As a mum, one of my worst nightmares is a medical emergency happening to my kids. When an emergency occurs, you can’t always rely on someone else with medical training to step in. There may be cases where you’re on your own, or where it’s just you and one other person. Alternatively, you may find yourself in a room full of people in which no-one has any first aid training.
In such cases, having some knowledge on what to do can be handy. Even if it’s a temporary form of treatment until paramedics arrive, it could make a big impact on the outcome – in some cases even being the difference between life and death.
Below are 7 common medical emergencies and how to deal with them. In my opinion, all parents – in fact everybody – should have this basic knowledge, so please take a few minutes to brush up!
When dealing with any burn injury, the first thing you should always do is run it under some water. This will cool the injury, reduce inflammation and reduce the pain. The water should be cool or lukewarm, but not ice cold. With first degree burns, you’ll want to do this for around 20 minutes.
If you or someone is bleeding heavily, take off all the clothes in that area and try to suppress the bleeding in any way possible. Do not remove any objects that may be embedded in the skin as these may be slowing down the bleeding. Knowing how to apply bandages can come in useful when dealing with bleeding, while a tourniquet may be necessary for severe bleeding. Try to raise the part of the body that is bleeding above your chest and provide pressure with your hands or a cloth if you do not have access to bandages.
Choking is the fourth most common accident that leads to death. To help remove a foreign object from the airway, lean the person forward to encourage the object to come out. Five firm palm strikes on the back should help to dislodge the object. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to try the Heimlich manoeuvre. Check out this guide on how to do the Heimlich manoeuvre on someone who is choking.
If someone is having a seizure, you’ll want to remove any dangers from the immediate area. The best solution is often to place down a coat or any kind of soft padding on an empty area of floor, lay them down on the floor on their side and let the seizure play out. This minimises any injury that could occur while convulsing. If a person has a known allergy and they are in anaphylactic shock, you cannot just let the seizure play out and should look for their EpiPen, which should contain instructions on use (in most cases, inject it into their thigh).
If someone is unconscious and not breathing, it’s a very serious situation and you don’t have long to act. You should call paramedics straight away. In the meantime, you’ll want to carry out CPR to try and get some oxygen and blood flowing around their body. Even if you can’t get them fully breathing again, CPR could help to keep them alive until paramedics arrive. You can go to a site such as this one to learn CPR. An official course will teach you how to do it properly so that it’s more likely to be effective in an emergency.
If a person can move a limb or bear weight after an injury, they may have a fracture. In such cases, you should urge them to keep the injury cushioned until help arrives. Do not move the injured part of the body unnecessarily. If you suspect there could be a spinal injury, do not move the person at all.
If someone else is experiencing an electric shock, do not touch them. Instead try to turn off the power source. The longer the shock goes on and the higher the voltage, the more serious so you need to act quickly. Once the power is off and the person is away from the electricity source, treat any burn injuries and call 999.
Have you ever taken a first aid course? What was your experience?