Health & Safety Tips
Waiting for the Ambulance
- Clear all steps and pathways leading to the patient, both inside and outside, of all objects and debris.
- Put dogs and cats in a separate room.
- If it is night, put on outside lights and make sure the patient area is well-lit.
- Keep distractions to a minimum.
- Have either a list of the patient’s medications or the medications themselves present.
- Gather relevant medical history including hospital stays, family doctor name and phone number, allergies, etc.
- Gather relevant personal information such as Social Security Number, birth date, etc.
Fact Sheet on Teen Drivers and Vehicle Crashes
MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES ARE THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN PEOPLE AGES 15 TO 20 YEARS OLD!!!
- When a teen who was a passenger dies in a collision, another teen was the driver 61% of the time.
- Teens at age 16 to 19 involved in fatal vehicle collisions were not wearing their seat belt 60% of the time.
- Of the fatal vehicle collisions involving teens age 16 to 19 – 48% involved only their vehicle.
- The highest death rate among male teen drivers were at age 19 & female drivers were at age 18.
- 34% of teen fatalities occurred between the hours of 6pm & 12am & were most prevalent on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays.
- 18% of teens age 16 to 17 killed in vehicle collisions had alcohol in their system.
What is an AED?
An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a portable device used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a life-threatening condition in which the heart stops its usual contractions and either contracts too quickly (v-tach) or quivers instead of contracting (v-fib). In either case, the resulting new heart rhythms cannot push blood through the body, and the result is rapid organ deterioration quickly followed by death. It is generally estimated that for each minute a person is in SCA, he or she has a reduced survival rate of ten per cent.
AED’s are usually found in public places such as churches, schools, government offices, airports, and public libraries. In addition, all police cars in your area also carry AED’s. In fact, Tri-Community South EMS is proud of the fact that we were the first EMS organization in the country to supply our communities’ police cars with AED’s.
Even though AED’s are fairly simple to use, we at Tri-Community South EMS urge everyone to take a CPR course that will demonstrate the proper use of an AED.
According to the latest statistics, about 94% of people stricken with SCA will die within ten minutes.
Blood Sugar and Your Health
Blood sugar is the term that refers to the amount of glucose that is in our bloodstream at any given time. Our digestive systems break down the carbohydrates which come from the fruits, vegetables, and grains that we eat into glucose molecules. The glucose molecules are then sent into the bloodstream stimulating the pancreas to manufacture insulin which is used to deliver the glucose to brain and muscle cells to use for energy. This process usually takes about four hours to complete. According to the National Academy of Sciences, we need approximately 130 grams of carbs per day to insure an adequate supply of energy.
Foods such as candy, which are high in sugar content, will cause our blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise very rapidly. This rapid rise also triggers a flood of insulin from an overworked pancreas. The insulin flood takes so much glucose out of the bloodstream that our glucose level falls from high to low in about an hour. The resultant “crash” leads to a craving for more sweets, thus creating a damaging cycle which will result in unhealthy weight gains.
Continually eating a diet high in sugar content will eventually result in a condition called insulin resistance or pre-diabetes where the pancreas reduces the amount of insulin it makes. Reduced insulin, in turn, leads to a higher blood sugar level. The eventual results will be an even higher weight gain along with an increased risk of heart, liver, and kidney disease, and a greater risk of type 2 diabetes where the pancreas can no longer make enough insulin to supply the body’s needs.
To avoid the problems associated with high blood sugar, learn to eat a sensible diet. Such a diet would feature meals that have a carbohydrate content of at least 50%. In other words, meals should feature vegetables, breads, pastas, and fruits. Replace snacks high in sugar and fat content with fruits. Such a diet would ensure a slow, controlled rise in glucose and insulin levels. Also, because we burn glucose as we move, a sensible plan of regular exercise will help to lower blood sugar while also burning fat. Finally, avoid faddish low-carb diets unless undertaken with medical supervision.
It is plain to see that a moderate blood sugar level is an important step in living a healthy lifestyle. We at Tri-Community South EMS encourage our neighbors to consider changing your families’ diets to include more high quality complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables. Such a change will prove beneficial to everyone.
