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What to Do If... Guidelines On How To Handle "Life-Threatening" Situations

Written: 02/26/2008


Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency is not something that we often think about, or want to, but it is extremely important. An average of 18,048 people died each year from unintentional home injuries between 1992 and 1999, and that doesn't include injuries that occurred outside of the home.

This topic is very important , and the tips that can help protect you and your loved ones in times of emergency.

What to Do If …

  1. Your Teeth Get Knocked Out (or Broken)

    If your tooth has been knocked out, you should get to your dentist immediately, as he or she may be able to reimplant the tooth. To transport the tooth, use any of these options (and do it quickly, as the longer you wait, the less chances of a successful reimplantation):

    • Put the tooth back in the socket. Bite down on gauze or a wet tea bag to help keep it in place.

  2. Store the tooth in a small container covered with a small amount of whole milk or saliva.

  3. If you cannot get it into the socket, the tooth can be carried between the lower lip and lower gum or under the gum. (Be careful not to swallow the tooth.)

  4. Special devices called Save-a-Tooth and EMT Tooth Saver, which contain a case and a special fluid to use if a tooth is knocked out, may be available from your dentist to keep in your first-aid kit.


  5. When handling the tooth, only touch the chewing end, not the root. You can also apply a cold compress to the mouth area to ease pain and apply pressure, using gauze, to control bleeding.

    If a tooth is fractured, you should seek medical help immediately, as exposed nerve tissue could become infected. Small chips are less of an emergency, but should be looked at by your dentist.
  6. You Break a Bone

    Most importantly, stay still, don't attempt to "test" to see if you can move the bone and don't try to straighten or reposition the bone. In most cases, you can call 911 or get to an emergency room for further treatment. However, if the skin is broken, lightly rinse it to remove any visible dirt and cover it with a sterile dressing. If necessary, you can use a rolled up newspaper or strip of wood as a splint to immobilize the area above and below the injured bone. Ice packs can be applied to reduce pain and swelling while waiting for medical attention. Note: Never attempt to move a person who has a possible spine injury.

  7. You Get Food Poisoning

    If you think you have eaten something bad, and two to six hours later start to have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weakness and headache, you may have food poisoning. In most cases, food poisoning will resolve itself in a couple of days. You should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, and children should be given an electrolyte drink. Avoid eating any solid foods or dairy products until the diarrhea has passed.

    If you are unable to keep fluids down due to nausea or vomiting, or the illness lasts longer than two to three days, you may need medical attention to prevent dehydration. Also, if you have eaten toxic mushrooms or shellfish, you should get to an emergency room as your stomach may need to be emptied.

  8. You are Choking

    Try to cough forcefully to dislodge the item. However, if a person is unable to speak or breathe, the Heimlich maneuver should be performed by:

    • Wrapping your arms around the person's waist from behind
    • Making a fist and placing the thumb side just above the person's navel (below the breastbone)
    • Grasping the fist with your over hand and making quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fist
    • For pregnant women or obese people, you should wrap your arms around their chest, place your fist on the middle of the breastbone between the nipples and make backward thrusts


    This should be continued until the item is dislodged or the person loses consciousness. If this happens, CPR should be administered and 911 should be called immediately.

  9. You Have Heatstroke or Another Heat Emergency

    Heat emergencies begin with excessive sweating, fatigue, thirst and muscle cramps, but can progress to be much more serious, particularly among children, the elderly and people who are obese. Heat cramps can lead to heat exhaustion, caused by dehydration, and then heatstroke (the most serious heat emergency, which can cause shock, brain damage, organ failure and even death).

    If you or a family member feels the heat is getting to you (you may feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, weak or have a headache), you should:

    • Lie down in a cool place with the feet elevated one foot
    • Apply cool wet cloths or cool water to the skin, cold compresses to the neck, groin and armpits and use a fan to lower body temperature
    • Give the person a salted drink (either a sport's drink or water with salt added, one teaspoon salt per quart of water) or cool water, one-half cup every 15 minutes (do NOT give any fluids if the person is vomiting or unconscious)
    • Massage any cramping muscles until they relax.
    • If the person shows signs of shock, seizures or loses consciousness, call 911 immediately

  10. You Sprain Your Ankle

    The first thing to do after a sprain is to apply an ice pack to reduce swelling (wrap the ice in a cloth, don't apply it directly to the skin). Next, keep the sprained area immobilized by wrapping it firmly in an ACE bandage, or by using a splint if necessary. You should then elevate the sprain above heart level (even during sleep) and rest it for several days. All pressure should be kept off the injury until it stops hurting, which may require the use of crutches.

    If you suspect a broken bone, have severe pain or hear a popping sound, you should go to the emergency immediately. Further, you should call your doctor if swelling persists for more than two days, you see signs of infection or pain persists for more than several weeks.

  11. You Dislocate Your Finger/Shoulder

    A dislocation occurs when the bone and joint separate, and it may be hard to distinguish this injury from a broken bone. If you suspect a dislocation, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. In the meantime, keep the person still and, if skin is broken, rinse any excess dirt and cover it with a sterile dressing.

    You should then use a splint or a sling to keep the injury in the position you found it -- do NOT move the joint. Ice packs should be applied to reduce pain and swelling. You can also check for blood circulation near the injury by pressing on the skin. If blood is circulating properly, the skin will turn white and regain color in a couple of seconds.

  12. You Have a Nosebleed

    Most nosebleeds can be resolved on their own by sitting down and gently squeezing the nostrils closed for five to 10 minutes. You should lean forward so you don't swallow the blood and breathe through your mouth. After five minutes, you can check to see if bleeding has stopped. If necessary, you can apply a cold compress to the bridge of the nose, but you should not attempt to plug your nostrils with gauze or tissue.

    If the bleeding does not stop after 20 minutes, the nosebleed occurred after a head injury or the nose may be broken (see below), you should get to the emergency room.

  13. You Break Your Nose

    If you suspect your nose is broken, you should breathe through your mouth, sit down and lean forward so blood does not run down the back of your throat. Cold compresses can be gently applied to the nose to reduce swelling, and you should go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately.

  14. You Get Frostbite

    Frostbitten skin will be pale, cold and have no feeling, and later will change to red and painful before the final stages of white, numb skin when the tissue actually begins to freeze. If you suspect you have frostbite, you should move to a warmer place, remove any jewelry or wet clothing, wrap the area in sterile dressings (separate fingers and toes) and get to an emergency room immediately.

    If medical attention is not immediately available, you should follow these steps:

    • Immerse the frostbitten area in warm (NOT hot) water, or apply warm clothes, for 20-30 minutes. This may cause pain, swelling and color changes, and the process is complete when the skin is soft and has regained feeling.
    • Do NOT rub or massage the frostbitten areas.
    • Apply sterile dressings to the areas, separating fingers and toes.
    • Keep the areas as still as possible, and keep them warm to prevent re-freezing. If you cannot keep the areas from re-freezing, it may be better to delay the initial warming process until a safe location can be reached, as re-freezing can case even more severe tissue damage than the initial frostbite.
    • Give the person warm drinks to replace any lost fluids.
References: Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia


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