Resource: First Aid & CPR

Common Medical Emergencies

In this section we deal with a range of medical emergencies in which your colleagues or customers may require assistance in your workplace. Become more aware of each condition & keep things simple. Learn how to make some key decisions that can really help limit the harm caused by these emergency scenarios.

Working from home, HealthCo Co. Louth


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. A variety of triggers cause airway constriction and over produce mucous, resulting in breathing difficulties.


There can be very many triggers, individual to the person with asthma, but here are some of the more common ones:

  • Allergies
  • The common cold
  • Certain medications (ibuprofen, aspirin)
  • Bedtime
  • Exercise
Signs & Symptoms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing (which tends to worsen at night)
  • Tightening of the chest
Life-threatening Asthma

Inability to complete sentences in one breath

Respiratory rate > 25 or < 10/ min

Heart rate > 110/ min

And any of the following:

  • Feeble respiratory effort
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Unresponsive

Blueish colour (cyanosis)

“there are 80-100 deaths per year in Ireland as a direct result of asthma”

  • Assist patient to administer own inhaler
  • Repeat up to 11 times
  • Sit them down to breathe easier
  • Call 999/112 if inhaler is ineffective or missing.
  • Maintain care until handover to practitioner
CPGs Asthma

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth


Diabetes describes the body's failure to regulate blood glucose adequately.

  • Missed a meal
  • Taken unexpected exercise which has used up sugar
  • Vomited
  • Injected too much insulin
  • Neglected to administer insulin
Signs & Symptoms


Too little blood sugar

    • Weakness, faintness, or hunger
    • Palpitations and muscle tremors
    • Confused or belligerent
    • Sweating cold, clammy skin
    • Pulse may be rapid and strong
    • Deteriorating levels of response


Too much blood sugar

  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Frequent urination
  • Smelly breath

Seek medical attention

  • Call 999/112
  • Assess using AVPU
  • If conscious (AV) confirm diabetes and give sugar, glucose etc.
  • Allow 5 minutes and reassess
  • If condition improves advise carbohydrate meal
  • If unconscious do primary survey, ABC
  • Place in recovery position
CPGs - Diabetic Emergency

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth


Seizures describe uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. To the first aid responder, they are characterized by the convulsive spasming of the individual's body.

  • Epilepsy
  • Head injuries
  • Brain damaging diseases
  • Lack of Oxygen/glucose in the brain
  • Alcohol/poisons
  • Sudden unconsciousness
  • Rigidity and arching of back
  • Convulsive movements
  • Protect from harm (Clear space / remove bystanders/ease fall)
  • Call 112/999
  • Protect the head during seizure.
  • Recovery position when convulsions cease.
  • Maintain airway.
  • Check the vital signs, check for injury.
  • Maintain care until handover to appropriate practitioner

Do Not:

  • Try to remove casualty unless in immediate danger.
  • Forcibly restrain casualty.
  • Put anything in the casualty’s mouth (open it).
  • Give anything by mouth.
CPGs - Seizures

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth


Poisoning occurs when any substance interferes with normal body functions after it is swallowed, inhaled, injected, or absorbed.


Any substance can in theory be poisonous dependent on the dose. Nevertheless,  in the workplace we’ve listed some of the more common causes below:

  • Alcohol/Drugs
  • Household chemicals
  • Plants
  • Farm tanks
  • Gardening insecticides/herbicides
  • Paint thinner fumes
  • Petrol fumes
  • Carbon Monoxide
Signs & Symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizure
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Possible burning at site of entry
  • Scene Safe
  • Call 112/999
  • Establish poison source
  • If absorbed clean/clear/ decontaminate the burn site
  • Assess using AVPU
  • If unconscious put in recovery position
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Maintain poison source package
  • Maintain care until handover to appropriate practitioner
CPGs - Poisoning

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth


Loss of consciousness for a short time because of an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain


Causes of fainting can be varied but some of the more common are:

  • Lack of food
  • Long periods of standing
  • Emotional upset
Signs & Symptoms
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Slow pulse
  • Pale, cold, clammy skin
  • Weakness of limbs,
  • Blurred vision,
  • Sweating
  • Check Airway & Breathing
  • Call 112/999
  • Check for obvious injury (primary survey)
  • Ensure patient is lying down
  • Elevate lower limbs higher than body
  • Prevent chilling
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Encourage patient to gradually return to sitting position
  • Check for underlying medical conditions
  • Maintain care until handover to appropriate practitioner
CPGs - Fainting

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth


Angina is a severe chest pain caused by lack of blood and therefore oxygen to the heart.


Common Causes:

  • Obstructions or spasms of the coronary artery
  • Can be brought on by exertion or a large meal
Signs & Symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Pain extending down left arm, both arms
  • Pain and tingling sensation in the hands
  • Weakness
  • Indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Call for help (112/999)
  • Remain calm
  • Ensure patient is kept warm
  • Sit them down in W position
  • Administer aspirin
  • Allow them administer angina medication
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Check level of response
CPGs - Cardiac Chest Pain

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth


Anaphylaxis is severe allergic reaction of the body. It is life-threatening due to the restriction caused within the airway.


Common Causes:

  • Nuts,
  • Foods,
  • Plants,
  • Animals
Signs & Symptoms
  • Dizziness,
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swelling of face or limbs
  • Abdominal pain, nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Puffy, red eyes,
  • Confusion,
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Call for help (112/999)
  • Sit the patient down and encourage the patient to use prescribed medicine
  • Loosen tight clothing and cover victim with blanket
  • Monitor vital signs
CPGs - Anaphylaxis

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