First Aid for Burns
Summertime means spending more time outside. Activities such as camping, grilling, and picnics, while usually associated with good times, can also lead to frequent accidents, especially burns. But, it is somewhat surprising how little most people know about the proper way to treat burns. The first consideration in treating a burn is to distinguish between a minor burn and a major burn. This determination will then lead to the proper course of treatment.
A first-degree burn affects only the outer layer of skin and is categorized as a minor burn unless the site of the burn is the face, hands, feet, groin, or buttocks. Any burn which affects any of these areas is always considered to be serious and must be treated by a doctor. The site of a first-degree burn is usually red and swollen and is accompanied with pain, but these burns are classified as minor. A second-degree burn travels through the first layer of skin and into the second layer. These burns can usually be identified by blistery, deep-red skin accompanied by severe swelling and pain. If the burn area is larger than three inches or again is on the face, hands, feet, groin, or buttocks, this burn is classified as major and immediate medical help is needed. Otherwise, this burn can also be classified as minor.
Treatment of minor burns includes the following steps:
- Cool the burn under cool running water for 8 to 10 minutes to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Never place ice directly on the skin as ice will lead to further skin damage.
- Cover the area with a sterile gauze bandage to protect the area from infection. Never use cotton to cover an open wound.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen, but always check with a doctor before giving aspirin to children.
- Keep the affected area covered until it is completely healed. Do not break blisters or touch the area with fingers or hands, otherwise the chance for infection will increase.
- Never use folk remedies such as butter or egg whites because these will actually increase recovery time and will also increase the possibility of infection. Third degree burns will involve all three layers of skin and will appear either black or white. These burns not only affect the skin, but also can affect muscle, blood vessels, and even bone. These burns are classified as major and require immediate medical help.
Call 911 and observe the following:
- Do not remove the clothing that has been burned.
- Do not soak the burned area in cold water.
- If possible, elevate the burned areas above the level of the heart to control swelling.
- Use cool, moist, clean towels to cover the affected area until the ambulance arrives.
Of course, the best course of action is to avoid burns altogether, but even the most careful people can have accidents. We at Tri-Community South hope that the residents of our communities will have a safe summer. But, if an accident does occur, we want our citizens to be prepared with the proper response.
Summer Safety Tips
While many summer activities are certainly enjoyable, they can also be dangerous. When you’re having fun in the sun, keep these safety tips in mind:
Drink plenty of water before and during any strenuous activity in the heat (including swimming). Drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. You need more fluid than you may think. Take frequent, small drinks rather than less frequent, large drinks. Water is best, but fruit juices and sports drinks with electrolyte solutions are acceptable. Carbonated beverages are not as good. Avoid alcoholic beverages, which interfere with the body’s heat regulating mechanism and promote dehydration. Never drink alcohol before or during swimming or boating. The combination of heat, sun, and alcohol can lead to extremely, sometimes fatally, poor decisions. Avoid eating large meals before strenuous activity. Eat in moderation, and favor light foods.
Take frequent rests, and make these more frequent as the temperature rises. Schedule more strenuous activity for morning and evening, when the weather is cooler. If you have to perform strenuous activity during the hottest hours, start with the least strenuous and gradually build in intensity as your body acclimates to the heat. Stop immediately if you begin to experience dizziness or weakness.
Never leave children, the elderly, or pets alone in a car in the summer. Temperatures can rise to lethal levels in just a few minutes, even with the windows rolled down.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause more than sunburn. Long exposure can lead to severe burns and eye injury, and long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer. Use protective sunscreens with a protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 whenever you will be outdoors for long periods of time. Ultraviolet radiation penetrates clouds, so use sunscreen even on cloudy days. Wear wide-brimmed hats. Ball caps and sun visors do not protect your neck or ears. Use UV blocking sunglasses. The sun’s rays are most damaging from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the rays are most nearly vertical. Try to minimize your exposure during these hours. Infants less than 6 months of age are particularly susceptible to severe sunburn, and should be kept out of direct sunlight.
Heat and sun can cause serious injury. Overheating can cause muscle cramps, chills, dizziness, nausea and other symptoms. This set of symptoms is called heat exhaustion. If you have these symptoms, stop all strenuous activity immediately; get out of the sun and heat to the extent possible, and rest. If the symptoms persist for more than a few minutes, call for an ambulance. If these warning signs are ignored, you can suffer heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency. In heat stroke, the body loses its ability to regulate temperature with potentially deadly results. It is characterized by flushed, hot, dry skin, and confusion, leading to loss of consciousness and seizures. If you encounter someone with these symptoms, do not wait; call for an ambulance immediately. Have the victim stop all activity, and do what you can to lower his or her body temperature. Use cold, wet cloths or blankets, particularly at places where major blood vessels are close to the surface: the neck, the armpits and the groin. Do not give fluids by mouth. If you are trained in CPR, be prepared to support the ABCs of CPR.
