Are you prepared for an emergency? Knowing what constitutes an emergency, where to get help and what to do while you're waiting for help can save a life. Here are some tips from the American College of Emergency Physicians.
First, remember that prevention remains the best cure. Get routine medical and preventive care from a family doctor. Getting necessary immunizations and treating minor illnesses before they get serious can minimize visits to the emergency department.
Learn how to recognize emergency warning signs.
Some warning signs of a medical emergency include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure, fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision, confusion or change in mental status, sudden severe pain, bleeding that won't stop, severe or persistent vomiting, coughing up or vomiting blood, suicidal or homicidal feelings.
Know where to get help.
If your community has the 911 emergency number, dialing it will put you in touch with emergency medical help.
Not all communities use this system, so be sure you know which number to use and keep it posted near the phone. Even small children can be taught to dial an emergency number.
Learn what to do until help arrives.
Knowing CPR and choking rescue procedures is important, especially if you have small children in the house. Your local American Red Cross or American Heart Association chapter may offer these courses. It's also important to know the basics of first aid, so you can stop serious bleeding, manage shock or handle fractures until emergency help arrives.
It's also important to know what not to do.
While it's smart to keep Syrup of Ipecac in the house in case your child swallows poison, it should not be used with all poisons. Call the Poison Control Center or the emergency department for advice.
Never move anyone who is unconscious or has struck his head or was injured in a car crash, unless he or she is in danger.
When treating burns, don't use ice or butter or petroleum jelly. If burns blister, are large or deep, get immediate emergency help.
For a free brochure about emergency medical help, send a self-addressed-stamped envelope to: Seconds Save Lives, American College of Emergency Physicians, 2121 K. St, NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20037.