Your family's immediate response to any serious medical emergency should be to dial 911 or your local emergency number. Nothing takes the place of trained staff and sometimes when someone inexperienced tries to help out, this may do more harm than good.
However, if someone in your family is in need of immediate medical attention and you are waiting for the emergency service to arrive, here are some important tips:
Explain to the person on the phone what the problem is and ask if there's anything you can do to help. Sometimes the person on the other end of the phone will be able to walk you through emergency procedures, or they'll be able to reassure you that help will be there in minutes and that you're better off leaving the person alone.
You could do more damage to their back or other parts of their body by moving them. Only move a person if you feel their life is in danger where they are - for example, don't remove someone from a car wreck unless the car is on fire or in danger of being hit by other cars.
This can cause whatever is choking the person to lodge permanently in his or her throat. If someone is able to cough or breathe, encourage him or her to keep coughing and to throw his or her arms in the air to help dislodge the object.
This is a simple, life-saving maneuver that you can perform on yourself or others. The best way to learn the maneuver is through a first-aid course or from a health care professional. But you can also read the steps to the maneuver (and may want to print off the directions) to post at home. Visit the Heimlich Institute Web site to read about the maneuver online.
Learning CPR can save the lives of those around you. Many community organizations offer CPR courses and certification. To find out more about where you can take a CPR course in your area, contact your local American Red Cross.
Whether their wound is small or large, you want to stop bleeding as quickly as possible. Apply pressure by holding a cloth firmly over the wound. If there are no broken bones, raise the injured part of the body above the heart to slow the blood flow.
You or someone in your family may want to consider taking a first-aid course that includes treating minor wounds, learning the Heimlich, and CPR. To find out more about where first-aid courses are offered in your community, contact MTSTCIL, your local physician or hospital, your community center, or the American Red Cross Web site.