Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:

What is an emergency?

Posted by Be Well

What is an emergency?
Answers (1)
Sort by: Newest first | Oldest first

When it comes to your health or the health of someone in your family, it is often very obvious if the person is seriously ill and needs immediate emergency care. An emergency is a critical or life-threatening situation.

To help you decide what a critical situation is; here are some examples:

  • unconsciousness,
  • a suspected stroke,
  • heavy blood loss,
  • suspected broken bones,
  • a deep wound such as a stab wound,
  • a suspected heart attack,
  • difficulty in breathing,
  • severe burns, and
  • a severe allergic reaction.

There are a few things that you should remember in any emergency. These will help you to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently.

  • Stay calm, shout for help. You may need to instruct someone to telephone 911. Make sure they know where the ambulance has to come to, and they have some details about the person who is injured or ill.
  • Don't put yourself in danger. For example, if someone has been electrocuted, make sure you switch off the power supply before touching them.
  • Do everything you can to help the person.
  • Don't give the person anything to eat, drink or smoke.
  • Don't stick anything in their mouth.
  • Follow the instructions the ambulance service call handler may give you.

The way to help a person very often depends on what is wrong with them. Sometimes, the quickest way to help is to take the person to the nearest accident and emergency department. This will vary from area to area as it does depend on how close your local hospital is. However, even in an area where your hospital is fairly close, you should call an ambulance and not move the patient if:

  • you think they may have hurt their back or neck, or have any other injury that may be made worse by moving them,
  • the person is in shock and needs your constant attention, or
  • the person has severe chest pain or difficulty breathing.

The recovery position

If the patient is unconscious, there is a safe position to put them in which allows them to breathe easily and stops them choking on any vomit. However, you must first carefully consider whether there is any chance that the casualty has hurt their back or neck, or has an injury that would be made worse by moving them. Putting them in the recovery position in this case could have serious consequences. If you are in any doubt, and the casualty is in no further danger by being left in their original position, do not move them. Wait for the paramedics to arrive.

How to put someone in the recovery position

Once you have checked that they are breathing normally, lie them on one side, with a cushion at their back, bring their knee forward, and point their head downward to allow any vomit to escape without them swallowing it or breathing it in. Remember, when you are moving the patient onto their side, make sure their neck and back are well supported.

Some myths about Accident and Emergency services

Accident and Emergency is an alternative to your doctor.


It is not appropriate to go to Accident and Emergency as an alternative to your doctor.

Calling 911 for an ambulance gets you to the top of the Accident and Emergency queue.


Patients are seen based on medical need, not who gets to the hospital first.

All injuries need X-rays.


The doctor or nurse will be able to examine you and assess whether an X-ray is appropriate or not. In many cases X-rays are not needed.

Accident and Emergency doctors are more expert at dealing with medical problems than your doctor.


Your doctor is an expert in general medicine. Accident and Emergency doctors are specialists in accidents and emergencies.

Taking pain relief before being seen by a doctor will mask the symptoms of the injury.


One of the first things that is often done by doctors is to give you a simple painkiller like acetaminophen. It is quite safe to take these before you get medical advice. Taking pain relief to treat minor injuries is the best way to make you feel better quickly and is an effective treatment. Always follow the instructions on the packet or leaflet.

Some myths about doctor services

Your doctor has to visit you at home.


If a home visit is appropriate, the doctor or nurse will arrange it. Doctors decide whether or not to visit a patient at home, based on your medical need. Only patients who cannot reasonably come into the surgery are visited at home.

You will be seen more quickly if you ask for a home visit.


During surgery hours, most doctors visit patients later in the day. It may be quicker for you to go into the surgery during normal surgery hours and out-of-hours. If you do the traveling, it means that the doctor can see more patients rather than spending time traveling themselves and delaying your consultation.

All infections need antibiotics.


Antibiotics have no effect on most infections (such as colds, flu and most sore throats) because viruses cause them. Taking too many antibiotics can lead to new bacteria developing which cannot be killed by antibiotics, which is dangerous for individual people and for the whole population. Doctors recommend that you visit your pharmacist for over-the-counter remedies for minor complaints.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
Post an answer
Write a comment: