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What Are 5 Emergency Situations?

Two questions often asked about emergencies

People often wonder whether it’s best to call 911 or go straight to the hospital. Five emergency situations include chest pain, choking, stroke, heavy bleeding and severe head injury.

Most medical emergencies happen while people live their lives — working, shopping, exercising, eating, or sleeping. When a medical crisis occurs, knowing what to do is crucial. It’s important to have a plan.

People often wonder whether it’s best to call 911 or go straight to the hospital. If you are close to a hospital or emergency room, you may consider going there on your own. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it safe to move the person having an emergency? Is it even possible? A person in a medical crisis can be hard to move.
  • Will the ambulance be faster? Even if you are near a hospital, it’s possible to get stuck in traffic.
  • Could the person having the emergency need help on the way to the hospital? If so, an ambulance is the best choice.

You may also question whether you should perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case of a medical emergency. Perhaps you are afraid that you won’t do it correctly. Even untrained people can help in case of an emergency by doing hands-only CPR. 

You don’t have to do rescue breaths if you are untrained or unwilling. In emergencies, any CPR improves the person’s chances of survival.

Whether you are the one in danger or whether you are helping someone else, the first few minutes are important. In these five emergencies, do you know what to do?

What should you do about chest pain?

Of the millions of people who go to emergency rooms with chest pain, only about a fifth has a heart attack or a serious cardiac event. This is one time you do not want to play the odds. No one gets upset when someone’s chest pain turns out to be indigestion. Not taking chest pain seriously could be fatal.

The symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Dull pain in the center of the chest, sometimes feeling like tightness or pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or heaviness in the shoulders, neck, or arms
  • Cold sweat or clammy skin
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Shortness of breath

‌If you suspect a heart attack, always call 911. If you have chest pain, travel by ambulance. Emergency medical technicians can do an electrocardiogram and send it to the hospital ahead of your arrival, and the ambulance has the equipment to restart your heart if needed.

‌You should suspect cardiac arrest if you are with someone who suddenly becomes unresponsive. The person may gasp for air or stop breathing. You should immediately call 911. If you know how to do chest compressions, start them immediately. Ask for help from others who may know where to find an automated external defibrillator (AED) or who may have more experience with CPR.

What should you do if someone is choking?

Choking causes thousands of deaths each year. If a person is choking and cannot cough, speak, or breathe, you must act to clear the airway.

First, give five blows to the back with the flat of the hand. Follow that with five abdominal thrusts. Alternate these two until whatever is blocking the airway comes out. If the person becomes unresponsive, lower the person to the ground and call 911. Then look for an object in the throat. Begin CPR if you can’t physically clear the airway.

When a baby is choking, you’ll use a slightly different procedure. Hold the baby supported on your forearm with the head resting in your hand. Give five back slaps. Follow with five chest thrusts, using two fingers to press on the baby’s breastbone. 

You should not use abdominal thrusts on pregnant women. Use chest thrusts instead. You can also use chest thrusts if you can’t reach around the person who is choking. A doctor should check a person who has had a choking incident.

What are the signs that someone is having a stroke?

Everyone should know the F.A.S.T. warning signs of stroke:

  • Face Drooping.  If a person’s face droops or their smile is lopsided, they may have had a stroke. 
  • Arm Weakness. Stroke can cause one arm to feel weak or numb. Someone who has had a stroke may not raise both arms equally well.
  • Speech Difficulty. Slurred speech is also a sign of stroke.
  • Time to Call 911. If these symptoms are present, it’s time to get help.

Other symptoms to watch for include:

  • Numbness or weakness, especially on one side
  • Mental confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Severe headache

‌Quick action is crucial if you have stroke symptoms or if you suspect another person has had one. The person having the stroke should travel to the hospital in an ambulance so that treatment can begin right away.

What should you do if someone is bleeding heavily?

Loss of blood can be life-threatening — call 911. Then elevate the affected area above the heart. Apply direct pressure to the bleeding area using a pad of gauze or a clean, dry cloth. Don’t take the pad off to check the bleeding, or you may disturb clots forming. If blood has completely soaked the pad, add another on top and continue to apply pressure.

If direct pressure doesn’t work, you can push on one of the body’s pressure points. They are:

  • The brachial artery on the upper arm
  • The radial artery near the wrist
  • The popliteal artery behind the knee
  • The femoral artery on the upper thigh

Don’t continue to push on the pressure point if the bleeding stops. Don’t remove pads from the wound even if the bleeding stops. Secure them in place and wait for help.

How can you tell if a head injury is serious?

Even a minor head injury can be painful and scary. The head is richly supplied with blood, and a head injury may bleed heavily. Blood can collect under the skin and cause a lump. Also, you may have a lingering headache. If you wonder whether a head injury is more serious, look for signs of poor mental functioning:

  • trouble concentrating
  • sleepiness
  • confusion
  • garbled speech

The eyes may be affected, causing problems such as:

  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • unequal pupil size

Other symptoms can include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • poor balance
  • seizures
  • blood or fluid coming from ears or nose

These are signs of a concussion or a more serious injury. If you or someone in your care has any of these symptoms after a head injury, see a doctor. 


Emotional trauma is best described as a psychological response to a deeply distressing or life-threatening experience.
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Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2021



American Heart Association: “Emergency Treatment of Cardiac Arrest.”

American Red Cross: “Conscious Choking.”

American Stroke Association: “Stroke Symptoms.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Stroke Treatment.”

Circulation: “Survival in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest After Standard Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or Chest Compressions Only Before Arrival of Emergency Medical Services.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Chest pain: A heart attack or something else?”, “When chest pain strikes: What to expect at the emergency room,” “Emergencies and First Aid – Direct Pressure to Stop Bleeding.”

National Safety Council: “Choking Prevention and Rescue Tips.”

The University of Texas at Austin: “Head Trauma.”

Virginia Tech: “During a Medical Emergency.”

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