Locations Main Campus: Chesterfield, MO 63017   |   Locations
314-434-1500 314-434-1500   |   Contact Us

Multimedia Encyclopedia


 
E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Recognizing medical emergencies

Medical emergencies - how to recognize them

 

Information

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following are warning signs of a medical emergency:

  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Breathing problems (difficulty breathing, shortness of breath)
  • Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, difficulty arousing)
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Feeling of committing suicide or murder
  • Head or spine injury
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Sudden injury due to a motor vehicle accident, burns or smoke inhalation, near drowning, deep or large wound, etc.
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
  • Swallowing a poisonous substance
  • Upper abdominal pain or pressure

BE PREPARED

  • Determine the location and quickest route to the nearest emergency department before an emergency happens.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers posted by the phone. Everyone in your household, including children, should know when and how to call these numbers. These numbers include: fire department, police department, poison control center, ambulance center, your doctors' phone numbers, contact numbers of neighbors or nearby friends or relatives, and work phone numbers.
  • Know at which hospital(s) your doctor practices and, if practical, go there in an emergency.
  • Wear a medical identification tag if you have a chronic condition or look for one on a person who has any of the symptoms mentioned.
  • Get a personal emergency response system if you are elderly, especially if you live alone.

WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE NEEDS HELP

  • Remain calm, and call your local emergency number (such as 911).
  • Start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or rescue breathing, if necessary and if you know the proper technique.
  • Place a semiconscious or unconscious person in the recovery position until the ambulance arrives. DO NOT move the person, however, if there has been or may have been a neck injury.

Upon arriving at an emergency room, the person will be immediately evaluated. Life- or limb-threatening conditions will be treated first. People with conditions that are not life- or limb-threatening may have to wait.

CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER (SUCH AS 911) IF:

  • The person's condition is life-threatening (for example, the person is having a heart attack or severe allergic reaction)
  • The person's condition could become life-threatening on the way to the hospital
  • Moving the person could cause further injury (for example, in case of a neck injury or motor vehicle accident)
  • The person needs the skills or equipment of paramedics
  • Traffic conditions or distance might cause a delay in getting the person to the hospital

 

References

Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 190.

 
  • Stopping bleeding with direct pressure

    Stopping bleeding with direct pressure - illustration

    Bleeding from most injuries can be stopped by applying direct pressure to the injury. This keeps from cutting off the blood supply to the affected limb.

    Stopping bleeding with direct pressure

    illustration

  • Stopping bleeding with a tourniquet

    Stopping bleeding with a tourniquet - illustration

    When there is severe bleeding where a major artery has been severed, pressure may be insufficient and a tourniquet may be necessary. Tourniquets are an effective way of stopping bleeding from an extremity. They do, however, stop circulation to the affected extremity and should ONLY be used when other methods, such as pressure dressings, have failed (or are likely to fail). Pressure from tourniquets must be relieved periodically to prevent damage to the tissue from lack of oxygen.

    Stopping bleeding with a tourniquet

    illustration

  • Stopping bleeding with pressure and ice

    Stopping bleeding with pressure and ice - illustration

    Bleeding from most injuries can be stopped by applying direct pressure to the injury. This keeps from cutting off the blood supply to the affected limb. When there is severe bleeding, where a major artery has been severed, pressure may be insufficient and a tourniquet may be necessary.

    Stopping bleeding with pressure and ice

    illustration

  • Neck pulse

    Neck pulse - illustration

    To measure the pulse on the neck, place the index and middle finger just to the side of the Adam's apple, in the soft hollow area. This pulse is felt in the common carotid artery.

    Neck pulse

    illustration

    • Stopping bleeding with direct pressure

      Stopping bleeding with direct pressure - illustration

      Bleeding from most injuries can be stopped by applying direct pressure to the injury. This keeps from cutting off the blood supply to the affected limb.

      Stopping bleeding with direct pressure

      illustration

    • Stopping bleeding with a tourniquet

      Stopping bleeding with a tourniquet - illustration

      When there is severe bleeding where a major artery has been severed, pressure may be insufficient and a tourniquet may be necessary. Tourniquets are an effective way of stopping bleeding from an extremity. They do, however, stop circulation to the affected extremity and should ONLY be used when other methods, such as pressure dressings, have failed (or are likely to fail). Pressure from tourniquets must be relieved periodically to prevent damage to the tissue from lack of oxygen.

      Stopping bleeding with a tourniquet

      illustration

    • Stopping bleeding with pressure and ice

      Stopping bleeding with pressure and ice - illustration

      Bleeding from most injuries can be stopped by applying direct pressure to the injury. This keeps from cutting off the blood supply to the affected limb. When there is severe bleeding, where a major artery has been severed, pressure may be insufficient and a tourniquet may be necessary.

      Stopping bleeding with pressure and ice

      illustration

    • Neck pulse

      Neck pulse - illustration

      To measure the pulse on the neck, place the index and middle finger just to the side of the Adam's apple, in the soft hollow area. This pulse is felt in the common carotid artery.

      Neck pulse

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Recognizing medical emergencies

           

             

            Review Date: 1/13/2015

            Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, emergency medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
            adam.com

             
             
             

             

             

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.



            Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.