How to be prepared for a medical emergency

Life is unpredictable. Nothing can be taken for granted and least of all – one’s health. Though maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting regular health check-ups will go a long way in preventing emergency situations, sometimes one just can’t be prepared enough. Here’s what you can do to be prepared well enough when faced with medical emergencies:

a) First-aid box – the best thing to have handy when faced with situations involving wounds, burns, cuts etc, whether it’s at home or office. A basic first aid box must contain an antiseptic solution, burnol, sterile cotton, gauze , adhesive medicated plasters, roller bandage, scissors and some basic pain killers. Check the box once in a while to see if any of the items mentioned above need to be replaced if they are beyond their expiry date.

b) Personal details – Everyone at home/office should have a card in their purse containing –a list of medications they are on (if any), health conditions eg – diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, known allergies, previous surgeries or procedures , blood group, contact number and address in case of emergency , treating doctor’s contact details. This can prevent a lot of confusion and disasters in the emergency room.

c) Important numbers – There are some numbers which ought to be stored on all family members’ mobiles – Emergency numbers for hospitals nearby, numbers of ambulance services (102 in the national number for ambulance services), two of your neighbors’, numbers of two relatives or friends who stay close by, your doctor’s numbers. At home, maintain a small diary for all this information and let everyone in the family including house-help learn to use it well.

d)Medical records – Never and I repeat, never discard any medical records and prescriptions. Everyone in the family should have a dedicated file which contains all the medical records for ready reference. CT scan, MRI, X-ray films should be stored safely and can even be kept in CD format as most centers provide at present. This not only prevents medical disasters but can go a long way in saving you from unnecessary tests, medications and surgeries. Nowadays, there are websites that let you store your medical records online. All you need to do is upload your records diligently and in the case of an emergency, just remember your login and password!

e)Medical Insurance – With the rising costs of health care it is prudent to set aside a certain amount of money for medical insurance. There are a good number of schemes available. It is best to contact your agent for this. Make sure that the annual premium is paid in time to prevent embarrassing situations at the hospital later. Get yourself educated well about the conditions that are covered by your insurance company and the requirements you need to fulfill in order to get reimbursed. If you have a TPA card, make sure you carry it with you in your wallet all the time.

f)Getting trained in First aid/Basic life support – For those who think that being prepared is serious business, get one step ahead in by getting certified in basic life support techniques. These are one-day courses conducted at various hospitals. All you have to do is approach them for guidance. The most important part of this course is CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). This can be a real life saver when faced with an unresponsive person who has stopped breathing or whose heart may have stopped beating due to various causes like heart attack, drowning, sudden collapse to lung problems, stroke, severe allergic reaction etc. Till medical help arrives, on-site CPR has saved many lives the world over.

g)In the emergency room – It can get very busy in the ER and doctors will need a quick history and examination to make some critical decisions regarding investigation and treatment. The doctor will ask details about the present event and a past history of other medical conditions, personal history and a family history of other ailments. It was stressed earlier regarding the need for a card containing all the personal details handy. It is important to remain calm and composed and not get ruffled by the happenings on at the ER. An accurate description of the sequence of events can be very helpful to the physician.

h)Keep your medicine cabinet well stocked – Make sure you have a supply of medicines that you keep aside and will last you at least a week. This can be really useful when it comes to unforeseen circumstances like the medicines getting out of stock at your pharmacy or you have to suddenly go out of station.
Here is a list of common medical emergencies that you may face in day to day life and the measures you should take:

Cuts, wounds – Put pressure on the site, clean wound properly, apply medicated bandage. Deeper, larger wounds may require stitches

Sudden fainting in an otherwise healthy person – Make person lie down immediately and lift lower limbs to encourage blood circulation back to heart. If pulse cannot be felt or you cannot see him/her breathing, perform CPR

Sudden chest pain in a known hypertensive, diabetic – Nitrate tablets to be kept in the mouth below tongue. CPR if he/she collapses with no pulse/breathing
Low sugar leading to fainting attack in a diabetic – Immediately place some sugar in mouth
Seizures (fits) – Turn patient to one side while lying down. Try to prevent tongue bite by placing a cloth in the mouth between teeth
Fire emergencies – If clothes catch fire, stop moving, drop and roll on the floor. Cover face with hands. Know locations of fire exits/extinguishers
Fractures – Splint across the fractured portion with stick/newspaper and tie with string /rope to keep in place
Drowning – Evacuate person from water and start CPR in case no breathing and pulse detected. Keep warm.
Choking – Remove any visible material causing choking with a finger sweep, encourage person to cough. Try slapping the upper back hard with the heel of your hand. In case all measures fail, try the Heimlich Maneuver

This list is not exhaustive. The bottom line is that prevention is always better than cure and to be well prepared is to avoid dangerous medical catastrophe. The scouts’ motto ‘Be prepared, be prepared and be prepared’ holds very true.

SOURCE – HEALTH INDIA

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