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7 Most Common Medical Emergencies

Here are some of the most common medical emergencies that people experience:
1. Bleeding

Cuts and wounds cause bleeding, but severe injury can also cause internal bleeding that you can’t see.

Not all incidents of bleeding need emergency medical treatment, often they can be treated by first aid at home following advice from a pharmacist or GP.

However, you must seek emergency treatment if:

  • You are unable to control the bleeding, even after delivering first aid treatment
  • There is an object seen within the wound or it appears to be deep
  • You can see tissue or bone

Where there is a large amount of blood loss, the injured person may begin to feel unwell, appear pale, feel dizzy and, in some cases, lose consciousness. If this happens, urgent medical attention is required.

2. Breathing difficulties

There can be a number of reasons why someone may have difficulties in breathing. For example, asthma attacks, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), and coughs or colds.

Breathlessness can occur during exercise or physical activity, but if the breathlessness comes on suddenly or unexpectedly, then this can be a warning sign.

If someone is having breathing difficulties, they may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain when taking deep breaths or feeling like their chest is tight
  • Feeling short of breath or unable to catch their breath
  • Breathing shallower or faster than normal
  • Noisy breathing including a wheeze, gasp or whistle

If someone is experiencing breathing difficulties they may feel panicked, which can further affect their breathing.

It’s important to try and keep the situation calm if possible.

If you are worried about someone’s breathing, seek medical attention by either calling 111, 999 or, if safe to do so, take them to A&E.

3. Someone collapses

If someone has collapsed, they are likely to need medical attention. This is because their levels of consciousness or breathing could be affected.

There can be a number of different medical reasons which can cause someone to collapse, and this will need to be assessed by a medical professional.

If someone has lost consciousness and is not breathing, call 999 for emergency medical attention.

If a person has lost consciousness but does not appear to have any difficulties with their breathing then, if it is safe to do so, you can put them into the recovery position until help arrives. It is still advised to call 999.

Always make sure it is safe to approach someone who has collapsed before you do so. If it is not safe, seek help and advice.

4. Fit and/or epileptic seizure

Fits and seizures can occur in people who have a diagnosis of epilepsy, but can also occur in people who don’t have such a diagnosis.

A fit or seizure can involve the involuntary and uncontrollable jerking, twitching or shaking of part or all of the body.

Another form of fit or seizure can involve no movement or minimal movement of the body, and a person can appear to be looking into space. In this situation, a person will tend not respond when spoken to.

It’s important to remember not to move someone or try and stop them shaking if they are having a fit or seizure, unless they are at risk of danger.

After someone has had a fit or seizure, it’s important that they seek medical attention. If someone is known to have fits or seizures, they may have medical plan in place as to what actions need to be taken after the fit.

However, it’s advisable to call 999 if someone loses consciousness, the fit/seizure lasts longer than five minutes, they have never had a fit or seizure before, they have injured themselves due to the fit/seizure or if you are unsure or concerned.

5. Severe pain

Everyone experiences pain in different ways, depending on their pain threshold. We all experience aches and pains from time to time.

Pain can occur suddenly or increase over a period of time. Pain can be caused due to illness or injury.

Severe pain tends to be more intense and, in some cases, will stop people from being able to carry out normal daily activities.

Pain relief can be used to help relive the amount of pain that someone is in, but must be taken following medical advice.

If someone has suffered an injury and is in severe pain, then it’s important to get them assessed. Depending on the injury, this could be managed by the GP or at a walk-in centre.

If the injury is serious, it may be best to take them to A&E. If the pain is due to illness, advice can be sought from 111, a pharmacist or the GP and, in severe cases, A&E.

6. Heart attack

A heart attack is a serious life threatening medical emergency where the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked.

Heart attacks are more common in adults, but can occur in children and teenagers.

It’s vital that if you think someone is having a heart attack, you call 999 immediately and tell them that someone is having a heart attack.

If someone is having a heart attack, they may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain, including sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of the chest
  • Radiating pain in the left arm travelling from the chest to the arm. In some cases, both arms can be affected as well as the neck, jaw, back and stomach
  • Shortness of breath or difficulties in breathing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Sweating
  • Overwhelming sense of doom or anxiety

Whilst severe chest pain is one of the most common signs that someone maybe having a heart attack, in some cases people do not experience severe pain, and instead experience discomfort similar to indigestion.

This is more common in people with diabetes, the elderly and women.

7. A stroke

A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition which occurs due to the blood supply to part of the brain being cut off.

This can happen because of a blood clot or a bleed on the brain.

The most important thing for someone who is having or has had a stroke is time. The sooner someone receives emergency medical treatment, the likelihood of lasting damage is reduced.

If you suspect that someone is having or has had a stroke, it’s vital that you call 999 immediately and advise them that someone is having a stroke.

As time is the most important thing in this situation, the main signs to look out for can be remembered using the acronym FAST:

F = Face

Has their face changed? Are they able to smile? Has their faced drooped on one side? This will be especially noticeable around the eyes and mouth.

A= Arms

Is the person able to lift both of their arms and keep them lifted? If you suspect that someone has had a stroke, they may have weakness or numbness in one arm.

S= Speech

Has their speech changed? Has it become slurred? Does their speech make sense? Are they able to talk at all? Can they understand what you are saying to them and do they respond appropriately?

T= Time

If you see any of these symptoms or feel that someone is having a stroke, it’s important to ring 999 immediately.


how to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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