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HEALTH REPORT - September 17, 2003: Medical Emergencies - 2003-09-16

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Would you recognize a medical emergency? The American College of Emergency Physicians says is it is important for everyone to know the warning signs. This group is a professional organization for doctors who work in hospital emergency departments.

It says one of the warning signs to seek medical treatment is a sudden or severe pain that does not go away. This includes pain in the stomach, chest or head. Doctors say to seek treatment if you feel as though you have the worst headache you have ever had. It could mean internal bleeding from a broken artery in the head.

Severe stomach pain could be a sign of appendicitis. Severe chest or back pain could be a sign of a heart attack.

Another warning sign of a medical emergency is difficulty breathing. This could mean a heart condition, or a hole or blockage in a lung.

Still another sign is a change in mental ability. A person who suddenly is confused, loses memory or cannot be awakened from sleep should be taken to a hospital immediately. These can be signs of a stroke or infection.

The doctors say uncontrolled bleeding from any kind of wound calls for professional care. So does coughing or vomiting blood. Bringing up blood into the mouth suggests bleeding within the body. Extremely dark bowel movements can also be a sign of internal bleeding.

Other signs of a medical emergency include losing consciousness or becoming dizzy and weak. These can mean a person is suffering a stroke or damage from a head injury. Another sign of a possible stroke is a sudden change in vision or speech.

The emergency physicians group says if you or someone you know develops any of these signs, go to a hospital as soon as possible. It the words of its information, "Seconds Save Lives."

The group also offers some suggestions about ways to prevent medical emergencies. One is to always use a seat belt in motor vehicles, or a helmet when bicycling. Another suggestion is to not smoke cigarettes. The doctors also suggest a sensible diet of healthy foods and not much alcohol.

The American College of Emergency Physicians has other health advice on its Web site. The address is

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.