Learn first aid, save a life

If someone was choking in front of you, would you know how to save them? 

Here’s your handy guide so you know how to help in a first aid emergency. 

The common emergencies in South Africa are related to:

  • Heart disease (heart attack).
  • Asthma.
  • Diabetes.
  • Epilepsy.

Heart attack
The symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Severe central “crushing” chest pain.
  • Pain radiating into the neck or arms.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea and vomitting.

How to help
Rest the person, i.e. don’t let them walk anywhere. Provide oxygen via a mask if possible. Get the person to the nearest hospital by ambulance (ambulances have all the right equipment to treat patients), as soon as possible.

Asthma is a very common respiratory disease which causes the lung air passages to narrow due to inflammation, swelling, mucous production and spasm of the muscle in the walls of the air passages.

The person will be short of breath and may exhibit wheezing (high-pitched sound on expiration). In severe asthma they may not be able to talk, will have a very fast pulse and may be confused. The asthmatic patient will want to sit up to facilitate breathing.

Provide oxygen if you can. If they have an asthma pump they can attempt to use, allow them to try, but don’t delay getting them to hospital if the symptoms are severe. Transport the patient to the nearest emergency centre in a sitting position or call an ambulance.

Diabetics rely on injected insulin or tablets to keep their blood sugar at normal levels. Occasionally they can inject too much insulin, or because they don’t eat at the right time the tablets or insulin lower the blood sugar, causing loss of consciousness.

The person may complain of sweating, anxiety and heart palpitations before lapsing into unconsciousness. If they’re diabetic they will usually know they are going “hypo” and will eat something.

If they’re unconscious, smear glucose gel onto the gums and get them to a hospital as soon as possible. Low blood glucose is life- threatening.

Epilepsy is a very common condition. During an epileptic fit, the person may lose consciousness or lose control of their bladder.

Management of a patient having a seizure is to turn them on their side and protect the head from injury. Allowing the patient to seize on their back may cause a severe head injury.

Allow the seizure to pass and then monitor the patient on their side while you wait for an ambulance.

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