#1 Stroke: Facial Droop, Weak Arms, Slurred Speech
Public awareness of stroke symptoms has improved thanks to educational efforts, says Dr. Rade Vukmir, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians and a clinical adjunct professor of emergency medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia. The FAST acronym is an easy way to recognize urgent stroke symptoms:
Face: One-sided facial drooping, or a crooked smile
Arm Weakness: Difficulty holding up an arm
Speech: Strange-sounding or slurred speech
Time: Call 911 right away because “time is brain.”
#2 Swallowing Toxic Substances
Kids – and sometimes adults – may accidentally consume anything from household cleaning chemicals to medications not meant for them. Children are quick and they’re curious. Karen Wiley, a past president of the Emergency Nurses Association board of directors, describes the case of a mother who handed a closed bottle of iron-containing vitamin supplements to her small restless kids in the back seat of the car as a makeshift rattle. Unbeknownst to the parents, the kids unscrewed the top of the bottle, which was temporarily forgotten.
#3 Choking On Food Or Foreign Objects
A bystander’s response to choking depends on whether the victim is an adult, child or infant and whether he or she is unconscious. The American Heart Association and ACEP developed choking guidelines to help you determine whether an obstruction is life-endangering, such as when a person can’t speak, cough or breathe, or becomes unconscious, and when the Heimlich maneuver is indicated.
#4 Breathing Difficulty
Persistent shortness of breath, when someone can’t recover their normal breathing, is a problem. Causes range from chronic lung conditions to severe seasonal allergies. Prescription treatments for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease aren’t always enough. In addition, children with serious infections like respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, can have trouble breathing. Flu may quickly become dangerous for kids and older adults. People with COPD may experience worsening symptoms, or exacerbation.
#5 Heart Attack: Crushing Chest Pain Or Subtle Signs
“Like an elephant sitting on my chest.” In general, the public is pretty well tuned-in to heart attack signs such as chest pain and crushing chest pressure, Vukmir says. Feelings of tightness, squeezing or aching in the chest and arms, which can spread to the neck, jaw or back, are “classic” heart-attack symptoms. Nausea, heartburn, cold sweat, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness can also signal a heart attack.
#6 Visceral Pain: Stomach And Other Organs
Sharp pains in your gut, back or pelvis serve as medical warning signals. Likewise, visceral pain – deep, dull pain within the abdomen, back or pelvis – can indicate a variety of medical conditions. Appendicitis is one reason for acute right-sided abdominal pain. Malaise, fever, nausea and poor appetite can be early appendicitis signs, Vukmir says.
#7 Seizures: Kids And Adults
Seizures are frightening to witness. Parents of children with seizure disorders like epilepsy learn to recognize when help is required. “There are children out there who have severe versions of seizures and parents may need to call the 911 system, because that child could stop breathing or not come out of their seizure,” Wiley says. “Usually, parents have medications to help them break the seizure. But that may not work.”
#8 Suicidal Thoughts Or Attempts
If someone tells you they recently attempted suicide – or if you have thoughts of taking your own life – get help. Suicide causes are complex, often arising from a combination of stressors and unrecognized or untreated mental health issues, such as depression or substance use disorders. Suicide warning signs include a person talking about killing themselves, having no reason to live, being a burden to others and feeling trapped or hopeless, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.