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5 Common Medical Emergencies and How to Handle Them

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Medical emergencies can happen to anyone and at any time, whether at home, at work, or running errands. Many of these situations can pose a serious risk to a person’s health or life. In most cases, the best thing to do is call for medical help; however, in some circumstances, the individual might not get immediate assistance due to accessibility issues. In such a situation, staying calm and knowing the proper first aid measure to administer can help save lives.

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Because you’ll never know when a medical emergency can happen, it’s a good idea to be prepared by keeping yourself informed on how you can best deal with them. From burns to chest pains, here are some common medical emergencies and what you can do to keep them from getting worse:


Burns can happen when the skin comes in contact with fire, hot metal, or an object charged with a high-tension electric current. If it’s a minor burn, begin exposing the affected area with cool running water for several minutes. Don’t use ice as this can damage the skin further. Then, apply a light gauze bandage over the burned area. If needed, take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve any pain. For major burns that cover more than a 3-inch area of the skin or are found on the face, hands, feet, or over a major joint, seek immediate medical attention.


Wounds caused by sharp instruments like a razor or knife can lead to bleeding. During such an emergency, your priority is to stop the bleeding. Start with locating the wound and rinsing it with clean water. Cover the wound with gauze or a clean cloth like a towel, blanket, or a section of clothing. Then, apply direct pressure to the area to stop the flow of blood and encourage clotting. To slow down the loss of blood, elevate the bleeding body part above the head if you can. Once the bleeding has stopped, place a clean bandage on the wound.

If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, the wound is too deep, or blood is soaking through the bandages, bring the patient to the emergency room.


Another common medical emergency you might encounter is a sprain. This is an injury of the cartilage and ligaments, the connective tissues that hold the bones and joints together. A sprain usually happens when the twisting of a joint overstretches or tears these tissues and is common in the ankles and wrists. A lot of people sustain this injury during different activities like playing sports.

While sprains often don’t require emergency treatment, they do need immediate care if the injured individual feels severe pain when they move or are touched. They also need proper medical attention if the person can’t put weight on the injured joint or show little or no improvement a week after the injury.

For some basic treatment, you can apply first aid by applying a cold pack to the affected area. Keeping the limb as still as possible also helps.


Anyone can be prone to choking, which occurs when their windpipe gets blocked either by food or an object. This is a serious medical emergency and can lead to unconsciousness or death if the proper first aid isn’t administered.

A person who is choking shows signs like gagging, gasping, grabbing their throat, or turning blue in the face. Use the Heimlich maneuver, a series of abdominal thrusts, to dislodge the food or object they’re choking on. To do the Heimlich maneuver properly, stand behind the person and lean them slightly forward, then put your arms around their waist. Clench one fist and put it in between their navel and rib cage. Finally, grab your clenched fist with your other hand and pull it sharply backward and upward under their rib cage in five quick thrusts. Repeat this until they cough up the object or food stuck in their throat.

Chest Pains

If you encounter someone who suddenly grabs their chest and complains about pains in that area, it’s safe to assume they could be having a heart attack. The initial action is to call for medical help. While waiting, check the person’s airway, breathing, and circulation. Are they breathing properly and do they have a pulse? If not, start doing chest compressions or CPR.

The important factor to remember when doing CPR is to position the injured person’s head with their chin up and make sure their tongue is out of the way. Then, you can proceed with the chest compressions.

Although there’s no better substitute for immediate medical care when it comes to these common medical emergencies, you can do something, so the situation doesn’t get worse. Having said that, consider enrolling in a first aid class. It will help prepare you to manage medical emergencies, which could help save someone’s life.  

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