"The key is knowing what to do, remaining calm, and making a decision to act," said Dr. Kathleen Clem of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "You can make a difference in critical moments by remembering four important steps: prevent, prepare, recognize, act."
Prevent emergencies: Regular exercise and medical check-ups will help protect your health and identify whether you're at risk for life-threatening conditions. Follow your doctor's advice to reduce any risk factors dangerous to your health.
Prepare for emergencies:After doing everything you can to prevent emergencies, the next step is to prepare for one. Some basic steps are:
- Keep well-stocked first-aid kits at home, at work, and in your car.
- Learn how to recognize emergency warning signs.
- Organize family medical information. Make lists of medications (and dosages) taken by you and your family; include allergies.
- Identify and eliminate safety hazards in your home.
- Take a first-aid class.
- Post emergency numbers near the telephone.
Learn to recognize life-threatening emergencies: Not every cut needs stitches, nor does every burn require advanced medical treatment. If you think someone could suffer significant harm or die unless prompt care is received, that situation is an emergency. Call 911 or the local hospital for help. Get help fast when the following warning signs are seen:
- Chest pain lasting 2 minutes or more.
- Uncontrolled bleeding.
- Sudden or severe pain.
- Coughing or vomiting blood.
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath.
- Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision.
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
- Change in mental status (e.g., confusion, difficulty arousing).
Decide to Act: Be ready, willing, and able to help someone until emergency services arrive. Action can mean anything from calling paramedics, applying direct pressure on a wound, performing CPR, or splinting an injury. Never perform a medical procedure if you're unsure about how to do it.
- Do not move anyone involved in a car accident, serious fall, or is found unconscious unless he or she is in immediate danger of further injury.
- Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink.
- Protect the victim by keeping him or her covered.
- If the victim is bleeding, apply a clean cloth or sterile bandage. If possible, elevate the injury and apply direct pressure on the wound.
- If the victim is not breathing or does not have a pulse, begin rescue breathing or CPR.
To receive a free Home Organizer for Medical Emergencies, call 1-800-446-9776. For a free copy of Secods Save Lives, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Seconds Save Lives, American College of Emergency Physicians, 2121 K. St, NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20037.
Information courtesy of the American College of Emergency Physicians