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As Fitness Pros, we work with the entire human body sometimes asking for extreme levels of performance.  Most of us will never experience a major medical emergency, but it never hurts to be prepared.  Keeping a current CPR and AED certification is paramount and required for most health and fitness professionals.  However, there are other health emergencies that we all should be aware of.

Clients may not share all of their medical history, which could be dangerous if they have a serious underlying condition.  In addition, age should never be overlooked because anyone can have a medical emergency.  I personally work with two mid-twenties, athletic, and healthy female clients that suffered a brain aneurism and a thrombotic stroke.  Never in a million years would I have expected them to go down on the fitness floor, but it did happen.

Make A Game Plan

Being prepared is how to prevent and handle emergency situations appropriately.  Most CPR certifications are renewed every two to three years, which can cause us to forget those extremely important details.  I suggest reviewing emergency procedures every three to four months, and setting up a mock situation can be very useful as well.

When it comes to handling a serious event, not everyone will be able to perform under pressure.  Some of us will just naturally jump right to it while others will freeze on the spot.  Identify staff members that know they can work under such pressure and those that would be better suited for the less intense details.  If a staff member can’t stomach an extreme situation, have them dial 9-1-1 or usher the paramedics in.  They can still help the team without being on the front lines.  Once everyone knows their emergency role, practice practice practice until it becomes second nature.

Know the Signs and Symptoms

One of the best ways to be prepared for an emergency situation is to know the signs and symptoms of serious health events.  Many of us know some of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, but those standard signs are VERY different for women.  We should also be aware of signs of stroke and hypoglycemia because these too have life threatening consequences.  My uncle was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 16 and has lived with it for the last 60 years.  His symptoms of hypoglycemia don’t always follow the standard list.  If we notice unusual sweating and he repeats a phrase more than four times, a diabetic reaction is imminent.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a client that gave me the “oh by the way…” line.  I always emphatically tell my clients that I need to know about any underlying medical conditions no matter how big or how small.  What might seem like no big deal to them could turn into something disastrous given the right conditions.   Below is a handy guide for emergency procedures and how to identify heart attacks, strokes, and diabetic hypoglycemia.

Signs of Medical Emergency & Response  Procedures

SIGNS OF STROKE:

As soon as you notice any of these signs for stroke, act immediately.  Time is the most crucial element for saving someone’s life after a stroke has occurred. Remember the acronym F.A.S.T when identifying these signs and symptoms.

F          Face

Look for dropping and ask if it numb.  Can the person smile and is it uneven?

A         Arm

Look for weakness and ask if it is numb. Can the person raise both arms and is one side impaired?

S         Speech

Look for slurred speech.  Can the person repeat a simple sentence such as “My name is Jane”?

T         Time

Response Procedure:

If you suspect any of these symptoms dial 9-1-1 as fast as possible.  The symptoms may go away before paramedics arrive, but another stroke may be imminent. Make sure to give the paramedics as much detail as possible, and remember the exact time when the first symptoms occurred.

Other signs include, sudden onset of:

  • Weakness in face, arm, or leg especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking, and difficulty understanding
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness, and loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

SIGNS OF HYPOGLYCEMIA  (Low Blood Glucose):

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sweating or chills
  • Irritability or irrational behavior
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Headache
  • Clumsiness or jerky movements
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Rapid heartrate
  • Loss of consciousness

Response Procedure:

It is always a good idea to have some sort of simple carbohydrate on hand while meeting with clients.  Some options are:

  • Orange or Apple Juice Box
  • Small boxes of Raisins
  • Honey Packets
  • Glucose Tablets or Gels

A small amount is all that is needed.  After consuming, waiting about 15 minutes to see if the signs dissipate.  If your client does not feel better, try another small amout of food and wait another 10-15 minutes.  If this doesn’t alleviate symptoms, encourage your client to see their physician or call 9-1-1 to seek medical assistance.

SIGNS OF HEART ATTACK:

The signs of a cardiac event can drastically vary between individuals.  Women can have dramatically different symptoms than men.  Many women don’t know they are having a heart attack because the symptoms are so different.

Classic Symptoms:

  • Chest Discomfort: may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in center of chest
  • Upper Body Pain: can occur in arms, back, neck, or jaw
  • Shortness of Breath: can occur without or without chest pain
  • Severe sweating or cold sweat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Typical Female Symptoms of Heart Attack:
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Pressure in the upper back

Response Procedure:

If you suspect any of these symptoms dial 9-1-1 as fast as possible.  Make sure to give the paramedics as much detail as possible and remember the exact time when the first symptoms occurred.

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