Basic first aid tips, part one of an ongoing series: reacting.
Even before getting onto "real" first aid stuff, I want to talk about reacting. Sometimes it's really fucking obvious that someone is gonna need medical help right now, but often it isn't. And even when it is obvious, it might not be obvious who should do something about it.
Thing is, the bystander effect is well documented, and I know I've been tempted into the very British idea that making a fuss or inconveniencing someone is a Bad Thing. So actually one of the most useful things you can do is react in the first place. You can take the lead and start treating a potential medical emergency as a medical emergency, rather than someone else's problem.
(Obviously, don't insist on taking the lead if there are people better qualified than you already doing so. If you stop a competent first aider/paramedic/whatever doing their job off the back of these posts, that's a dick move.)
Future posts will obviously talk about some more useful things you can do, but even if all you do is call the paramedics or yell for the trained first aiders, that can be the single thing that saves someone's life. And while it's embarrassing if the person turns out to not need help after all, that embarrassment is far better than the alternatives.
For what it's worth, if you call 999 (or local equivalent), you're going to be speaking to people who have a lot of training on prioritisation. You won't be diverting resources from someone in cardiac arrest or having a suspected stroke (unless, obviously, it sounds like your casualty is in cardiac arrest or having a suspected stroke).
(Standard disclaimer: I'm neither a medical professional nor a first aid trainer, I'm just an interested amateur who's hoping to make a difference. Consult your physician before attempting any of the techniques mentioned in this book. Corrections and discussion are both very welcome.)