Need to Know

By: proctor - August 3, 2006

There are many things you can do to prevent getting sick or injured, and there are many things you can do to take care of yourself if you do get sick or injured. This article will give you some basic prevention tips as well as measures to take if your health, or someone else's, is compromised.

Emergency Actions

ICE your cell phone. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and, once programmed into your cell phone along with the phone number of a person you want called if you need help in an emergency situation, can help save your life or simply notify others of your whereabouts. This phone number should belong to someone who can provide personal information about you to whoever is with you when an accident happens, such as a parent, spouse, neighbor, or close friend. Most people carry cell phones with them all of the time, and word is getting out to ICE your cell phone, so a lot of people have already begun adding this to their list of phone numbers in their phone's memory. If you fall off of a bike outside, faint during a workout, or have a heart attack and do not have your driver's license or photo ID on you, the next place people can look for identification can be your cell phone. This was very helpful information when my sister got into a bike accident recently while I was several miles away on a run with friends. I was contacted via cell phone and the paramedics were able to ask me which hospital I wanted them to take her to.

Learn to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Time lost is brain lost!

Learn to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Time lost is brain lost! Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone near you experiences one of the following: sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, sudden numbness in one side of the body, sudden confusion, sudden headache with no known cause, or trouble talking or understanding speech. Learning to recognize the symptoms of a stroke can help you save your own life or the life of the person right in front of you. If you think someone near you is suffering from a stroke, remember to SRS: 1.Ask the person to SMILE. 2.Ask the person to RAISE his or her arms. 3.Ask the person to SPEAK a simple sentence. If the victim has trouble doing any of these tasks, contact emergency personnel immediately. Every minute that a person suffers from a stroke could mean millions of brain cells are being destroyed. Get help immediately. It could save a life.

Learn CPR. CPR stands for Cardiac Pulmonary Resucitation, and it saves lives. Each year, cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac arrest claim the lives of 335,000 Americans before they reach a hospital. It takes about 2-4 hours to go to a class to learn how to administer it, and classes can be found nationwide, so please invest in the time and learn the technique so that you are prepared if someone near you goes into cardiac arrest. In class, you will learn how to administer CPR to infants, overweight individuals, and the general population. You will learn the difference between rescue breathing and chest compressions and learn how to determine which method is needed. The American Heart Association has found that almost 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home and are witnessed by a family member. Currently, the survival rate of cardiac arrest victims is less than 5 percent. Learn CPR so that you can help the statistics lean towards survival.

Know about AEDs. AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator, and these devices can now be found in almost every airport, many gyms, and even public locations such as malls. They are usually located in a central location on the wall about eye height, and are bright red to ensure that you locate them easily. An AED consists of a small computer (microprocessor), electrodes, and electrical circuitry. The electrodes collect information about the heart's rhythm. The microprocessor analyzes the heart's rhythms instantly and accurately, making it possible for anyone to administer the same vital service as medical professionals without risking an accidental shock. The Red Cross offers classes in using AEDs. However, the instructions delivered by the device are audible, clear, and easy enough for anyone to follow. If someone is suffering from a heart attack, you can use the AED in order to administer electric shock if necessary to jump start his or her heart. Simply retrieve the AED, unzip the pouch it is stored in, push the "ON" button and follow the directions as prompted by the device. The pouch should contain scissors to cut a victim's shirt open, and a razor to shave the victim's chest if excessively hair is on the chest. The AED, once you place the pads on the victim's chest, will automatically assess if the victim needs the shock. If shock is advised, it will order you to stand clear then will automatically deliver the shock. It may then prompt you to administer CPR. The AED will continue to monitor the victim to determine if shock is necessary, and can help keep the patient alive until paramedics arrive to take over.

First Aid Basics

Learn Basic First Aid care. A class in First Aid Basics will teach you how to identify and care for victims of illness and sudden injuries. You will learn how to control bleeding, minimize the effects of shock, as well as tend to musculoskeletal injuries and sudden illness due to poisoning and heat and cold related emergencies. Heat stroke as well as hypothermia can lead to death, and are preventable if the correct precautions are taken. Classes are generally about 2 hours and cost as little as $15. Your employer may even provide them to you and your co-workers at no cost. The Red Cross offers classes nationwide, and is essential for anyone who is caring for the elderly or children as well as teachers and camp instructors.

