Help Others Help You During a Medical Emergency

Have you ever been on an airplane, or maybe even just out in public at a restaurant or movie, when someone had a medical emergency? Do you have a medical condition you would want a health professional to know about in the event of an emergency?

A medical emergency can happen on a plane thousands of feet in the air, or steps away from a medical office. When you are unable to answer for yourself, you can have tools on hand that speak for you. You never know when a bystander could be a healthcare professional bridging the gap until more help arrives.

In these situations, knowing what medications you are taking, allergies you have, and any chronic conditions you possess, give clinically helpful context to the situation. We are in your corner for survival and recovery.

Think of it like this: heart patients may carry nitroglycerin tablets, asthmatics may carry a rescue inhaler, and individuals with severe allergies may carry an epinephrine autoinjector. These are examples of tools we want patients to always have but never need. Having more pieces to the puzzle can expedite a diagnosis and treatment plan, while also avoiding any dangerous drug-to-drug interactions or precipitate an allergic reaction.

Whether you have a card in your wallet or use the health app on your phone, having a list of your allergies and your medications, their dosages and the reason for taking them, can save precious moments in an emergency. If you are ever unable to speak for yourself, healthcare providers will look for this information in your wallet or on your phone. And don’t worry about a locked phone screen: there is a way they can open only your health app without accessing the rest of your phone’s information. Some information to consider adding is your name, date of birth, emergency contact, any medications names with the dose, and medical history.

As a healthcare professional, we are trained to assess patients regardless of their status and will work to stabilize them. Nonetheless, you can help us help you (or a loved one) by making sure we have as many pieces to the puzzle as possible. This information will help us understand what is happening—and why—and quickly determine the best way to address the emergency.

Sarah Younan, MPH, MSPAS, PA-C, is a general cardiology advanced practice provider at Virginia Heart.