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First Aid: Medical Emergencies

Be Prepared

There are a few simple things that each rider can do to be prepared for, facilitate the diagnosis of and get help in the event of a medical emergency.

  • Carry a fully charged cell phone: Dial 911
    • If a cell phone has no carrier coverage, Dial 112 to connect with any available carrier
  • Have the ride leader's cell phone number on your phone
  • Install the American Red Cross First Aid Mobile App on your phone
  • Ride with others: No one should ever be left behind or allowed to drop out of sight during a ride
  • Wear a Heart Monitor: It provides important information
  • Carry extra water for Heat Exhaustion/Stroke & cut cleaning
  • Carry Aspirin for Heart Attacks
  • Carry Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for Bee Stings

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion Reference


  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Pale Skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Dark-Colored Urine (a sign of dehydration)


  • Get the person out of the heat into a shaded area if possible.
  • Fan the person, spray the person with water and/or apply cool compresses.
  • Give cool, non-alcoholic/non-caffeinated beverages if the person is alert.
  • Have the person avoid further physical activity.
  • Give acetaminophen if the person has a headache.
  • Call 911 if the person:
    • Has a very high, weak pulse rate and rapid shallow breathing especially when combined with high or low blood pressure;
    • Has warm, dry skin, elevated or lowered blood pressure, and is hyperventilating.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke Reference


  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Body temperature above 103° F
  • Disorientation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Warm, Red, Dry Skin
  • Reduced Sweating


  • Call 911 – Heat Stroke is a medical emergency
  • Lower Body Temperature Quickly
    • Get the person into the shade.
    • Spray person with water, or apply wet cloths to the armpits and neck.
    • Fan air across the person to increase cooling.
  • Treat Symptoms
    • If the person experiences seizures, keep them safe from injury.
    • If the person vomits, turn them on their side to keep the airway open.
    • Do not give the person anything to drink if the person is not alert or is vomiting.

Heart Attack

Heart Attack Reference

Symptoms for Men

  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone.
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
  • Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

Symptoms for Women

  • Chest Pressure: Elephant sitting across the chest if it lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. This is the most common symptom for men and women but women are somewhat more likely to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
  • Shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain
  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest, particularly if it lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.


  • Call 911 – Heart Attack is a medical emergency
  • Ask the patient and the riding group if anyone has nitroglycerin pills. Take one of available. Note that they expire very quickly and must be fresh to be effective.
  • If no nitroglycerin is available, take an aspirin. Chew and swallow one non-coated adult aspirin (325 mg). Chewing or crushing the aspirin gets it into your bloodstream sooner.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac Arrest Reference


  • A Heart Attack victim is not responsive and/or has no pulse.
    In a Heart Attack, blood flow to the muscle of the heart is impaired. With Cardiac Arrest, the heart is not longer functioning.


  • Call 911 – Cardiac Arrest is a medical emergency
  • Check the pulse in the groin area (femoral), wrist (radial) or throat (carotid).  
  • If the person is unresponsive and pulse-less, begin Compression CPR at a rate of 100 to 110 per minute (to cadence of Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’).
    • Note: The Compression CPR may break ribs or the sternum (chest plate) of the heart attack victim, even if performed by professionals. Broken ribs can be repaired, not doing the CPR can result in death.
    • Have someone confirm the presence of a femoral pulse during CPR to show that blood is circulating. Continue CPR until the EMT's arrive.
  • Nausea and vomiting frequently occur during CPR. Turn the head to the side and clear vomit with fingers.
  • Several deep mouth to mouth breaths per minute can also help.


Stroke Reference


  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Asked to Smile: The smile is not symmetrical.
    • Asked to Stick out Tongue: The tongue Is not centered.
    • Asked to Raise both Arms: One arm drifts
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
  • Problems with walking or balance.
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches


  • Call 911 – Stroke is a medical emergency.
  • Note the time of the symptoms in the call: Time is of the essence to minimize permanent damage
  • Don’t give aspirin to a stroke victim.