Responding to a Medical Emergency Part 1: The first responder may be you!
They are a part of life. It can happen while driving a car, playing a sport, working out at the gym or working in the yard. Having a basic skill set of what to do, should you or someone else become injured, is just good common sense. You don’t have to be a paramedic but you should be able to bridge the gap between injury and ambulance arrival. In my neck of the woods that’s 5-8 minutes. A lot can happen in 5-8 minutes. For instance, three minutes without air can be a real problem for the average person; brain damage being a real possibility.
How to Respond to a Medical Emergency
Here are some very basic rules to follow should you or someone else get into a Medical Emergency.
- Size up the scene: Don’t run into traffic to help someone if there is a likelihood that you yourself may become a victim as well. Fires, collapsing structures and unfortunately active shooter situations are all unsafe scenes, so call 911 from a safe distance and wait for the cavalry.
- Check the victim for consciousness: Simply tap the guy on the shoulder and ask him if he’s ok? If he answers you, well, he’s conscious. If he doesn’t answer you, you guessed it, he may not be conscious. Either way, at this point, you should call 911.
- Conscious Victim(s): Scan the body for obvious bleeding. Keep the victim warm, and if you can, keep them calm. Before you lay a hand on a conscious victim get consent from them first. This likely won’t be an issue but it’s better to have consent and not need it, than need it and not have it.
- Unconscious victim(s): Consent to help is implied. Kneel next to them and place one hand on the victim’s forehead and the other on their chin. Lift the chin, and put your ear an inch away from their nose and mouth, while simultaneously looking at their chest. For about 10 seconds look, listen and feel for signs of life. Watch the chest for rising and falling, and listen for the sounds of breathing. If they are clearly breathing, stay with them until help arrives.
- No signs of Life: For a victim that is not breathing, CPR must be done immediately. An AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) should be used if available. CPR is a skill that requires training and practice. If you don’t know it, get trained because you never know who’s life you may save.
- Allergic Reactions: Allergies are now a part of life. Basically an allergy is an over reaction of the immune system to an otherwise harmless substance. The list of what people many be allergic too is long but peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk and bee stings are a few that come to mind. If the reaction is severe a condition know as anaphylaxis will result. This is a swelling of the airway that renders the victim unable to breath. Luckily, most people who are aware they have severe allergies carry an epi-pen. Epi-pens are epinephrine and allow the body to over ride the reaction and breath again. These pens are super easy to use and the three step directions are clearly printed on the device. However, if someone is literally dying at your feet, you may be somewhat stressed and not thinking clearly. There is a blue end and a orange end. Pull the blue off and forcefully press the orange end into the thigh of the victim. Hold it there for ten seconds to allow all the medicine to enter the body. The needle will go through clothes, but not cell phones so tap the leg first and be sure there is nothing blocking the path of the needle. As with all medical emergencies, 911 should be called ASAP.
- Heavy bleeding: Most people have between 8-12 pints of blood in their body. The average person, over 115 pounds can afford to lose a pint without going into shock, as long as it leaks out slowly, the body can compensate. Losing blood too quickly results in shock from blood loss and major complications. To help avoid this, put a sterile dressing, or at least a relatively clean rag, on the wound and apply direct pressure. This will slow the blood loss and delay shock. Hopefully, you will hand over a victim to EMS that is breathing and not in shock.
- Avoid Blood Borne Pathogens: A military medic once told me, “If it’s wet and it isn’t yours, don’t touch it!” Good advice! Some virus’ like HIV are fragile and won’t survive long outside a host, but others, like Hepatitis, can live in dried blood for days. So don’t touch anyone’s blood without proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Latex Gloves weigh nothing and cost very little. They have other uses outside medical care so it makes good sense to have them on you. Put a pair or two in you backpack, purse, even your wallet. A good well stocked first aid kit would be great, but the bare minimum, is gloves. The rest can be, if necessary, improvised. Handkerchiefs, bandanas, napkins, or clothing can make decent dressings but nothing will protect you like latex gloves from blood borne pathogens.
Help is On The Way
Remember, all you need to do is bridge the gap between injury or illness and the arrival of EMS. So call them as fast as possible. Speak clearly and give them your location when asked. Obviously, none of this takes the place of training and experience but it doesn’t take much to make the difference between a living, breathing victim and one that isn’t.
For CPR and AED training opportunities on Long Island please contact us on our contact page.
For information from the American Red Cross on CPR and AED Training click on their homepage www.RedCross.org