4 Health Emergencies You Should Be Ready for
By: Stacey Colino
A whopping 119 million people visit the emergency room each year. While you can’t avoid life’s accidents, did you know that you can impact healing before the pros step in?
Knowing what to do in the seconds or minutes immediately after a health crisis can make a big difference in your quality of life forever, says Dr. Ryan Stanton, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. Here’s how to handle each of these health emergencies, which could happen any minute.
Health Emergency No. 1: A Deep Cut
You’re dicing vegetables like an “Iron Chef” pro when a wrong tilt of the blade slices your finger pretty deep.
- What to do: Put firm, steady pressure on the wound with a clean cloth or towel and keep it there until you can get to a hospital, says Stanton. You’ll most likely need stitches.
- What not to do: Don’t keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped. “Every time you release the pressure, the clot dislodges, and the wound will bleed again,” says Stanton. And don’t use a tourniquet: “If it’s on too long, you will cut off the blood flow and oxygen supply,” he says.
Health Emergency No. 2: A Lost Tooth
While running at lightning speed on one of your morning runs, you trip and hit the pavement face-first, your front tooth landing a few feet away.
- What to do: If the tooth is dirty, grab the hard end of the tooth -- not the root! -- rinse it off and place it in a container of milk or in a clean, moist cloth. Then get to a dentist or emergency room ASAP. “Teeth can be re-implanted in up to about an hour,” says Stanton.
- What not to do: Don’t put the tooth in water, wrap it in tissue or gauze, or allow it to dry out. And definitely don’t handle the root, which could cause it to die. (“Once the root is dead, the tooth can’t be re-implanted,” says Stanton.)
Health Emergency No. 3: Choking Alone
You’re sneaking in one of your guilty pleasures -- a hot dog -- when it gets lodged in your throat. You can’t breathe … and you’re alone in the house.
- What to do: If you’re choking and you’re alone, make a fist with one hand, wrap your other hand around it, and push your hands hard into the gap beneath your ribs, pulling your fists in toward your belly and up toward your lungs to dislodge what’s stuck. “It has to be really forceful to force your lungs to blow out the item like an air cannon,” says Stanton.
- What not to do: Don’t sweep your finger blindly into your mouth, because you could push the item farther into the airway, warns Stanton. If you can talk or make sounds, your airway is open, so try to relax and take easy breaths.
Health Emergency No. 4: Fainting
At work, there are rumors of layoffs again. Panicked, you start to visualize life without income, when suddenly things get fuzzy and you can’t see.
- What to do: When you’re stressed, your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen; a lack of oxygen can lead to a fainting spell. If you get cold sweats or start to feel dizzy, unsteady or like the world is closing in, lie down on the ground. “This gets blood flowing back to the brain,” says Stanton. Plus, it prevents you from falling into something and injuring yourself. Fainting spells generally last one to two minutes.
- What not to do: Don’t try to remain standing if you feel faint, and don’t get up too quickly after you recover. Also, don’t drive until you’re certain your symptoms have resolved.
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