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No one knows when a major disaster will strike; but when it does, you want to be prepared for the most likely medical issues. Learn what to do ahead of time so you can stay healthy and safe during a crisis. After all, when hospitals are closed, short staffed, or totally overrun, you’ll want to be as self-sufficient as possible.
By knowing what medical emergencies to watch out for, you can be better prepared to deal with them if they arise. Below, we’ll discuss twelve of the most common medical issues that could affect you during a major disaster – as well as the supplies and skills you’ll need to treat them.
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1. Cuts and Wounds
One common type of medical emergency is a cut or wound. While minor cuts and scrapes can usually be treated at home, more severe wounds may require professional medical care. To help prevent infection, it is important to clean the wound as soon as possible.
You should also apply pressure to stop any bleeding and cover the wound with a clean bandage. If the bleeding is severe or does not stop after a few minutes, you will need to take further action.
Try to keep the affected area elevated above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling and minimize the risk of infection. If the cut is deep or if you are concerned about scarring, then you may also want to apply a cold compress to the area. This will help reduce swelling and pain.
In severe cases, a tourniquet may be needed. This should be used if direct pressure and elevation have both been applied and the bleeding isn’t stopping. You can fashion a tourniquet out of a bandage and a stick (this will be used as a “windlass”).
In addition, keep an eye out for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pus. These will require further treatment.
2. Breathing Problems
If you’re having difficulty breathing, the first thing you should do is try to relax. It can be helpful to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Taking slow, deep breaths can also help to ease your breathing.
If you’re feeling anxious, it can be helpful to practice some relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery. Sometimes, simple home remedies can also help to improve your breathing.
For example, taking a warm bath or using a humidifier can help to loosen congestion and make it easier to breathe.
3. Fainting/Loss of Consciousness
Fainting and loss of consciousness can be frightening experiences. However, there are a few simple steps that can be taken to treat these conditions at home. First, it is important to ensure that the person is lying flat on their back. This will help to prevent them from falling and injuring themselves.
Second, try to elevate their feet slightly. This will help to improve blood flow to the brain. Finally, provide the person with some cool, fresh air. If possible, open a window or fan them with a piece of cardboard. These simple measures can often help to quickly revive someone who has fainted or lost consciousness.
Ideally, if you’re having a seizure, you need to get to the hospital ASAP. However, when hospitals are no longer an option, you’ll need a back-up plan. Nothing is a perfect substitute for professional medical attention. However, these tips can help.
Remove any sharp objects or loose items that could cause injury, and clear clutter from walkways to reduce the risk of falls. If possible, create a “safe space” where you can go during a seizure. This should be a quiet, dimly-lit room with cushioning on the floor in case you fall.
If you or someone in your family is prone to seizures, there are certain supplies you should have on hand. There is some evidence that herbal remedies like red sage, turmeric, and American ginseng can all be helpful in treating epilepsy.
5. Heart Attack
As is the case with a seizure, if you’re having a heart attack, you need to get to a hospital. When that’s not an option, follow these tips.
If the person is conscious, have them sit down and lean forward, with their head and shoulders supported. This position helps to reduce the pressure on the heart. If they are not conscious, gently tilt their head back and lift their chin to open their airway.
Monitor the breathing and pulse of the person having the heart attack. Have them chew and swallow an aspirin, if possible, or nitroglycerin if it’s been prescribed. If there is an automated external defibrillator on hand, set it up and follow the instructions to administer emergency care.
6. Allergic Reaction
An allergic reaction happens when your body overreacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, pet dander, or bee venom. The immune system releases histamines, which cause symptoms like itching, swelling, and trouble breathing.
Most allergies can be managed at home with over-the-counter medications, but some reactions can be severe and require emergency treatment.
If you have a severe allergy, it’s important to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times. Stock up on these if you have severe allergies.
Take an antihistamine to reduce itching, swelling, and other symptoms. Apply a cool compress to the affected area to reduce swelling. If you have asthma, make sure to keep your inhaler handy in case you have trouble breathing.
A sprain is a common injury that can occur when you roll, twist, or stretch your ankle in an awkward way. The ligaments that support your ankle joint can become stretched or torn as a result.
Although a sprain can be painful, it is usually not a serious injury and can be treated at home with the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Begin by resting your ankle and avoiding any activities that may aggravate the injury. Apply ice to the affected area for 20-30 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling.
You can also wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage to help support the joint and reduce swelling. Be sure to elevate your foot above heart level when you are not icing it to help reduce inflammation. Most sprains will heal within 2-4 weeks with home treatment.
If you have a fracture, it’s important to get medical help right away. However, there are some things you can do at home to help treat your injury until you can see a doctor.
First, it’s important to immobilize the affected area. You can do this by splitting the area or using a sling if you have one.
This will help to prevent further damage and reduce pain. You should also ice the area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help to reduce swelling and pain. Finally, keep the affected area elevated as much as possible. This will also help to reduce swelling.
If you have ever suffered from a burn, then you know just how painful and uncomfortable they can be.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to treat burns at home and help relieve some of the pain. First, it is important to run cool water over the affected area for several minutes. This will help to stop the burning sensation and reduce swelling.
Next, you will want to apply a thin layer of an antibiotic ointment to the area. This will help to prevent infection. Finally, you will need to wrap the area in a sterile bandage. Be sure to keep the bandage clean and dry, and change it regularly.
Toothaches can be caused by a number of different factors, from cavities to gum disease. However, there are a few simple home remedies that can help to ease the pain and get you on the road to recovery.
One of the most popular home remedies for a toothache is to swish warm salt water around in your mouth for several minutes. This will help to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. You can also try placing a cold compress on your cheek to numb the pain.
For more serious toothaches, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to reduce pain and swelling. Clove oil is also very effective at helping manage tooth pain.
When a wound becomes infected, it can be painful and cause swelling, redness, and discharge. If you think you have an infected wound, it’s important to seek medical attention. However, there are also some things you can do at home to help treat the infection. First, clean the wound with warm water and soap.
You can also use an antiseptic solution to help kill bacteria. Once the wound is clean, apply a bandage to help keep it clean and protected. Be sure to change the bandage regularly. You should also monitor the wound for any signs of further infection, such as increased pain, redness, or discharge.
If you think someone is having a stroke, it is important to act quickly and call 911. However, there are also some things that you can do to help before the ambulance arrives (or if medical care is no longer available).
First, try to keep the person calm and comfortable. If they are lying down, make sure their head is elevated and their body is in a neutral position. It is also important to check for any injuries and cover them with a clean cloth if possible.
Second, provide the person with any necessary medications, such as aspirin or nitroglycerin. Third, make sure to keep an eye on their vital signs, such as their pulse, blood pressure, and level of consciousness.
Be Alert – and Be Prepared
A few more notes – first and foremost, make sure you have an up-to-date family emergency plan that includes information on where to meet and how to stay in touch if cell towers or the internet are down.
Have enough food, water and supplies on hand to last at least 72 hours, and make sure everyone in your household knows where they are stored. If you have a health condition, make sure you have all of your medications and medical supplies ready to go.
Finally, take some time to familiarize yourself with the most likely medical issues that would occur in a major disaster. Knowing what to expect will help minimize the panic and chaos should such an event take place. Stay safe, stay alert – and be prepared for anything.
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