What to do in an emergency

File photo: ER24
Summer is about family and having fun to celebrate the end of the year. The worst thing that could happen is ending up at an emergency room. Did you know that the three things that make summer great could also prove fatal if you don’t know what to do in an emergency?

An ER24 expert shares how to keep yourself and your family safe this summer.


ER24 advanced life support provider, Zita Mathios says many people underestimate the dangers of a backyard pool, the sea or a mountain dam. 
“In the peak of summer we attend to a drowning-related call at least once a week. These emergencies are especially common among children under the age of four and often have poor outcomes,” she said.

Keys to preventing a drowning

Protect your pool with a security gate, fence and impermeable cover.

Watch children at all times (it takes less than five minutes for a child to submerge and lose consciousness).

Enroll your child and your childminder for swimming lessons as soon as possible.

Ensure you and your childminder have completed a certified CPR course.

Exercise responsible behaviour at all times around the pool or at the beach. Drinking alcohol and playing silly games can lead to disaster if you slip or fall into the water.

*Even young children who have had swimming lessons must be supervised, since the fact that they have had the lessons may lead to less vigilance from caregivers/parents and a false sense of security in the child.

In the event of a drowning

Call ER24 on 084 124 for help

If it is safe for you to do so, remove the person from water to a dry, hard surface

Start CPR immediately and keep going until help arrives.


Snakes and other reptiles are more active in warm weather as they attempt to regulate their body heat. In addition, blooming summer flowers attract a wide array of insects. 

Ms Mathios says, stings and bites are usually harmless and result in local pain or swelling. However, some cases can be fatal. 

“Anaphylaxis is an extreme reaction to a simple sting/bite. This results in widespread swelling, hives, airway obstruction, distributive shock and potentially death. We get these call-outs often, especially at parks and outdoor events,” she explained.

Are bee stings more of a threat than snake bites during summer?

Keys to preventing snake bites and insect stings:

When faced with a snake in your path, do not approach it.

When hiking, always wear ankle protection.

When outside with a drink, always keep it covered.

Be vigilant when sitting on or grabbing objects outdoors.

Don’t provoke any hives or nests.

In the event of a snake bite:

Call ER24 on 084 124 for help

Do not attempt to catch or handle the snake.

If possible, take note of its features and colour (a phone photograph to show paramedics would be perfect).

Don’t attempt to suck out the venom.

Keep yourself (or the victim) calm and ensure you (or the victim) keep as still as possible.

In the event of an insect sting or bite:

Remove yourself (or the victim) from the vicinity of insect/s

Call ER24 on 084 124 for help

Scrape out the sting using a credit card or similar (pulling it out releases more toxins and takes more time)

Keep yourself (or the victim) calm, paying careful attention to the person’s skin condition


Ms Mathios says heat exhaustion is an increase in body temp above 38 degrees celsious with symptoms of sweating, dizziness, nausea and a fast pulse. If heat exhaustion isn’t managed it can develop into heatstroke (or sunstroke) where your body temperature rises above 40 degrees celsious and your symptoms worsen.

“We often get calls for heat exhaustion, especially at fitness events. Heat stroke doesn’t happen as often but is prevalent at shopping malls, where children or pets are locked in cars with no ventilation. The onset of heat stroke is relatively fast in this circumstance,” Ms Mathios explains.

Keys to preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

Drink plenty of water

Do not exert yourself outside in hot temperatures

Avoid the midday sun

Avoid excessive alcohol outside in hot temperature as this leads to dehydration

Wear sunscreen, as sunburn contributes to a rise in body temperature

Don’t leave children and pets in cars, even with a slightly open window

In the event of heat exhaustion:

Remove the person from heat (place them in the shade, place their feet in a pool, place a cool cloth on their forehead, or move them to an air-conditioned area)

Remove excess clothing.

Ensure they drink plenty of water or a sports re-hydration drink.
Monitor for at least 30 minutes

If they don’t improve:

Call ER24 on 084 124 for help

Keep encouraging them to drink water.

Do not submerge them in cold water as this can trigger an adverse reaction. Instead, sponge their forehead, chest and underarms with cool water until help arrives.

ER24 can be contacted on 084 124 for any medical emergency.