When a Person (not a society) Collapses

In our travels, we often speak at preparedness conferences and other events where there a lot of people attending.  If you go to enough of these, you might eventually find yourself in a situation where someone has collapsed and you are at hand.

What To Do if a Person Collapses

This happened at one of our lectures recently where a nice lady in the audience fainted.  Luckily for her, a number of medical professionals were available to help, but even the non-medical person should know some basics about how to evaluate and assist the victim. Would you know what to do if something like this happened?

In this case, the victim simply lost consciousness and keeled over onto the person sitting next to her.  This person saved her from injury by adeptly catching her and lowering her gently to the ground on her back.  A person who loses consciousness and falls will not be able to break their fall in any way, and is at risk for major injuries, especially if they were standing at the time.  Helping them gently to the ground is the first step towards preventing a major mishap.

CPR in an Emergency Situation

Once the victim is on the ground, you must quickly assess them:  Are they breathing?  Do they have a pulse?  If they don’t, immediately begin CPR and send someone to call for Emergency Medical help (911 in the U.S).  If you aren’t trained in CPR, you should begin chest compressions by placing the heel of your hand in the middle of the chest; Place it, palm down, over the lower half of the breastbone at the level of the nipple. Place your other hand on top and interlace your fingers. Keeping yourself positioned directly above your hands (arms straight), press downward in such a fashion that the breastbone (also called the “sternum”) is compressed about 2 inches. Allow the chest to recoil completely and then perform 30 compressions, at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute. At this point, check again for breathing and a pulse.  If none, continue chest compressions until help arrives.  If you ARE trained in CPR, follow the standard procedure.

Hopefully, the person who collapsed will be breathing and have a pulse.  If this is the case, raise their legs about 12 inches off the ground.  This will help blood flow to the brain.  Assess the patient for evidence of trauma, bleeding, or seizures. If bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound.  If the person is having a convulsion, do not try to restrain them but remove nearby objects that might injure them.

Tap on their shoulder and ask in a clear voice “Can you hear me?” or “Are you OK?”.  Loosen any obviously constricting clothing and make sure that they are getting lots of fresh air by keeping the area around them clear of crowds.  If you are in an area that is hot, fan the patient or carefully carry them to a cooler area.

If you are successful in arousing the patient, ask them if they have any pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or epilepsy.  Stay calm and speak in a reassuring manner. Don’t let them get up for a period of time, even if they say that they are fine.  People oftentimes are embarrassed and want to brush off the incident, but they are still at risk for another fall.   Once the victim is awake and alert (Do they know their name?  Do they know where they are?  What year it is?), you may slowly have the patient sit up if they are not otherwise injured.  If Emergency Medical Personnel are on the way, wait until they arrive before having the patient stand up.

Common causes of fainting include dehydration and low blood sugar, so giving fluids may be helpful.  Only do this if it is clear that they are completely conscious and able to function. Test their strength by having them firmly grasp two fingers of your hands; then, try to pull your hands away.  If you can do so easily (especially on one side), this person may have had a stroke and should go to the hospital.

In any circumstance, you should remain with the victim until emergency medical personnel arrive. Once they do, let them do their work without interference.  They are professionals who manage these issues on a daily basis.

Although our focus is medical issues in long-term survival situations, you should always be aware of how to deal with problems in good times as well.  Prepare now and be ready, no matter what the uncertain future may hold in store.

Dr. Bones

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