What to do in a medical emergency - How to provide life-saving First-Aid


A sudden medical emergency can make the best of us go cold. What do you do if someone has a heart attack or collapses suddenly? There are certain basic procedures that need to be followed. Learn what to do in a medical emergency.

A medical emergency can happen at any time, without warning. A heart attack, a sudden bout of dizziness that results in unconsciousness or a fall or anything that has probable life-threatening consequences is a critical medical condition that requires immediate first-aid followed by medical assistance. The first few minutes, immediately after a medical emergency occurs, are the most crucial according to medical experts. If a patient receives proper first-aid within the first few minutes of an emergency, the chances or survival and full recovery are high. Your actions in the first few minutes of a medical emergency could help save someone's life.

Knowledge of simple, yet significant procedures can empower you to provide basic first-aid in a medical emergency – and help you in saving someone's life. The techniques described below can help you deal with the most common medical emergencies, until such time that professionals take over.



The ABC of First Aid


In a potentially life-threatening medical emergency check the patient's response to a gentle shake and loud command.

If the patient is conscious make them comfortable, loosen clothes and open windows for fresh air. Place them in the recovery position and check the airway, the breathing and the circulation. In case the patient is unconscious turn them on the side and proceed to clear airway.

The Airway


The first thing to do in a medical emergency is to check the patient's airway for any obstruction in the air passage and then proceed to position them in the recovery position so the airway remains open. The recovery position is the safest posture for someone who is in an unconscious state.

An unconscious person can neither cough nor spit-out or swallow, and is at a risk of choking on vomit, or any food, fluid or blood trapped in their airway. Any blockage of the airway can prove to be fatal. The airway is the passage that connects the nose and mouth to the lungs.

How to perform an Airway Check


  • Prise open the patients mouth to ensure that nothing is blocking the air passage
  • Use the index and middle finger to dislodge food or anything else that may be obstructing the airway
  • Do not, probe deep into the airway
  • Straighten the tongue if it has flipped backward as it could cause an obstruction to the airway
  • Gently tilt the patient's head backwards and bring the chin forward, ensuring that the jaw is firmly supported
  • This action keeps the airway open and stops the tongue from flipping backward, blocking it
  • Make the patient's face tilt slightly downwards, so any fluid in the mouth, can drain out

The Breathing


A patient who is not breathing will have to be given artificial respiration, through the mouth to mouth resuscitation. This is essential because the patient's lungs need to be ventilated, so the supply of oxygen, which is vital for survival, is maintained.

Check if the patient is breathing, look for the rise and fall movement of the chest and abdomen, which will indicate whether or not the patient is breathing. Listen for breathing sounds that the patient might be making or place your fingers near the nose or the mouth to feel the air coming out. Sometimes, the breathing can be very shallow.

How to check the patient is breathing


  • Hold the patient's airway open and kneel beside the patient's head
  • Lean forward and bring your face close to the patient's mouth
  • Listen for the sound of breathing and observe the chest and abdomen for movement
  • Place your fingers close to the mouth and the nose and feel for breath being blown out
  • The patient's breathing might be shallow, watch for all signs
  • If there is no sign of breathing, start artificial resuscitation immediately

The Circulation


Feel for the patient's pulse. If none can be found then it is an indication that the patient's heart has stopped beating and it is a serious emergency. In such a situation the circulation of the blood ceases and the patient stops breathing too. The patient will die unless cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is provided. This is a life-saving procedure, in an emergency, and if performed properly and in time, it can save the patient's life.

It does not make a difference where on the patient's body you take the pulse. You can do whatever you are comfortable with, however, the carotid artery, located in the neck, is the easiest to locate in an unconscious person. The best way to know the exact location of the carotid artery it is to first locate it on your own neck. In a healthy adult, the pulse rate ranges from 60 to 80 per minute. In children, the pulse rate is much faster.



How to carry out a pulse check


  • It is easy to find the pulse on the carotid artery, on the left and the right side of the windpipeCheck for the pulse for no more than 10 seconds
  • If you cannot feel the pulse, begin the CPR immediately
  • The carotid artery is difficult to find in babies, unless you are a trained medical practitioner. If a baby is involved then check for the pulse on the inside of the upper arm, in the hollow between the two muscles on the upper arm
  • Use your index and middle finger to feel the pulse
  • Give CPR if pulse is missing

Do not panic when you are faced with an emergency situation. You need to act quickly and keep your wits about you, knowing what to do. Learn how to perform CPR, it is an essential first-aid technique that everyone should know. It can be used in various medical emergencies such as severe burns or during an emergency delivery.


Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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