While there are many types of sudden illnesses, the four most common are fainting, seizures, stroke, and diabetes. With sudden illness, immediate care is required to cease life-threatening symptoms and prevent the illness from worsening. Some illnesses can be prevented by seeking medical attention upon recognizing the first signals of a problem.
In dealing with all sudden illnesses it is always important to remember to follow the three C’s: check the scene, call for help, and care for the individual. With sudden illness, you should call for help in a situation where the victim: is unconscious/altered state of consciousness, has difficulty breathing, reports chest pain, has no pulse, suffers injuries to the head/neck, seizes, or has slurred speech. The general care for sudden illnesses is similar from illness to illness; therefore, the recognition of a specific illness is not always necessary before administering aid. However, when dealing with seizures or diabetic emergency, it is crucial to know the cause of the illness to provide appropriate care.
While caring for a patient, the general guidelines are: do not harm, monitor breathing/consciousness, and provide specific care—if you are sure it is necessary and appropriate. Now that I have outlined information about sudden illness as whole, the next few paragraphs will discuss the specifics of the four common illnesses. Fainting—also known as syncope—is the temporary loss of total or partial consciousness, caused by the reduction of blood flow to the brain. Emotional shock can lead to fainting; emotional shock often is triggered by things like injury, natural disasters, or traumatic events. Medical conditions like hypertension, abnormal heartbeats, or heart blockages can lead to fainting. Overexertion or standing too long is also a cause of fainting because the prolonged period of time standing causes blood to pool in the legs; the pooling here lowers the blood to the brain and results in fainting. A person who is about to faint may be pale, ashen, and perspire all over the body. Before fainting, they may also become dizzy or light-headed—especially when standing up—and have cool, moist, skin.
Since fainting is a mild form of shock, victims are often numb in the fingers or toes with rapid pulse and breathing after fainting. To prevent fainting, sitting with the head in line with the knees helps to an extent. When caring for someone who has fainted, keeping them in a horizontal position is key because this increases blood flow to the head. The biggest way that injuries result from fainting are from the fall to the ground; if the victim is not suspected to have injuries to the head or neck, you should: elevate their legs 12 inches, loosen any clothing, and monitor for life-threatening conditions. Recovery from fainting is often quick with no long-term symptoms.
Diabetic emergencies are the result of the body’s inability to convert food sugars to energy due either the lack of or inactivity of the hormone insulin. Diabetic emergencies are the result of either too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia) or too little sugar in the blood (hypoglycemia). With hyperglycemia, the body lacks insulin and therefore has high blood sugar. Because of this, body cells lack sugar so body fat is used as energy; this produces a lot of waste which results in acidic blood and acidosis.
If this condition becomes severe, the patient can enter a diabetic coma. With hypoglycemia, low blood sugar and excessive insulin are present. Contrary to high blood sugar, hypoglycemia can result in insulin shock. Diabetic emergencies can be detected if the victim exhibits characteristics like: altered levels of consciousness, rapid breathing, elevated pulse rate, and visually appearing ill.
In terms of diabetic emergencies, a first responder does not need to distinguish which instance is occurring because the care for both emergencies is the same. With a conscious victim, they should be given sugary foods or beverages. EMS should be called if the victim’s state has had no improvement after 5 minutes of consuming sugar. If a victim were unconscious, we would begin care like normal by following the three C’s. A seizure is characterized by irregular electrical activity in the brain, caused by injury, disease, fever, or infection. Seizures are typically recognized by unconsciousness and uncontrollable muscle movement. Those that experience chronic seizures are often diagnosed with epilepsy. They can range from a mild blackout to severe uncontrollable muscle contractions all over the body.
Other symptoms include: drooling, eyes rolling back into the head, body stiffness, and breathing irregularly. Seizures typically last 1-3 minutes and are typically preceded with an “aura.” An aura is when a patient feels unusual sensations and experience things like hallucinations, strange tastes or smells, and odd sounds. This aura often lets the victim know that they are about to seize. Seizures that are triggered by fever or infection are referred to as febrile seizures.
These seizures can affect children under the age of 18 but it is most common in children under the age of 5. A febrile seizure is most likely to occur in an infant with a fever above 102 degrees. Along with the previously listen symptoms, febrile seizures can cause: drowsiness, increases in body temperature, holding the breath, and crying out. Children that have a febrile seizure are 15-20% more likely to develop epilepsy. Contrary to what I thought to be true before this project, you should not place anything between the patient’s teeth during a seizure and never down the victim as they seize. Clear the surrounding area to prevent injury to the victim and make sure they always have an open airway to keep oxygen flowing through the body and to the brain. If it is possible and safe for you to do so, loosen the patient’s clothing and support their head/neck with cushioning.
Once the seizure has ended, lay them on their side so that they can drain any fluid that may have accumulated during the seizure. The victim should be surveyed for any injuries that may have occurring during the seizure, while you try to provide them with as much privacy as possible. A first responder should stay with them until they are fully conscious and aware of the situation at hand.
In terms of a febrile seizure, the child should be cooled down with tepid water and EMS should be called immediately. Seizures can be a common occurrence for some—especially those with epilepsy—but it is important to call EMS when: seizures last for several minutes, seizures occur multiple times, a victim is injured, if the victim is either pregnant or diabetic, the instance occurs in water, or if a child has a febrile seizure and this is their first seizure. The final illness we will discuss is a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to a particular area of the brain is disrupted. Blood clots that coagulate in arteries that nourish the brain with blood are the most common causes of a stroke. Strokes often cause permanent damage to brain tissue.
Acting fast for a stroke victim is crucial because patients who receive drug treatment for the clot within an hour are much more likely to not only survive the stroke but also avoid long-term brain damage as opposed to those that do not make it to the hospital within the hour of the onset of symptoms. This is why it is important for first responders to act F.A.S.
T. We must act fast and use the acronym to detect strokes early on by perceiving face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty to know that it is time to call for help. When dealing with a stroke victim, we cannot do much until help arrives but we can maintain an open airway for the victim, comfort them until EMS arrives, and monitor the victim to make sure they continue breathing and do not injure themselves in another way.