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Tips to Help You Prepare for a Medical Emergency

A medical emergency can be a frightening, an all-too-frequent experience that few people are prepared for. But there are a few steps you can take in advance to better handle a crisis.

Home Safe Home

Make sure all your important health information is readily available. Build in some redundancy: Make duplicates and stow the copies in several easy-to-access places.

  • Add your emergency contacts’ information — their home, work and cell numbers — into your own cell phone. Identify it as ICE, which stands for In Case of Emergency, instead of listing it under the person’s name. If you have a phone that requires a password to get to your contact list, consider putting emergency information on the lock screen.
  • Know why your doctor prescribed each of your medications. If you’re unsure, ask for a written list of the name of the drug, what medical problem it treats and how much and when you’re supposed to take it. Leave one copy at home and carry another in your wallet.
  • If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911 immediately and chew one regular aspirin or four baby aspirin (they taste better) to prevent a blood clot.

Healthy Travels

Here are some smart ways to keep your vacation on track.

  • Prepare a medical folder for every person traveling. Include a photocopy of both the itinerary and each person’s health insurance card. Include a page that lists current medical conditions, prescription drugs, immunisations and blood type. Make an extra copy of the contents of each folder and leave it with a friend or relative at home.
  • Put together a separate contact sheet of people to notify in case of a medical emergency, along with their addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, to carry in a wallet or day bag.
  • Pack a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
  • Keep all necessary medications in your carry-on luggage when you fly. Store duplicate prescriptions in your wallet in case your medications are lost or stolen during the trip.
  • When your destination is a non-English-speaking country, bring along a phrase book or dictionary to help you communicate with doctors, nurses and emergency personnel whose English may be limited.
  • Make up a small travel health kit for each traveller that includes a few days’ supply of prescription medications, extra batteries for hearing aids and a non-prescription painkiller, bandages, antibiotic ointments and antiseptic wipes.
  • If you have a stent, pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, take along a small card in your wallet with the manufacturer’s name and the model number of the device.
  • Check your health insurance plan to see whether it covers medical problems abroad. If not, consider buying travel health insurance for the time you’ll be away.
  • Sitting for prolonged periods, whether in a plane, train, bus or car, increases the risk for developing potentially dangerous blood clots in the leg or thigh, a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). To avoid the problem, take a break every few hours to walk around and stretch. If you have risk factors for DVT, consider wearing below-the-knee graduated compression stockings. (We know they’re not pretty, but who’s looking?) “In addition to walking and stretching, talk to a doctor on prophylactic medication that can be given if you are at high risk for DVT.

At Work

For some, the workplace may be a home away from home. Just as you want to short-circuit medical emergencies at home and when you travel, here are some suggestions for avoiding them at work.

  • Prepare a list of emergency contacts for colleagues in your department or section. Include names, addresses, email addresses, mobile numbers and day and evening phone numbers.
  • If you have a chronic medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes, consider telling a trusted colleague and providing instructions about what to do in an emergency.
  • Encourage your employer to provide a first aid course and CPR training for all employees.
  • Be sure the office has a readily available AED (automated external defibrillator) to use in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart abruptly stops beating. AEDs send an electric shock to the heart to restore normal rhythm and greatly increase chances of survival.
  • Keep a fully stocked first aid kit where you can get to it easily. Replace supplies as they’re used or when they expire.
  • Know the location of fire extinguishers and learn how to use them.

Tips on how to set goals for a healthier future

Are you wasting your time setting unrealistic goals?

You are, if you set goals, such as: “I’m going to lose twenty pounds”. Such goals are good for a little amusement on New Year’s Eve but do not help you achieve them.

We have all enjoyed either attending, participating or even hearing about Dubai’s fitness challenge, however we need to turn that from an occasional activity into a healthy habit. Making any lifestyle change can be challenging. Many people find that having a goal in mind gives them something to work towards, motivates them to stay on track and provides a measure of how well they are doing. If you’re trying to become more physically active, set realistic and well-planned goals as they keep you focused and motivated. Ensure you have spoken to a licensed trainer or healthcare provider before you embark on a physical activity or exercise program, particularly if you are over 40 years, overweight, haven’t exercised in a long time or suffer from a chronic medical condition.

Suggestions on how to set up goals!

  • Be realistic – Your ultimate fitness goal could be to be fit enough to participate in a competition on a set date or to do 10 laps of the pool. Whatever the case, make this goal realistic. Remember that most of us will never be world-famous athletes or supermodels. Think about what is achievable for you. Write down your goals.
  • Be specific – Don’t make your ultimate goal a general statement like: ‘I want to lose weight’. Make it measurable. Exactly how many kilograms do you want to lose?
  • Choose a goal that is meaningful and important to you, not to anybody else. For example, if your partner wants you to lose weight, but you’re happy as you are, you may find it difficult to commit to your exercise routine in the long term.

Thus, don’t defeat your efforts before you even start to work on accomplishing your desired goals. Set yourself up for success rather than failure by applying these tips and start achieving what you want to achieve.

Get active and consult a Family Medicine Consultant Remember, health is NOT the absence of disease, but is a state of well-being.

References: American College of Emergency Physicians, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association, St. John’s Ambulance (UK).
Dr. Ali Al-Tuckmachy, MBBS, MD, DipPS
Medical Doctor & Clinical Lead in Medical Education – King’s College Hospital London