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Election day: Probable medical emergencies and how to respond

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Nigeria’s general election day is just a day away. This is a critical period when citizens go out in large masses to fulfill their civic responsibility—to vote to elect Nigeria’s president for a tenure of 4 years.

The election period is a monumental period in Nigeria’s history, one which is notorious for security challenges and medical emergencies. Tomorrow, Saturday, February 25, and two weeks later, by March 11, fellow compatriots will head over to the ballot boxes to vote for their preferred candidates. This year’s election is quite peculiar for most of us, because this may be the last opportunity to redeem a country on the brink of peril.

There is a lot of tension brewing, which may have already instilled fear in voters. The poor state of emergency medical services in the country will further expose healthcare inadequacies. But some basic knowledge of common medical emergencies will surely go a long way in preventing deaths during, and after the elections. So there is nothing to fear. Edugist has compiled probable medical emergencies which may occur on election day and ways to respond to them.

Panic attack

A panic attack is a sudden intense wave of fear. It is usually debilitating and immobilizing. Some of the signs of a panic attack include; a feeling of impending doom, racing heartbeats, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chills, hot flushes, chest pain, choking sensation, the churning of the stomach, and an overwhelming need to use the toilet.

How to respond

Reassure the person that everything is going to be fine. Encourage them to breathe slowly. When they can talk, listen patiently. Advice them to get some rest. If it gets worse, take them to the hospital.

Bleeding (Hemorrhage)

Bleeding can be from any part of the body – external or internal hemorrhage, but not all bleeding falls into the line of a medical emergency. The extent of tissue injury, the severity of the bleeding, the object causing the injury, and the person’s physiological state would determine the urgency.

How to respond

Once you notice a bleed, the first thing you would want to do is locate the source, and then you can try to stop it – this is done by applying pressure (with your palms, a clean towel, or gauze). Make sure they are immobilized and call for help – a paramedic team or get a vehicle to rush the person to the nearest hospital. Tourniquets should not be used for extended periods because of the tissue damage that can occur.

Stroke (Cerebrovascular accident)

A stroke is a medical emergency that arises when there is damage to the brain due to an interruption in its blood supply. Time is of the essence in stroke management. Some of the symptoms of stroke include sudden muscle weakness and paralysis, blurred vision or sudden vision loss, slurred speech, and abnormal deviation of the face. The individual may feel lightheaded, weak, or collapse suddenly.

How to respond

The first thing you must do is call for help. If they are still conscious, ask for a name, tell them to squeeze your hand, then make sure the immediate environment is safe. Place them in a comfortable position; they should lie on their side, with their head slightly raised, and put a cushion under them. Do not try to move them. Ensure their airway is clear, and loosen any tight clothing. Don’t give food or fluids. If they are unconscious, check for pulse and breathing – you may have to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if there is no pulse or if they are unresponsive.


Seizures (or fits) occur due to abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the brain. In some instances, it may go unnoticed. In others, it can affect behavior and lead to loss of consciousness, and movement disorders. Individuals may be confused, and stare blankly into space. They may also jerk or twitch uncontrollably.

How to respond

Once you recognize an ongoing episode, clear the area so they don’t harm themselves, and check for any medical bracelets. Turn them to their side so they can breathe easily, loosen any tight clothing, put a soft pad under their head, and monitor the episodes and timing of the seizures. Stay with them, and ensure they are calm and better before you leave. Please do not put anything in their mouth (spoon, stick, ash, or food).

Asthmatic attack

Anything can trigger an attack. During an asthmatic attack, the airway goes into spasm, becomes narrow, and breathing is difficult – individuals cough, sneeze, and wheeze to ease their breathing. They may find it difficult to speak and some could also collapse.

How to respond

When you notice someone experiencing an asthmatic attack, don’t be scared to offer help, ask for their inhaler, and encourage them to use it correctly. Ensure they are sitting or lying comfortably, and reassure them. Loosen any tight clothing and make sure there is adequate ventilation. If the attack is severe, get them to the hospital quickly. Other conditions that can cause breathing difficulty include flu, allergic reactions, chronic heart conditions, and COPD.

Heart attack

A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is lost. It can be fatal if not recognized on time or when adequate intervention is not provided. Some of the signs include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and heartburn. The pain begins in the chest and spreads to the arms, jaw, neck, stomach, and back.

How to respond

Have them rest in a comfortable position. Give them aspirin (if they don’t react to it), nitroglycerin can also be given if available. Loosen any tight clothing. If unconscious, begin CPR immediately. Rush them to a hospital.

Sudden collapse

A lot of things can cause sudden loss of consciousness; stroke, severe asthma, a traumatic brain injury, hypoglycemia (from starvation), heat stroke, and so on. So try to determine the cause as that will guide your response.

On election day, your response to that medical emergency can separate a fatal outcome from a good one which makes the difference between life and death for that family member, friend, neighbor, or a total stranger. Stay safe, and vote for a better Nigeria.

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