Medical Emergency

First aid includes assessments and treatments that can be performed by a layperson (the victim or a bystander) with minimal or no medical equipment. First aid should never delay the activation of the emergency medical services (EMS) system or other medical assistance, if needed. This first aid guide is derived from the 2015 American Heart Association and American Red Cross Guidelines for First Aid.

Calling for Help

In a medical emergency on campus, activate the emergency medical services (EMS) system by calling the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone).

Hands-Only CPR

If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse:

  1. Call (or tell someone else to call) 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) or 911 if off campus; and
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest. CPR can more than double a person’s chances of survival.

Learn more about hands-only CPR at Heart.org/HandsOnlyCPR.

Body Substance Isolation

Some infections can be transferred by a victim’s bodily fluids. While intact skin is a generally effective barrier against outside contagions, it is recommended that any bystander avoid contact with the body substances of another person. Keep in mind that you can be exposed by touching, splashing, spraying (i.e. a sneeze or cough), and that exposure may occur by skin contact or contamination in the eyes, mouth or nose. Body Substance Isolation refers to the practice of wearing or using barriers such as medical gloves or a CPR mouth-to-mouth barrier device to reduce the risk of transmitting an infection.

Positioning the Victim

It is best to allow only trained rescuers to move a victim, for a victim that may have a spinal injury could be paralyzed if moved improperly. There are, however, a few notable exceptions:

  • If there is immediate peril to you and the victim, it may be necessary to relocate the victim to a safer place.
  • If you need to perform CPR, it may be necessary to roll the victim onto their back.

Medical Emergencies

Breathing Difficulties

Difficulty breathing may be caused by a number of medical problems, including an asthma attack or an allergic reaction. Any difficulty breathing is a serious emergency and requires the immediate activation of EMS.

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • If the victim states he/she is having an asthma attack you may assist with these actions:
    • Ask the victim if they have an inhaler
    • Ask if the medication is prescribed for the victim
    • Assist the victim in administering the inhaler if needed
  • With any breathing emergency, help by sitting the victim upright or in the position they are most comfortable.

Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis)

A victim of an allergic reaction may experience swelling (especially of the face), breathing difficulty, an itching rash, shock, and even death. The victim may have a history of allergic reactions and may carry an epinephrine auto-injector (also known as an EpiPenTM), or the allergic reaction could be the victim’s first.

If you suspect an allergic reaction:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • If the victim has an EpiPen available and needs assistance with its administration, you may help by taking these steps:
    • Make sure the medication is prescribed to the victim.
    • Follow the instructions on the device to administer the medication.
  • For any allergic reaction, allow the victim to sit upright or in the position they are most comfortable.

Seizures (Convulsions)

The objectives of providing aid during a seizure are to prevent further injury and to help maintain an open airway. Most seizures will stop on their own after a few seconds, but not all will. Stay calm, and:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Do not restrain the victim during the seizure. Move furniture away to protect the head.
  • Do not place anything in the victim’s mouth. Tongue biting and bleeding from the mouth can be normal side effects of a seizure.
  • After a seizure the victim may be unconscious, confused or lethargic: Place the victim on their side and reassure the victim until help arrives.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is normally characterized as severe chest pain, but may be indicated by a number of other, more subtle signs. Heart attacks affect men and women of all ages. Learn to recognize the signs, and activate EMS immediately if you suspect someone may be suffering from a heart attack.

The signs of a heart attack might include:

  • Chest discomfort—most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, vomiting or lightheadedness.

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to primarily complain of other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you suspect someone is having a heart attack:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Allow the victim to sit up, or in the position that is most comfortable.
  • Reassure the victim that help is on the way.
  • Monitor the victim and perform CPR if the victim becomes unresponsive or lacks normal breathing.

Stroke

Learn to recognize the signs of a stroke, and activate EMS immediately if you believe someone may be suffering from a stroke. Remember FAST:

  • Facial weakness – can the person smile? Is there drooping of the mouth or one or both eyes?
  • Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time is critical – call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.

Diabetic Emergency

Diabetic emergencies happen when a victim has dangerously low or high blood sugar levels. Although this type of emergency can happen to anyone, it is more common for victims with diabetes.
Symptoms of a diabetic emergency include:

  • Confusion
  • Altered behavior
  • Difficulty speaking or walking
  • Slow responsiveness

If a person with diabetes reports having low blood sugar, you may assist by providing them with sugars such as juices, sugar tablets, or glucose gel which the victim may be prescribed.

Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink if they are unable to swallow or have slow responsiveness. Call 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.

Injuries

Injuries sustained at the workplace may require the victim’s supervisor to file certain reports with Environmental Health & Safety and the Office of Risk Management & Insurance Worker’s Compensation Program. These reports, as well as additional information, are available at publicsafety. tufts.edu/accident/.

Bleeding

Control of bleeding is a first aid action by which you can have a major positive effect on outcome.

  • For serious bleeding, call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Control the bleeding by applying direct pressure over the bleeding area until bleeding stops or EMS arrives.
  • Avoid contact with another person’s blood by using medical gloves.

It is best to apply manual pressure on a gauze bandage or other piece of cloth placed over the bleeding source. If bleeding continues, do not remove the gauze; add more gauze on top and continue to apply pressure. If the victim complains of feeling light headed or seems to be confused, make sure that EMS is on the way.

Cuts and Scrapes

Clean the wound with clean, running tap water with or without soap for at least 5 minutes. Application of an antibiotic ointment and a dressing after cleaning has been shown to help wounds heal better. However, do not apply an antibiotic ointment if the victim has known allergies to the antibiotic. Call for EMS or seek medical attention if the wound becomes discolored or swollen, or if the victim develops other symptoms such as lightheadedness.

