When it comes to your health or the health of someone in your family, it is often very obvious if the person is seriously ill and needs immediate emergency care. An emergency is a critical or life-threatening situation.
To help you decide what a critical situation is, here are some examples:
- A suspected stroke
- Heavy blood loss
- Suspected broken bones
- A deep wound (e.g. a stab wound)
- A suspected heart attack
- Difficulty in breathing or choking
- Severe burns
- A severe allergic reaction
There are a few things that you should remember in any emergency. These will help you to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently.
- Stay calm, shout for help. You may need to instruct someone to telephone 999. Make sure they know where the ambulance has to come to and they have some details about the person who is injured or ill.
- Don’t put yourself in danger (e.g. if someone has been electrocuted, make sure you switch off the power supply before touching them)
- Do everything you can to help the person
- Don’t give the person anything to eat, drink or smoke
- Don’t stick anything in their mouth
- Follow the instructions the ambulance service call handler may give you
The way to help a person very often depends on what is wrong with them. Sometimes, the quickest way to help is to take the person to the nearest accident and emergency department. However, since the Royal Glamorgan Hospital is fairly close, you should call an ambulance and not move the patient if:
- You think they may have hurt their back or neck (or have any other injury that may be made worse by moving them)
- The person is in shock and needs your constant attention
- The person has severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
Severe chest pain or a heart attack may appear as:
- Vice-like pain in the middle of the chest, often spreading down the left arm and jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden faintness or giddiness
- Grey pallor to the skin
- Lips look blue
If this occurs you must ring 999 and get an emergency ambulance. Stay with the person and try and make them as comfortable as possible.
Also, if you suffer from angina and your chest pain continues beyond 10 minutes despite several puffs of GTN spray you must dial 999 in case of a heart attack.
If the patient is unconscious, there is a safe position to put them in which allows them to breathe easily and stops them choking on any vomit. However, you must first carefully consider whether there is any chance that the casualty has hurt their back or neck, or has an injury that would be made worse by moving them. Putting them in the recovery position in this case could have serious consequences. If you are in any doubt, and the casualty is in no further danger by being left in their original position, do not move them. Wait for the paramedics to arrive.
Once you have checked that they are breathing normally, lie them on one side, with a cushion at their back, bring their knee forward, and point their head downward to allow any vomit to escape without them swallowing it or breathing it in. Remember, when you are moving the patient onto their side, make sure their neck and back are well supported.
Parents are usually good at noticing when something is wrong with their baby. However, many parents worry that they won’t recognise the signs that their baby is unwell.
If you notice any of the following in your baby, dial 999 immediately as your baby may need urgent medical attention:
- Your baby is not breathing or is unconscious
- Your baby seems breathless or is breathing much faster than usual
- Your baby looks very pale or their skin is blue or dusky around the lips
- Your baby is having a convulsion (fit)
- Your baby feels floppy or limp (perhaps when cuddled)
- The soft spot (fontanelle) on your baby’s head is tense or bulging
If you notice any of the following in your baby, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647. A nurse advisor will assess your baby over the phone and advise you on the most appropriate course of action to take:
- Your baby is drooling excessively instead of swallowing their own saliva
- Your baby’s skin looks bruised or discoloured
- When awake, your baby seems unusually drowsy or not interested in looking at you
- Your baby’s cry seems different (perhaps moaning, whimpering or high-pitched) and soothing doesn’t help
- Your baby is not interested in feeding
- Your baby is not responding to you normally
- Your baby appears to have severe leg pain or tenderness
- Your baby is developing a rash
- Your baby seems irritable and does not like being touched
- Your baby has cold hands or feet and a fever (a temperature over 38C or 100.4F)
- Your baby has a fever (a high temperature that is over 38C or 100.4F) or is flushed, hot and sweaty
- Your baby is not wetting or soiling his/her nappies as normal
- Your baby is projectile vomiting. Projectile vomiting is when a baby brings up the contents of their stomach with such force that the vomit covers a distance of several feet
- Your baby starts vomiting. Vomiting is different from the small amount of milk that most babies bring up after feeding (known as possetting) – vomiting normally happens a while after feeding, the quantity of milk is larger, and the milk may be curdled and smell nasty.
Remember, you know your baby better than anyone else. Small children can become ill quickly, so check them often. If you are worried that your baby may be ill, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice.