When people think of preparing for emergencies, stocking up on food, water and equipment is the first thing that comes to mind. This might be followed by training with the new equipment, but only to a limited degree. We start to plan and prepare for what could happen and how we can make it through. Usually, the idea of the end of the world is associated with “prepping,” even though it’s a low-risk event. Why not start preparing for situations that we can encounter on a daily basis?

Medical emergencies play no favorites. It can happen to anyone, at any time and anywhere. Whether you are prepared for it or not, it will happen and something will need to be done. Not all medical emergencies are life-threatening, but when they are, seconds count. Understanding how to identify and treat life-threatening injuries is the first step to a positive outcome.

To dive deeper into the treatment of life-threatening injuries, we have to first know what we are looking for. The two major concerns to remember are massive hemorrhaging (bleeding), and a compromised airway. These issues have very different treatments but share one thing in common; you have limited time to fix them.

Massive Hemorrhaging

It may be unlikely, but the amount of time you have to react and treat is what makes it the leading cause of preventable death. When encountering a medical emergency, you want to do what is called a “Blood Sweep” to check the body for any bleeding. During the blood sweep, we are looking for arterial bleeding, which can be identified as squirting, spurting, pooling, or soaking. If you have never seen a good amount of blood, any amount looks like a lot. This is why we look at how the injury is bleeding to identify if we need to treat it now or if it can wait for later.

Once you have identified that it is an arterial bleed, we need to stop the blood flow to prevent the person from bleeding out. Two procedures can be done to accomplish this: Using a tourniquet high and tight on the limb to stop the bleeding, or packing the wound with gauze making sure we have direct contact with the vessel.

Airway Compromise

If you don’t see any bleeding that can lead to bigger issues, such as death, we need to consider the person’s airway. A compromised airway is the second leading cause of preventable death and a lot more likely to be encountered. We can check to see if the airway is open by looking, listening, and feeling if the person is breathing. Look to see if the chest or stomach rise, place your hand on their chest and face near their mouth to feel if there is movement, and listen for signs of breathing. To open the airway, simply tilt the head back by using the commonly known “Head Tilt, Chin Lift” method.

One of the bigger concerns we have to think about is the possible development of a tension pneumothorax. This will happen when the chest has received some sort of trauma, causing a tear in the lining around the lungs and allowing air in. You will see an injury like this develop when a hole around the chest has been found. You might not have the tools to reverse the issue, but you can always keep it from getting worse. The hole needs to be covered to prevent air from getting in, so a pre-made chest seal is ideal for this situation. If you don’t have one available, you can use plastic that is designed to keep air out ( like a food wrapper) to accomplish the same task.

Once you understand how the equipment works, you can find ways to improvise. However, why improvise when there is something specifically designed to fix the issue? So next time you are driving down the road, out on a hike, or on an adventure with some friends think of this: “If something were to happen right now, what could I do and what equipment is available to me?”

Everyone deserves to know how to take care of themselves, so why not start learning now?