Do Ambulance Response Times Matter?
A valid question is, “Does a quicker response time result in a better clinical outcome for the patient?” According to several recent research studies, notably, one published in EMS World in June 2015, the answer is, except for an extremely small number of cases, a resounding no. Faster arrival times have no relationship to better patient outcomes.
EMS providers understand the anxiety created by an emergency situation, and also realize that this anxiety distorts people's perception of the passage of time. Most complaints of a slow response time have no basis in fact and are, instead, the result of a person’s anxiety level. When the response time is longer, it is most often because the response was assigned a lower priority, based on the information the caller gave when the ambulance was called.
When a citizen calls for an ambulance, the information is taken by the dispatch center. After taking down the information, the dispatcher must relay it to EMS. The delay between the dispatcher’s receipt of the call and its reception by EMS can be anywhere from 90 seconds to four minutes depending on the type of medical emergency and the amount of information collected. After receiving the dispatch, the ambulance responds. Response times will depend on road conditions, weather, time of day or night, and the distance to the response location. An ambulance, even one using lights and sirens, must observe the same driving rules, including speed limits, red lights and stop signs, that everyone else must observe. The use of lights and sirens is limited by law to the most serious emergencies and cannot be used solely at the discretion of the driver.
Tri-Community South EMS covers South Park, Bethel Park, and Upper St. Clair, an area of 33.5 square miles. This area is large in terms of both population and square mileage. TCS responds to over 7000 calls each year, so frequently, the ambulance will be responding from a location other than the usual base.
So, what is considered to be a good response time? It varies by the type of area being discussed, but for suburban areas, many states use eight minutes as the acceptable average for the time between an ambulance receiving a dispatch to the time of its on-scene arrival for the highest priority calls. Tri-Community South uses the eight-minute time as our standard. TCS personnel must file a special report if a response time is eleven minutes or more, so that long response times can be tracked. These response times cannot be compromised, because the statistics are kept both by the ambulance crews and by the dispatch centers, and these records must be identical. All communications are recorded so that discrepancies between EMS records and those of the dispatch center can be resolved.
So, if you hear someone complain about the slow arrival of an ambulance, keep in mind all the factors that are involved, and ask two questions: Was the response time really slow? Would a faster arrival time would be worth the potential risk to the public? Tri-Community South will always place more importance on public safety than on having a faster arrival time.
What is Narcan?
Narcan, the brand name for the drug naloxone, has been used as an opioid blocker since the 1960’s. However, because of the recent spike in opioid overdoses – heroin overdoses have quadrupled in the U.S. between 2002 and 2013 – Narcan has warranted a great deal of attention.
Opioids, which are derivatives of the poppy plant, include heroin, oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine, codeine, methadone, and Vicodin. One of the side effects of opioid use is the depression of the respiratory system. If an opioid user takes a more powerful dosage than he or she is accustomed to, the user will simply stop breathing. Narcan will block the opiate receptors in the brain so that the opioids will be knocked out of the system, and the person can then resume breathing normally. However, the Narcan must be administered quickly because brain damage can occur in as little as two or three minutes after a person stops breathing.
Narcan can be administered either as an injection into a muscle or it can be sprayed up the nostrils of an overdose victim. The Narcan spray is fairly simple to administer; therefore, public health officials have recommended that as many people as possible be trained in the use of Narcan nasal spray.
Are there any downsides to the use of Narcan? A drug abuser who is given Narcan will feel drug withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, sweating, vomiting, etc. for up to ninety minutes after administration. Would-be rescuers must be aware of the signs of withdrawal and be prepared to deal with them. If given to an opioid user who is not in respiratory arrest, Narcan will cause withdrawal symptoms, but no other side effects. If mistakenly given to a non-opioid user, Narcan will have absolutely no side effects. Finally, Narcan is not an opioid so its use cannot lead a person to become an opioid user.