How to handle an emergency

August 01, 2017 | by Siva Krishnan, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

There are some situations where you just know you’re going to need help.

Your child falls from a treehouse and now her arm is bent in an unnatural way – clearly broken. Your elderly father has been working in the yard all afternoon on a hot summer day and now isn’t looking or feeling so well.

You’re pretty sure you should head to an Emergency Department. But should you just put everyone in the car and go? Should you grab an ice pack for the ride there?

There are a few things you could do before heading out the door.

Before you even get in the car, determine whether it would be better to call for an ambulance.

The American College of Emergency Physicians recommends calling 911 if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

  • Does the person's condition appear life-threatening?
  • Could the person's condition worsen and become life-threatening on the way to the hospital?
  • Could moving the person cause further injury?
  • Does the person need the skills or equipment employed by paramedics or emergency medical technicians?
  • Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the person to the hospital?
  • Is the person having anaphylaxis — a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction?

If you drive to the hospital, know the location and the fastest route to the nearest emergency department.

The American College of Emergency Physicians also offers this comprehensive list of injuries and illness and how to pre-treat each before getting help, if needed.

For example, if you suspect a broken bone:

  • Don’t move someone with a broken bone unless the person could be injured further if he or she isn’t moved.
  • If you must move the person, splint the broken bone so it doesn’t move and apply ice to reduce swelling.

Whether you get help in an ambulance or you drive to the hospital, it’s best for a patient not to eat or drink anything until a doctor says it’s okay.

If you’re heading to the ER with a child, you may want to grab a loved stuffed animal or blanket for comfort, along with something to occupy your time as you may be in for a wait (don’t forget that cell phone charger!).

Since you never know when an emergency may arise, plan ahead! Learn CPR and keep first aid kits in your home and car. Figure out where the nearest emergency room is located.

It makes sense to write down your family members’ medical histories ahead of time — include allergies, previous illness or surgery, family history and immunizations — so you can grab it and go without having to think about it. Don’t forget to bring your medical insurance card and a photo ID.

Learn more about emergency care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Read related blogs:

When to take your child to the ER

How (and when) to treat a burn at home

What to do if someone is poisoned


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