6 mnemonic devices to help you in a medical emergency!
Published 20 Aug 2021 • By Courtney Johnson
We often use mnemonic devices – a set of letters or associations to help the brain encode and recall information – in school to help us remember things for that science quiz or history test. But did you know that they can also be put to use to help save your life in a medical emergency?
We share 6 key mnemonics that can help you in a medical emergency!
Read on to learn more!
When faced with a crisis, we all react differently – some people may shut down and others may spring to action. Here are 6 mnemonic devices that can help you jump to action in a medical emergency!
PULSE for heart attack
When experiencing heart attack, time is of the essence. The minutes during and after a heart attack are crucial to prevent and treat the tissue-killing damage caused by the restriction of blood supply to the heart.
To help you recognize a heart attack when it occurs, here is a helpful word to remember: PULSE.
P: Persistent pain (in the chest, arms, jaw, neck, or back)
U: Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting
S: Shortness of breath
E: Excessive sweating
CAB for CPR
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is an important lifesaving technique used in medical emergencies such as heart attack or loss of consciousness where someone’s heartbeat or breathing has stopped.
Here is a helpful mnemonic to help you remember what to do: CAB.
C: Compressions – Give 100-120 compressions per minute to the centre of the person’s chest to help pump blood to the brain.
A: Airway - After 30 compressions, tilt the person’s head back and lift the chin to open the airway.
B: Breathing – If you’ve been trained and/or certified in CPR, make a seal over the person’s mouth, pinch their nose and give them two rescue breaths.
It’s important to note that if you haven’t been trained in CPR, it is best to just apply hand compressions on the chest and wait for paramedics to arrive. Also, these instructions only apply for CPR on an adult and not to a child or infant.
To learn more about CPR and its training, you can consult the NHS site here.
FAST for stroke symptoms
Like with heart attack, is it crucial to get care for a stroke as soon as possible, as brain cells die within minutes. To recognize a stroke, remember: FAST.
F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech difficulty
T: Time to call 999
You should also call 999 if you or someone else shows sudden symptoms, such as:
- Trouble walking
- Trouble seeing
- Intense headache
“umble” words for hypothermia
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading to a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature lies around 98.6° F (37° C); hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95° F (35° C).
This condition is often caused by immersion in cold water or exposure to cold weather, and when left untreated can lead to heart and respiratory failure and eventually to death.
To recognize when someone has hypothermia, it can be helpful to remember words ending in “umble”: mumble, stumble, fumble, or grumble. These can be a signal that the organs and other faculties are shutting down. Other symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Shallow breathing
ABC for bleeding
If you or someone else is injured, it can be important to know how to stop serious bleeding. If someone has a bleeding wound, remember your ABC’s:
A: Alert - Contact someone for help or have someone do it for you, if possible.
B: Bleeding - Locate the source of the bleed.
C: Compress – Apply pressure to stop the flow of blood using a tourniquet. If you don’t have one, place bandages or a clean cloth or fabric over the wound and put apply pressure directly on the wound with your hands.
RICE after an injury
If you or someone else get hurt, like an ankle or knee sprain, here’s a handy mnemonic to remember: RICE.
R: Rest the injured area and protect it from further injury.
I: Ice the affected area as soon as possible to stop or reduce pain and swelling.
C: Compress the area by wrapping with a bandage to diminish swelling. Make sure not to wrap too tight, as that could worsen things.
E: Elevate the area at or above heart level when sitting or lying down. This will help the swelling dissipate.
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- Lifesaving mnemonics to know, WebMD
- The Word That Can Save Your Life, Women’s Health
- Recognizing medical emergencies, NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine
- What is a heart attack?, American Heart Association
- Stoke symptoms, American Stroke Association
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): First aid
- First aid - CPR, NHS
- Hypothermia, Mayo Clinic