Sound the Sirens: When to Call for an Ambulance

We know how scary it can be if you need emergency medical care and don’t know what to do next. If you’re in southern Minnesota, you can call the River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic ambulance when:

  • The person cannot move because of pain or loss of function
  • The person has suffered an injury you suspect affected the spine
  • You can’t lift the affected person
  • You or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening condition, such as a heart attack, stroke or severe allergic reaction

In addition to being able to legally drive over the speed limit, paramedics in an ambulance can provide lifesaving emergency medical services on the way to the hospital. That means care is started before you ever reach the hospital.

Be Smart About the Heart

A major emergency care condition is a heart attack. A heart attack happens when the heart isn’t getting enough blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the longer a person experiences heart attack without medical attention, the greater the damage to the heart.

For immediate attention, call for an ambulance to address a heart attack. In the ambulance, paramedics can speed up care by performing an electrocardiogram, which records the heart’s electrical activity, and sending it to the emergency physicians in the emergency room.

If needed, paramedics can also administer medications and start an intravenous line.

How do you know if someone is having a heart attack? Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling faint or light-headed
  • Jaw, neck or back pain or discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

Finally, one of the major concerns during a heart attack is the potential for cardiac arrest, which means the person’s heart stops beating. If the person is in an ambulance, paramedics can begin CPR immediately, which doubles (sometimes even triples) the chance of survival. Paramedics also have automated emergency defibrillators (AED) on the ambulance. AEDs are medical devices that analyze heart rhythms and provide electrical shock to help restart the heart if needed.

Act FAST for a Stroke

Another life-threatening condition that warrants a call to 911 for is stroke. A stroke happens when the brain can’t get the blood it needs, which is often caused by either a clot or rupture in the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain.

With a stroke, every second counts, so if you see these stroke warning signs from the American Stroke Association, call for an ER ambulance:

  • Facial drooping—The person’s face may droop to one side, making their smile uneven.
  • Arm weakness—The person will likely be unable to raise both arms without one drifting downward.
  • Speech changes—Speech is often slurred.
  • Time to call 911.

Other signs of stroke can include confusion, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, difficulty walking because of dizziness or loss of balance, numbness, and sudden and severe headache.

If you’re unsure whether you or someone you know is having a stroke, it may be best to err on the side of caution and call for an ER ambulance.

When Allergies Turn into Emergencies

We’re not talking about seasonal allergies that give you a runny nose or rash. Some allergic reactions can cause an emergency condition called anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis, the throat can tighten enough to block a person’s airway.

Some of the most common allergies that cause anaphylaxis are certain medications, food and insect bites/stings. If people are aware their allergies may lead to a severe allergic response, they may carry an EpiPen, which contains epinephrine, the medication that treats anaphylaxis.

If the person isn’t aware of their allergy or response, they likely won’t carry an EpiPen with them. Paramedics in an ambulance can provide epinephrine and other medications to someone in anaphylaxis and then transport them to the emergency room for additional treatment.

Stay Put After Accidents and Injuries

The spinal cord is a column of nerve tissue that oversees delivering messages from the brain to the rest of the body. This nerve tissue runs from the brain to the lower back. Spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis, numbness or weakness in the hands and feet and even death.

Unless someone is in immediate danger, you should never move a person after an accident or injury that potentially harmed their spinal cord. Moving them could cause further injury to their spinal cord or other serious complications.

If you suspect someone has a head, neck or back injury, call for an ambulance. While you wait for the ambulance to arrive, you can help by:

  • Not allowing the person to move their head or neck or get up and walk around.
  • Not removing a helmet, such as a football or hockey helmet, if the person is wearing one, unless they need CPR.
  • Stabilizing the person’s spine by holding the person’s head and neck in the position you found them in.

Emergency medical personnel are trained to safely move someone who has a spinal injury or been in an accident.

Safety Is No Accident

If the person who needs emergency care is unable to safely walk to the car and inside the hospital, you may need an ambulance. If you’re unsure if you can lift the person or lend them your shoulder, there’s no need to try. You could potentially cause further harm to the person or injure yourself.

Emergency medical personnel have special training and safety equipment, such as stretchers, that allow them to safely lift patients.

If you are ever in doubt, feel free to call for an ambulance.

The River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic Emergency Room is a Level IV Trauma Center. We are open 24/7 when you need quality care, fast. If you need the ambulance, call 911.

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