The holiday season is peak travelling time for many South Africans. Make your journey – and your vacation – as stress-free as possible by being prepared for medical mishaps and emergencies.

Pack a first aid kit
A first aid kit is a holiday essential – never be without one, especially on a family trip.

This should fit comfortably into your luggage or vehicle. When assembling your kit, take your destination, holiday activities and fellow travellers into account.

To include:
– Medical gloves
– Gauze, disinfectant, antiseptic, bandages and plasters
– A topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory gel, cream or spray
– Scissors, tweezers and wound-closing strips
– Throat lozenges, anti-nausea tablets, antacids for indigestion, painkillers and fever-reducing medication
– Oral rehydration sachets containing electrolytes
– Medicine to stop diarrhoea and cramps
– Decongestants, antihistamines and a topical cream for bites and stings
– Saline eye drops for dry or itchy eyes
– Rescue blanket.

Identify your ICE numbers
Putting emergency numbers into your phone assists emergency personnel to locate you quicker and treat you most appropriately.

Programme in-case-of-emergency (ICE) contacts into your cellphone. Add them under the name ICE so paramedics and other emergency personnel are able to find the number easily. Once the contact is located, the number is relayed to ER24’s national emergency contact centre from where an emergency resource operator will contact you. They will ask for information about the patient’s allergies, medical background, prescription medications, and anything else that might assist paramedics or hospital staff.

Use mapping technology

Download the free what3words app to find, share and save your exact location in the case of emergency. Using a what3word address – instead of a traditional address that can prove difficult in remote, rural areas – you can describe exactly where you are. This helps ER24 paramedics find you quickly, saving crucial time to perform life-saving interventions. Where possible ER24’s emergency resource operators will assist you telephonically before emergency medical assistance crews arrive on scene. They use medical databases to assist with medical information and pre-arrival instructions.

Do’s and don’ts when dealing with injured patients
Road accidents and deaths increase over the end-of-year holidays. Alarmingly, the 2021 national statistic of 1 685 fatalities was a 14% increase from the 2020 figure.

Don’t – Allow the patient to walk around.

Do – Call ER24 on 084 124 for medical assistance immediately.

Don’t – Try to pull a patient out of a car.

Do – Gently turn an injured patient on their side in the recovery position if they’re already outside of the vehicle.

Don’t – Shake an unconscious patient to try and wake them.

Do – Compress any bleeding areas on a patient.

How to identify and handle cervical spine (C-spine) injuries

Approach. Always approach a motor vehicle accident (MVA) patient directly from the front to stop them turning their heads to speak to you.

Ask questions. Ask the patient if they feel any pain, where they’re feeling it and if they have any numbness or pins and needles.

Identify. If a person is feeling neck pain or can’t feel anything in their hands and feet, they most likely have a C-spine injury.

Don’t move. Don’t move the patient if a C-spine injury is confirmed.

Sources: Tao Ann Carstens, ER24 Southern Cape Branch Manager; Raeesah Boomgaard, ER24 Johannesburg West Branch Manager.

For all medical emergenices, call ER24 on 084 124 for real help, real fast.

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