Medical emergencies at home and the importance of the first 15 minutes

Home is haven but home is also a hotbed of hazards – the staircase, the kitchen, the bathroom. Tripping and falling, accidental cuts, choking on toys, bumps and bruises… accidents happen with such regularity that it is almost a way of life. Adding to that list of unfortunate events are cases of heart attack, stroke, a baby not breathing, an epileptic fit; it is the sum of our worst nightmare.

Facts: About 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, but if CPR is administered immediately, it can double or triple a person’s chance of survival (American Heart Association); approximately 6,000 deaths occur annually as the result of a home accident (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, UK); the chance of survival can increase by up to 70% when a defibrillator is used within 3-5 minutes of collapse (Resuscitation Council, UK).

These statistics highlight that emergencies can happen anytime at home, and how we act is vital and time is of the essence.

First aid comes first

It is often said that a golden time exists immediately after a medical emergency. The more time is lost, the more detrimental it will be for the victim to recover or worst yet, the person dies. Rapid intervention is important so after calling the ambulance, you shouldn’t just idle around while help is on its way. Or, even if the trauma doesn’t need you to call for medical assistance, you should still stabilise your loved ones’ condition before sending them to the ER.

Instead of feeling helpless, do something! Which is why in critical times, the knowledge of first aid makes a huge difference between a life saved and a life lost. First aid skills are practical, easy to learn and can save lives. Whether you are a teenager or a senior citizen, you can sign up for first aid training which will prepare you to act with confidence in the face of emergencies, big and small.

Among the many household dynamics that make up the family unit, it is typical to find grandparents babysitting grandkids, grownup children living with elderly parents, teens accompanying older relatives, and older siblings looking after younger ones. Anything can happen under these situations so first aid skills are essential for everyone in the family.

Keep calm and perform first aid

First aid skills will allow you to act quickly the instance you find a family member in trouble at home due to a health condition or accident. Here are some things you will learn in first aid training:

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – Probably the most well-known first aid technique which includes a series of chest compression and rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). It is employed when a person is unresponsive and not breathing due to reasons such as cardiac arrest and drowning.

Recovery position­ – A technique of positioning victims to keep their airway open so that they can stay breathing as medical help arrives. The most basic of first aid when a person is found unresponsive and breathing.

Bandaging and dressing – Simple ways to control bleeding and support a limb until the injury can be looked at by a medical professional. Victims who are found bleeding or with injured limbs need to be treated immediately to limit excessive blood loss which will lead to shock and to support the fractured limbs to stop it from moving to avoid further damage, respectively.

Using a defibrillator – This is a device that delivers electric shock to the heart when a person’s heart has stopped. A portable version of it is called an automated external defibrillator (AED) which is safe and easy to use by non-medical personnel. It takes time for the ambulance to arrive so learning to use an AED within minutes after a family member collapses, increases the person’s chance of survival.

An old Malay saying warns that malang tidak berbau (misfortune doesn’t come with a warning) as another advises to sediakan payung sebelum hujan (be prepared in the face of calamity). In concert, traditional wisdom informs of preparedness so it is wise to take note. Let’s play a proactive part in emergencies to ensure that time is not wasted before your loved ones receive professional medical attention.