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Healthy Living

What to do in a medical emergency

If a medical emergency arises, don't let yourself be caught off guard. Preparing an action plan ahead of time can make all the difference when minutes matter.

Is it an emergency?

The first part of the plan should be determining if you are faced with an emergency situation. Not every cut requires stitches, nor does every burn call for expert medical care. So how can you tell if a health problem may be an emergency?

According to the The American College of Emergency Physicians, some warning signs of a medical emergency include:

  • chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • uncontrolled bleeding
  • sudden and severe pain
  • coughing or vomiting blood
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision
  • severe or persistent vomiting

Take fast action

If you suspect an emergency situation exists, act quickly. Call "911" or go to the emergency room immediately.

Emergency action might include applying direct pressure on a wound or performing CPR, but you should never perform a medical procedure that you're not sure about.

If you are not sure whether an emergency situation exists, call your health care provider before calling for emergency services. Your doctor may be able to treat you quickly, potentially eliminating a trip to the emergency room.

Coordinating post-emergency care

If you haven't already done so, contact your doctor about your condition as soon as possible after emergency treatment. Your doctor will need this information to coordinate any follow-up care or hospitalization that may be necessary.

A reminder

Let your doctor know about any behavioral health and chemical dependency care that you receive, especially any medications prescribed. Informing your doctor helps him or her coordinate all aspects of your care and provide the most appropriate treatment. It also reduces the risk of drug interactions.

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