Here are a few basic rules you can learn right now:
  • For burns, immediately put ice on the area or run it under cold water. Burns continue to burn for up to 20 minutes, so keep it cold. Many burns require medical attention, so contact medical personnel immediately.
  • Wounds come in many different forms. If you have a cut or puncture wound, press a clean cloth firmly against the wound to stop the bleeding then elevate it above the heart. If it is deep, contact a doctor. If it is more like a scrape, wash the area thoroughly after it stops bleeding then apply a bandage to keep the area clean.
  • Choking victims will most likely cover their throat with both hands, the international sign for choking. Encourage the victim to keep coughing. Once the victim can no longer cough or talk, you must clear the obstructed airway by performing the Heimlich maneuver, also known as abdominal thrusts. This will help dislodge the item in the throat. The Heimlich maneuver consists of standing behind the victim, placing your fists on the victim's abdomen, then thrusting inward and upward until the item is dislodged or professional help arrives.

Food and Drink

It is easy to avoid contaminating your food and drinks, as well as prevent things like eye and ear infections. The simplest way of course is to scrub your hands for 30 seconds with soap, or use anti-bacterial gel if soap and water are not available. Some food and drink preparation needs a little more care. For example, wash any cans before you eat or drink out of them. Soda cans and canned foods have been tested for cleanliness, and many of them failed. A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are often more contaminated than public toilets. Cans often sit in warehouses before being shipped on a truck to the store or vending machine and are not washed, therefore can be covered with dust, mold, and insect or animal urine. Drinking out of a can, or opening a can with a can opener, prior to washing the can will allow these germs which are sometimes toxic to enter your body.

The same principle goes for fruits and vegetables. Rinse them thoroughly for 30 seconds, or use a food-grade fruit and vegetable wash, before cutting them or biting into them. You have no idea how long it has been sitting on the shelf, or if a fly or insect has landed on it. Even if your food has come from a very clean grocery store, it still needs to be washed just before you eat it or cut it.

"Dilution is the solution"

Without knowing it, your hands can pick up germs from doorknobs, handrails on public transportation, and even things like grocery cart handles. Some grocery stores supply anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down your cart before shopping so that when you are picking up your produce and placing it in plastic bags (where bacteria can grow since the plastic does not 'breathe'), you do not transfer germs to your food. If there are no wipes, just grab your produce with the plastic bag. Or, you can use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer which will kill most common germs. No matter where your hands have been , they have the potential to be carrying germs which are fairly harmless but if they enter your eyes, mouth, or ears directly, could cause an infection. So, try to keep your hands clear of these areas unless you have recently washed them. Even if you do not have soap, run your hands under water and scrub them together to get them as clean as possible. When I was in the Grand Canyon and dropped an eating utensil in the muddiest water imaginable and had no soap around, my father, a physician, told me that "dilution is the solution" and instructed me to rinse it very well with running water and then it would be fine to use. He was right. I used it and did not get sick, even though I had a weakened immune system from food poisoning four days prior due to eating a salad from a major fast food chain.

Spending a few hours now learning a few basic things about first aid, emergency awareness, and basic food and drink preparation can help you avoid major emergencies. Contact your local Red Cross chapter to take classes, and refresh your memory every couple of years will help keep you ready to move when the moment arises.

About the Submitter


I have been an ACE certified personal trainer since 2000 who has trained over 3000 hours. I specialize in pre- and post-natal fitness, stretching, running, and weight loss. Yoga is also a passion for me and a way of life. I received my Yoga Alliance Teacher Certification in India and love to share the calmness, strength, and openness that yoga offers to people of all ages and abilities.

Public Comments

  • By: proctor

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006 - 11:04pm

    From a recent article from Club Industry: Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have saved six lives at Town Sports International (TSI) clubs since AEDs were installed 18 months ago in all 141 TSI club locations, the company reported. TSI clubs go under the brand names New York Sports Clubs, Boston Sports Clubs, Washington Sports Clubs and Philadelphia Sports Clubs. Employees received training in how to use the AEDs. (Neat, huh!?)

  • By: ncruden

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - 9:02am

    u r right, Proctor, everyone needs to know this info. Very thorough piece.

  • By: gracilou

    Friday, August 4, 2006 - 1:11am

    i wish i had iced myself (and my fone heeh)

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