Recognizing Medical Emergencies


This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Medical emergencies are not always easy to recognize. Yet any delay in emergency treatment could mean the difference between life and death or permanent disability.

The American College of Emergency Physicians is a professional group for doctors who work in hospital emergency departments. It says everyone should know the warning signs of a medical emergency.

One is a sudden or severe pain that does not go away. This includes pain in the stomach, chest or head. A severe headache, worse than anything you have ever felt, could mean bleeding in the head from a broken artery.

Severe stomach pain could be a sign of appendicitis. Severe chest or back pain could signal a heart attack.

Another warning sign of a medical emergency is difficulty breathing. This could mean a heart condition. Or there could be a hole or blockage in a lung.

Mental changes are also warning signs. A person who suddenly loses memory or thinking abilities could be suffering a stroke or serious infection.

Sudden changes in speech or not being able to see clearly are two other reasons to seek emergency care. Other warning signs include losing consciousness or becoming dizzy and weak.

Uncontrolled bleeding from any wound also calls for professional care. So does coughing or vomiting blood.

The American College of Emergency Physicians notes that children can show different signs of medical problems than adults. A child might be too young to describe the problem. Yet symptoms that are not as serious for an adult may be more serious for a child.

There is also advice about what to do if you ever need care at an emergency department. One suggestion is to bring a list of any medicines you take and any allergies you have. Are you allergic to any foods or insects? Do you get a bad reaction to any medications or other products? The doctors group offers medical history forms on its Web site,

Also, you should know your history of vaccines or the immunizations a child has had against diseases. And, the doctors say, remain clam. That can help increase communication with doctors and nurses at the hospital.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can find other health information and advice at WWW.51VOA.COM. I'm Steve Ember.