What to do in a personal emergency

By Emily Grenfell 

Ideally, when an emergency occurs people are on hand to offer assistance, but what happens when you’re on your own? Sometimes it’s your response that will save your life. 



When something gets lodged in your airways your natural reflex is to cough until it dislodges itself. In most cases this works, and to aid the process you can lean forward to help propel the item out.

If this doesn’t work then there are two versions of the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

1.     Make a fist with one hand and place it on your stomach just above your belly button. Place your other hand on top and push really hard in short, sharp thrusts. If this doesn’t work after four or five attempts, you should try the second.

2.     Lean over the high back of a chair, holding on if you need to, and thrust your upper belly against the top edge, in short, sharp thrusts.

3.     If the manoeuvres are not working call 999 immediately and keep trying the manoeuvres.

If you have had to resort to either of the self-Heimlich Manoeuvres, then it’s wise to seek medical help as they might cause internal damage or bruising. You can contact a babylon GP immediately from the comfort of your home, and they will be able to advise you on what action may need to be taken.




Depending on where the wound is you might be losing blood fairly rapidly. Your heart pumps more than five litres of blood every minute, so fast action really can save your life.

1.     Grip the wound as firmly as possible with a clean towel or any large cloth you can find nearby.

2.     Apply pressure directly on the wound.

3.     Raise the wound above the level of your heart. This reduces blood flow to the affected area. If the wound is on your leg, lay down and lift your leg up.

4.     Call for emergency help/Attend your local Accident and Emergency department

Do not apply a tourniquet. Most severely bleeding wounds can be controlled temporarily with direct pressure until you are able to get medical assistance. Tourniquets effectively stop the blood flow to your entire limb, this starves the tissue of oxygen and causes the limb to die. If left on for long enough, you will cause lasting damage to your limb which in extreme cases leads to amputation.

If a foreign object is lodged in the wound, avoid removing it unless absolutely necessary. The object could be forming a plug, so it’s best to leave it where it is until you are in a place where it can be removed safely.



Heart Attack

If you feel a severe central crushing chest pain you must call an ambulance straight away. After this, chew an aspirin. This is far more effective than swallowing one and waiting for it to dissolve. Aspirin slows the blood’s clotting mechanism so chewing one will help prevent clots from forming and getting bigger, which may prevent a full heart attack. Lay down with your head and shoulders slightly raised. This is the most comfortable position, and is the easiest position for your heart to work effectively. Take deep breaths, increased oxygen helps the heart to work effectively.  



Insect stings in the mouth

In summer time you’re more likely to be outside, and wasps and bees are particularly attracted to sweet, sugary drinks. If you have a can open it’s possible for one to crawl inside, leading to a sting in the mouth when you next take a sip.

If this happens the site of the sting can swell, making it difficult to breathe, and if you have a known allergy to stings the situation can escalate quickly.

While waiting for emergency help, suck on an ice cube or ice lolly. This will help reduce swelling and make it easier to breathe.

To reduce the risk, always use a straw when drinking from a can, or pour your drink into a cup or glass where you can clearly see any insect intruders.



Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is a medical emergency and can develop quickly, within a few minutes, or gradually over the course of a few hours.  If left untreated symptoms can progress into confusion, disorientation, seizures or fits, and loss of consciousness.


The signs include:

-       tiredness and weakness

-       feeling faint or dizzy

-       headaches

-       perspiration

-       a fast pulse

-       thirst

-       feeling sick and vomiting

-       muscle cramps

-       needing to urinate less, and urine with a darker colour than usual


If you feel that you might be suffering, lay down in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Take off unnecessary clothing to allow your skin to cool, and use whatever you have available, like a cool wet sponge or flannel, to cool your skin. Concentrate on the neck and armpits as the blood here flows faster and nearer the surface, by cooling these areas the cooler blood will circulate quickly.

Use a fan on your damp skin to help the water evaporate, helping the skin to cool. Drink plenty of fluids – either water or a rehydration sports drink.

Getting medical advice is essential. If your symptoms are severe you should seek emergency care but if symptoms are less severe you can have a babylon consultation in minutes and our doctors will be happy to talk you through cooling methods. They will also tell you if your symptoms are more serious than you think.

Whatever happens, if you don’t start to recover in 30 minutes, or if you suspect that you’ve lost consciousness at any point, call 999 immediately.




Flu can be easily treated by yourself, but escalate if you don’t stay hydrated, or if you get a flu-related complication. With flu, exhaustion and achy limbs can even make the effort of getting up to get a drink of water, too much. You can limit the amount you need to move by filling a jug of water and keeping it by your bed.

Flu related complications happen when your body’s immune system uses everything it has fighting the flu virus, leaving your body susceptible to nasty bacterial infections.

Pneumonia: the most dangerous flu related complication. This lung infection has symptoms that mimic the flu, but Pneumonia with flu can be deadly. In bad cases it causes fluid build up and reduces oxygen supply to the lungs and other tissues in the body.


You should seek emergency care when:

-       you have difficulty breathing

-       your fever continues despite using medications like paracetamol, which should bring your temperature down.

-       Your skin colour appears bluish or grey.

-       You experience severe dehydration

-       You get pain, or pressure in the chest or abdomen

-       You’re experiencing dizziness or confusion

-       You’ve begun to vomit

-       You’ve experienced any kind of seizure


If you are suffering with the flu you’re often advised against visiting your regular GP as you would then be exposing everyone in the waiting room to the virus. What you can do is book a babylon consultation and speak to a top GP face-to-face via video link. They will be able to assess your condition and provide the professional advice you need.


If you have any questions about how to act in an emergency so that you are fully prepared, book a babylon consultation and speak to one of our GPs today.