Preparing Your Teen for a Medical Emergency Away From Home

How to Stay Cool and Get the Right Care Fast

Preparing Your Teen for a Medical Emergency Away From Home
February 20, 2014

We all know that teenagers are indestructible. If you don't believe it, just ask them; they'll tell you.

Unfortunately, their parents know teens are anything but indestructible. A medical emergency for your teenager could happen anywhere. Would your child be prepared if he or she suffered a medical emergency while on a school trip, visiting with relatives, or even traveling out of the country? What would happen if the unthinkable occurs during Spring Break in Mexico?

Preparation/prevention is the most important element. Here are some of the steps you can take:

  • Have Vital Information Handy – Your teen should have ready access to all of his or her vital information such as emergency contact info, their physician's name, any medical conditions such as diabetes or allergies, etc. For school trips, there should be a consent form containing this information and allowing for treatment of your minor teens.

    It's easy for your teen to carry all the necessary information in their phone, but if they are unconscious or incapacitated, responders may not be able to get the information. Have a written copy stored away in a wallet or purse just in case. This isn't guaranteed to get the proper information to responders, but it increases the odds.

  • Take Classes – If your teen has not had CPR and First Aid training, sign them up as soon as possible. Free classes are often available through your local hospitals or Red Cross facilities, and perhaps fitness centers. These classes sometimes include scenarios that your teen may encounter, and will help them approach a situation more calmly. Taking a class could help them save a friend’s life.

  • Insurance – If your teen is traveling abroad, you may need separate travel insurance. Call the number on the back of your insurance card, and they should be able to get you information on coverage, as well as recommended medical providers and their locations wherever you are going (within the U.S. as well).

  • Check Your Destination – For overseas trips, it would be wise to do research on the proper method of reporting a medical emergency. Is there a 911 equivalent? Do you call the police? Do you speak the local language? If not, have the necessary phrases handy. And where is the American Embassy or Consulate in that city? If there is one, your teen should be equipped with its address and phone number.

    Also, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a travel site with health warnings and advisories, necessary vaccinations, and other hazards related to your overseas destination. Check it out well before vacation time in case your teen needs vaccinations or other preparations that may take time.

  • Avoid Risky Situations – Say, for example, Spring Break in Mexico…. All kidding aside, medical emergencies often arise from bad decisions. Your teen will roll their eyes at you, but it's still worth mentioning that reasonable caution on his or her part can prevent a disastrous – or even deadly – outcome.

Teach your children to take the following steps if a medical emergency occurs. Of course, if you are with them, you should follow these steps as well:

  • Stay Calm and Focused – This is hard to do, but essential. Panic tends to snowball. Make sure to focus on the event at hand, and resist the urge to think ahead or project worst-case situations.

  • Contact 911 or Local Equivalent Immediately – Transfer all the necessary information on location and condition of everyone involved. Remember to give your location as precisely as you can – calling on a cell phone may direct you to an emergency center far from where you are. If none of your teen’s travel companions speak the local language (or even if they do), remind your child to immediately request help from a local who speaks English in case of emergency. Being prepared to blurt out, “We need help! Does anyone here speak English?” to passersby can make the difference between a benign outcome and a tragedy.

  • Apply First Aid as Appropriate – This is where training comes in handy. The 911 operator should advise you on the steps to take, otherwise, apply any first-aid training that you find appropriate.

Hopefully these tips will help your teens handle any medical situation or other emergency they may face, enhancing both their confidence and your peace-of-mind. Put simply, preparation is the key. If they do go on Spring Break in Mexico, you hope the worst stories are the ones they won’t tell you, not the ones you hear from the authorities.

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