In an emergency
A medical emergency is when someone has a very serious health problem. Act quickly and keep as calm as possible.
- Call 999 immediately.
- Tell the person who answers your name and where you are.
- Describe the situation quickly and clearly. Ask what you should do until help arrives.
Crucial: Not sure which health service you need? Download the Health & Care app to help you make the best health choices.
How do I know if it’s a medical emergency?
Any condition on this list requires immediate attention:
- Drug overdose/poisoning
- Heavy blood loss
- Bleeding that won't stop
- Deep wounds (even if they aren't bleeding)
- Severe breathing difficulties
- Head injury
- Severe chest pain
- Suspected broken bones
- Starting to give birth
- Severe mental distress
- Septicaemic rash (a rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass), possibly suggesting meningitis.
While you're waiting for help:
- Move the person
- Remove a crash helmet (if they’re wearing one)
- Take anything out of a wound, it might be stopping the bleeding
- Give the person anything to eat, drink or smoke
- Leave the person unattended
- Put your own life in danger.
- Keep the person warm and quiet
- Stay calm
- Tell the ambulance driver if you know that the person took a drug. You can't get into trouble for this.
If someone is unconscious
Call 999. Get help from other people. Try not to leave the person alone for too long.
First aid courses
Lots of people worry about not being able to help a friend or family member if they had a medical emergency. Learning First Aid can be really useful. It helps you have the confidence to know you would be able to help. You might be able to do first aid at your school, or activity, or at work. Some types of volunteering or work require you to have first aid training. You can also sign up for courses on the St John’s Ambulance website.
People of all ages worry sometimes about emergency situations, like fire, an attack or a bomb threat. These are very rare. But when they do happen, it can be very serious. So in places like offices, shopping centres and schools, there are plans for what to do in emergencies.
If you are somewhere regularly, like a school or workplace, you should be aware of what to do in an emergency. You may get drills, learn rules or need to do training. This can include:
- Fire - for if there is a fire
- Bomb - for if there is a possibility there is a bomb
- Evacuation - for if it is not safe to stay in a space or building
- Lock down - for if there is a dangerous intruder
In places like shopping centres, restaurants, venues, places of worship and festivals, the staff or volunteers have been trained in what to do if there is an emergency. Some places will also have safety instructions you can view or read. .
But everyone can help in an emergency situation, by following a few basic rules:
- Don't panic and stay as calm as you can
- Listen out for announcements about what to do
- Follow instructions from staff, stewards and emergency services quickly and safely
Reading safety instructions, checking your emergency exits, and reading instructions about what to do if there is an emergency can all make you feel safer, wherever you are.
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