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Dealing with Emergencies: Part 1

What should I do if someone faints? How do I help someone who appears to be choking? These answers and more in Part 1 of Dealing with emergencies.

  1. What should I do if someone faints?
    Try to prevent him or her from getting hurt when falling. Put the patient in the recovery position on a bed or the floor. He or she should wake up within a few seconds. If it doesn’t look like a normal fainting spell or the person appears seriously ill, call an ambulance immediately. The number for ER24 is 084 124.
  2. I’ve burnt my hand on the stove – should I go to the hospital?
    First aid is the most important first step. Keep your hand under clean, cool running water for 15 to 20 minutes even if there is no blistering. This will prevent further damage to the deep skin sections that cause scarring and other complications. If there are many blisters or you are experiencing unbearable pain, you should consider going to the hospital for further assessment. Don’t use ice or frozen peas directly onto a burn because the freezing is harmful to the skin.
  3. How do I help someone who appears to be choking?
    If the person is coughing or is able to speak, let him or her settle down without interfering. Take him or her to the nearest doctor or hospital if the problem persists. If he or she can’t speak because of an obstructed airway or shows signs that they are choking (both hands around the neck), then you can attempt the Heimlich manoeuvre on an adult or backslaps and chest thrusts on a small child. This procedure is taught in basic life support and first-aid courses and it’s advisable to do this training if you want to be able to help someone who may choke one day.
  4. How deep should a cut be before I seek treatment?
    Even minor cuts can become infected. Clean them with a lot of tap water and ensure that your tetanus vaccinations are up to date (every five to 10 years). If the wound is gaping, even a little bit, or won’t stop bleeding after 3 minutes of direct pressure, then you should seek medical advice. Take special care with wounds on the face (these have cosmetic implications) and hands – in case of nerve, tendon or vessel damage.
  5. If I suspect a child has ingested a poisonous substance, how should I react?
    Stay calm. Call a poison advice service such as the Red Cross Children’s Hospital on 021 689 5227 immediately. Don’t induce vomiting or give the patient anything to drink before consulting with a health care provider. You can take your child to the nearest emergency centre for an examination and further treatment if he or she looks ill or if you’ve been instructed to do so by the poison advice line. Take the container along to help identify the suspected poisonous substance. If the child is unconscious, or behaving unusual, and breathing is irregular, rather call an ambulance to stabilize before transport.