On a recent visit to the United States, all of the news outlets were discussing how to prevent the next terror attack. The law enforcement community has been very adamant in using a phrase for the public; “If you see something, say something”. Good advice. And when it comes to our health, there are times when you have to implement a similar policy. If I see something, or feel something, and it is abnormal, I have to do something about it quickly.
I have been helping people prevent health problems for a long time. I also have clients that have existing health issues and through lifestyle changes including proper eating, activity and exercise, they are able to reverse their disease or illness. But there is such a thing as an emergency that needs to be tended to immediately. I am not the kind of person who thinks that we should run into the doctor’s office for every little thing, but sometimes, episodes are not little and need attention.
What brings me to this article was something that happened to an acquaintance of mine. This person noticed a pain and overall discomfort in his foot and he even noticed some discoloration and swelling. He, like many, many people just hoped and figured it would go away. But it turned out he had an infection and it wasn’t treated in any way. The end result was a cellulitis-as defined by the Mayo Clinic, Cellulitis is a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender. It can spread rapidly to other parts of the body. But in the end, this person spent a week in the hospital in order to get the proper treatment for what was now a serious condition. You never know for sure, but it is possible this could have been solved before it got out of hand with some oral antibiotic and soaking.
We should all be educated enough to recognize signs and symptoms of a serious medical emergency and we should know what to do. The most common emergency in adults is a heart attack. How do I know if I am having one and what is the procedure for immediate help?
These are the common signs of a possible heart attack:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Cold sweat.
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.
This doesn’t mean that if you have one or more of these symptoms you are definitely having a heart attack, but caution must be taken. If you think you might be having a heart attack, do the following: Act immediately. Some people wait too long because they don’t recognize the important signs and symptoms. Take these steps:
- Call for emergency medical help. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, don’t hesitate. Immediately call your local emergency number. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital.
- Drive yourself only if there are no other options. Because your condition can worsen, driving yourself puts you and others at risk.
- Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed to you by a doctor. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.
- Take aspirin, if recommended. Taking aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage by helping to keep your blood from clotting. Aspirin can interact with other medications, however, so don’t take an aspirin unless your doctor or emergency medical personnel recommend it. Don’t delay calling your emergency number to take an aspirin. Call for emergency help first.
If you witness someone having a heart attack, call for help immediately before anything else. If the person is conscious, stay with them and keep them as calm and reassured as possible. Tell them help is on the way. If the person loses consciousness, call for help first before anything else. If the person is NOT breathing, begin CPR—for laymen now, the protocols are simple. Do chest compressions at the rate of about 100 per minute. Only if you are trained in CPR should you be executing rescue breaths as well. Help should arrive quickly. If you are not trained in CPR, it is a good idea to take a course in proper rescue and first aid.
Another common emergency is that of having a stroke. Beware of the symptoms:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Every moment counts. If you have any of these symptoms or are with someone who does, the sooner they get help, the less severe the aftermath of the stroke can be. Summon help at once through your local emergency number.
In most cases, bleeding is not a serious emergency, however, bleeding from an artery or major vein can lead to hypovolemic shock and death. If you see someone bleeding, put pressure, preferably with a clean dressing, immediately and hold it there. Don’t take it off. In the vast majority of cases, this will stop bleeding. If it is from a deep cut, then stitches or glue may be called for. If you are in a situation where you see someone bleeding out, do the following:
- Remove any obvious dirt or debris from the wound. Don’t remove large or deeply embedded objects. Don’t probe the wound or attempt to clean it yet. Your first job is to stop the bleeding. Wear disposable protective gloves if available.
- Stop the bleeding. Place a sterile bandage or clean cloth on the wound. Press the bandage firmly with your palm to control bleeding. Maintain pressure by binding the wound tightly with a bandage or a piece of clean cloth. Secure with adhesive tape. Use your hands if nothing else is available. Raise the injured part above the level of the heart.
- Don’t put direct pressure on an eye injury or embedded object.
- Don’t reposition or put pressure on displaced organs. Cover the wound with a clean dressing.
- Help the injured person lie down, preferably on a rug or blanket to prevent loss of body heat. If possible, elevate the legs.
- Don’t remove the gauze or bandage. If the bleeding seeps through the gauze or other cloth on the wound, add another bandage on top of it. And keep pressing firmly on the area.
- A tourniquet is effective in controlling life-threatening bleeding from a limb. Apply a tourniquet ONLY if you’re trained in how to do so. When emergency help arrives, explain how long the tourniquet has been in place.
- Immobilize the injured body part once the bleeding has stopped. Leave the bandages in place and get the injured person to the emergency room as soon as possible.
After you control the bleeding, call your local emergency number if the bleeding is the result of major trauma or injury. Also call for emergency help if you suspect internal bleeding.
(All first aid recommendations for all of the above emergencies are based on the protocols published by the Mayo Clinic)
Of course, it is best when we take care of ourselves in every way possible to reduce the chances of ever having an emergency medical incident. Exercising and eating right, as well as basic safety measures like wearing a seat belt in your car and a helmet, when you bike can go a long way to helping disease and illness prevention and trauma from accidents. But in the event a medical emergency is suspected, don’t say “It will go away!” It might–but it might not. This is not something we want to take a chance with
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a possible medical emergency will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”