The NHS is really suffering this winter and is under greater strain than ever before. This means it is vitally important that we only use our emergency services when we really need them, so that they are available to help with life-threatening medical emergencies.


Join us on one of our practical or online first aid courses to ensure you are skilled to recognise when someone needs medical attention and are confidently able to give immediate first aid.


The following information aims to help you with this extremely difficult and critical decision:


If you are dealing with an emergency that involves a particularly vulnerable person, for example an elderly person, baby or very young child and you are seriously concerned – always call an ambulance.

Children can mask serious symptoms and then quickly deteriorate.


The decision will vary from case to case, but we would strongly advise you to immediately administer First Aid and call an ambulance if someone:


  • Appears not to be breathing
  • Is having chest pain, difficulty breathing or experiencing weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking.
  • Experiencing severe bleeding that you are unable to stop with direct pressure on the wound.
  • Is struggling for breath, possibly breathing in a strange way appearing to ‘suck in’ below their rib cage as they use other muscles to help them to breathe.
  • Is unconscious or unaware of what is going on around them.
  • Has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover.
  • If they are having a severe allergic reaction accompanied by difficulty in breathing or collapse – always get an ambulance to come to you.


  • If a child is burnt and the burn is severe enough to need dressing – treat the burn under cool running water and call an ambulance. Keep cooling the burn until the paramedics arrive and look out for signs of shock.
  • If someone has fallen from a height, been hit by something travelling at speed (like a car) or been hit with force and there is a possibility of a spinal injury.


You don’t get seen any faster in A&E if you arrive by ambulance


You don’t need ambulance transport, but take someone straight to A&E if they have:

  • A fever and are floppy and lethargic
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • A cut that is gaping or losing a lot of blood, if they have amputated a finger or if there is something embedded in the wound.
  • A leg or arm injury and can’t use the limb
  • Swallowed poison or tablets and are not showing any adverse effects ( calling 111 can also give you advise from the poisons database – if they are behaving strangely or experiencing any symptoms from the poison; call an ambulance immediately)


Go to your Family Doctor:

For other less serious and non-life-threatening medical concerns, contact your GP or phone 111 for medical advice

Specific advice for babies

Sleeping Baby

If you are looking after a baby who has a serious illness or accident it is important to get medical attention as soon as possible. The following symptoms should always be treated as serious and an ambulance called:

• A high-pitched, weak or continuous cry.
• A lack of responsiveness, lethargy or floppiness.
• A bulging fontanel (the soft spot on a baby’s head).
• Not drinking for more than eight hours (taking solid food is not as important).
• A temperature of over 38°C if the baby is less than three months old or over 39°C if the baby is three to six months old or a raised temperature that you are unable to bring down.
• A high temperature, but cold feet and hands.
• Fits, convulsions or seizures.
• Turning blue, very pale, mottled or ashen.
• Difficulty breathing, fast breathing, grunting while breathing, or if your child is working hard to breathe, for example, sucking their stomach in under their ribs.
• Your baby or child is unusually drowsy, hard to wake up or doesn’t seem to know you.
• A spotty, purple-red rash anywhere on the body. (This could be a sign of meningitis.)
• Repeated vomiting or bile-stained (green) vomiting.

Most importantly – trust your instincts. If you are seriously worried, administer First Aid and get medical help quickly.

For more precious information about what do do while you are waiting for an ambulance, read here.

It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical or online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit or tel 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

Emma Hammett, First Aid for Life

Tel: 0208 675 4036

First Aid for Life is an award winning First Aid training business that is HSE and Ofqual Approved through Qualsafe Awards. Our trainers are medical and emergency services professionals and our training is tailored to your needs

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