the burns as it may cause more damage to the skin. Cover the burns with a sterile dressing.
- In the case of electrical burns which usually cause internal damage with a small external burn, be very cautious not to get yourself into trouble. Turn off the power and then rescue the victim. Assess the need for CPR and provide it.
- If the burns are due to spillage of chemicals, remove the chemicals from the skin using a cloth or with gloved hands. Remove the contaminated clothing carefully and be cautious not to contaminate yourself.
In any case, ensure that the medical team arrives as early as possible while you are providing the first aid.
Stroke is another medical emergency in which the brain cells die due to inadequate blood supply. This can be either due to hemorrhages (excessive bleeding) or due to ischemia (blockage of the vessels due to clots).
The symptoms of stroke include:
Speech weakness – there can be a slurring of speech or a total absence of speech in spite of being awake
Facial weakness – drooping of mouth and one or both the eyes, inability to smile or show expressions
Arm weakness – inability to lift the arms or even keep them in place, numbness may be present in either of the arms
Other symptoms include blurring of vision, severe headache, dizziness and sudden fall.
Dial up to the medical emergency department straight away if you notice these symptoms, as treatment needs to be provided within 3-4 hours for the survival of the victim.
A convulsion or seizure is an uncontrolled, rapid and rhythmic shaking of the muscles due to repeated contraction and relaxation. It occurs due to the abnormal electrical impulses in the brain. The most important symptoms include shaking of the entire body, drooling or frothing at the mouth, behavioral changes, abnormal eye movements, grunting, snorting, and clenching of the teeth.
Most of the seizures stop on their own after some time. The first aid for convulsions should aim at preventing further damage or injury and maintaining airways. Do not hold the victim to suppress the shaking movements. Lay down the person to prevent falls. Remove any objects present around to protect the head. Do not put anything in the mouth as tongue biting and bleeding from the mouth are common. Loosen the clothing especially near the neck. Reassure the victim until recovery or medical team arrives.
Do not ever delay providing first aid to the victims during medical emergencies. Identify the warning symptoms and provide appropriate and prompt help to save their lives. You can always request for help from others while assisting the victim. Self-care is equally important while providing first aid during medical emergencies.