Burns

Burns Caused by Heat

Immediately cool the burn in cold, running water and continue at least until pain is relieved. Do not use ice, as this may freeze skin and cause more damage. Do not pop burn blisters, do loosely cover them with a sterile dressing. Call for EMS or seek medical attention if necessary. Always activate EMS for burns of a large area, or for burns affecting the face, hands or genitals.

Burns Caused by Electricity

Electrical burns are usually internal, and only a small outside burn may mask a large area of damage inside the victim.

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Consider your own safety first! Do not approach or touch the victim until the power has been turned off.
  • Once the power is off, assess the victim, who may need CPR.

Burns Caused by Chemicals

If you see someone spill chemicals on themselves:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Brush powdered chemicals off the skin with a gloved hand or piece of cloth.
  • Remove contaminated clothing, being careful not to contaminate yourself in the process.
  • Provide EMS with any information you have on the chemical that caused the burn.

Sprains, Strains, Bruises, Dislocations, and Broken Bones

If someone injures a muscle, joint, or bone:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Do not attempt to move or reposition a victim with a serious muscular, bone or joint injury.
  • For a minor injury, apply a mixture of ice and water in a plastic bag to the injured area, being sure to place a thin towel or other cloth between the mixture and the skin to prevent freezing of skin. Apply ice for 10-20 minutes at a time, to prevent skin from becoming too cold.
  • If the injury includes open skin, cover the wound with a dressing. Do not attempt to push protruding bones or tissue back into the skin.

Dental Injuries

Dental injuries include chipped teeth or a tooth that is knocked out.

  • Seek medical attention at a dentist, emergency room, or activate EMS.
  • Avoid touching the root, or the part of the tooth that’s normally embedded in the gums.
  • Clean wounds inside the mouth with water. Avoid swallowing blood.
  • Stop bleeding by applying pressure with a piece of clean cotton.
  • Do not scrub knocked-out teeth. Rinse it in water, then place it in milk or clean water if milk is not available. Bring the tooth with you to the emergency room or dentist.

Head Injuries

Head injuries are very dangerous and should be handled with caution. If the victim has hit their head and has any symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headache, confusion or memory loss, you should immediately:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
    Do not move the victim and encourage them to keep their head and neck still until EMS arrives.

Environmental Emergencies

Cold Emergency

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is the lowering of body temperature. The seriousness depends on the length of the victim’s exposure and their body temperature. If someone appears to be severely hypothermic:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Begin warming the victim by moving them to a warm place and removing wet clothing. Wrap them with dry clothes, blankets, towels, etc.

Frostbite

Frostbite is damage to the skin caused by extreme cold or long period of exposure. Usually affecting extremities such has hands, feet, nose, ears, frostbite is characterized by discoloration of the skin and may include numbness or intense pain. If you suspect frostbite:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Do not attempt to re-warm the affected body part.
  • Prevent the onset of hypothermia by moving them to a warm place and removing wet clothing. Wrap the victim with dry clothes, blankets, towels, etc.

Heat Emergency

Illnesses brought on by heat may include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Most heat related emergencies can be prevented by drinking water often during hot weather, and staying indoors during the hottest parts of the day. If you suspect someone is having a heat emergency:

  • Get the victim to a cool place—Such as in the shade, indoors, or an air conditioned car.
  • Loosen or remove clothing and cool the victim with a cool water spray or fan the victim.
  • Offer the victim cool electrolyte-carbohydrate mixture (juice, milk, etc.) to drink, only if they are awake and alert.
  • If the victim is confused, sweating, nauseous or vomiting or refuses water, call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.

Poison Emergency

Poisons may be ingested, inhaled or absorbed through parts of the body. Treatment for different types of poisons varies, and there is no general recommendation that can be made other than activating EMS and contacting the Poison Help hotline of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. If you believe someone has ingested poison, or see them do it:

  • Call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS.
  • Contact the Poison Help hotline at 800.222.1222.
  • Do not give the victim anything to drink or eat unless directed to do so by the Poison Help hotline.
  • Do not cause the victim to vomit unless directed to do so by the Poison Help hotline.

Alcohol-Related Emergencies

Alcohol emergencies may occur when a victim ingests alcoholic beverages. Symptoms of an alcohol-related emergency include:

  • Vomiting
  • Inability to speak or walk properly
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Slow responsiveness or unresponsiveness

If a victim shows any signs of an alcohol emergency, call the University Police at 617.627.6911 (x66911 from a campus phone) to activate EMS. If uninjured, place the victim on their side and reassure the victim until help arrives. Ensure the victim remains stationary in a safe location until EMS arrives.

Public Health Emergency

A public health emergency exists when campus air, drinking water, or food is contaminated with one or more hazardous agents such as chemicals or pathogens that could or will result in disease or injury impacting large numbers of people. Likewise, other campus-wide incidents such as pest infestations or failure of the sewage system also have the potential to result in disease or injury that would be significant to communities. Actions will be taken to notify the Tufts community of these conditions as soon as Tufts University becomes aware of an outbreak of such an emergency.

The following types of outbreaks or epidemics represent public health emergencies:

  • Communicable disease: widespread disease for which vaccination is not available;
  • Foodborne disease: gastrointestinal illness;
  • Waterborne disease: microbiological or chemical agents;
  • Injuries resulting from infestation with insects, rodents or other pests (e.g. bedbugs);
  • Infectious disease resulting from contact with sewage or other human wastes.

Student Health Service, Public and Environmental Safety and Facilities Services each have a responsibility to be aware of the public health significance of utility failures, reports of unusual diseases or injuries, or an unusual frequency of certain diseases and injuries. Tufts University will work closely with local and state agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to respond quickly and effectively to public health emergencies that occur at Tufts University or in the neighboring community.