Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount



AARP Games - Play Now!

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Most Popular


22 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Medical Emergency

Be ready for a crisis at home, at work or on vacation

health encyclopedia tool

Health Encyclopedia

Find health information about medical conditions, symptoms and medical procedures.

En español | A medical emergency can be a frightening, all-too-frequent experience that few people are prepared for. But there are a number of steps you can take in advance to better handle a crisis situation.

Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter.

Emergency planning - how to prepare for a medical emergency

Be prepared for medical emergencies. — Stock

Home Safe Home

Make sure all your important health information is readily available. Build in some redundancy: Make duplicates and stow the copies in several easy-to-access places.

  • Add your emergency contacts' information — their home, work and cell numbers — into your own cellphone. Identify it as ICE, which stands for In Case of Emergency, instead of listing it under the person's name. If you have a phone that requires a password to get to your contact list, consider putting emergency information on the lock screen itself (see "How to Put ICE on an iPhone Screen"). Still stymied? Take your cellphone to a store that sells your carrier's product and ask the clerk for help.
  • If you're unsteady on your feet but don't want to wear a pendant to alert a commercial medical service that you've fallen, store your cellphone in a fanny pack that you put on when you get dressed in the morning. In spite of its name, you can wear a fanny pack facing either front or back.
  • Know why your doctor prescribed each of your medications. If you're unsure, ask for a written list with the name of the drug, what medical problem it treats and how much and when you're supposed to take it. Leave one copy at home and carry another in your wallet.
  • If you think you're having a heart attack, call 911 immediately and chew one regular aspirin or four baby aspirin (they taste better) to prevent a blood clot, advises Alex Rosenau, vice president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
  • Post the national toll-free phone number of the Poison Control Center hotline — 800-222-1222 — by each phone in your home. If you think someone may have been poisoned by a medication or household product, you can reach an expert who will provide immediate advice any time of the day or night.
  • Check with your Department of Transportation to see whether your state has a Yellow Dot Program, which is designed to help older automobile-accident victims. Participants fill out a form that asks for vital health information as well as emergency contacts and then put the form in their glove compartments. A yellow-dot decal attached to the vehicle's rear window lets emergency personnel know to look for the documents in a crisis. Nearly half of the states currently have the program.

Next: How to keep your vacation on track. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Video Extra

How to perform "hands-only" CPR on adults who appear to have stopped breathing.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

membership schwanns discount

Members save $20 on their first grocery delivery order from Schwan's Home Service™.

reebok membership benefit discount

Members can save 20% on their entire purchase at Reebok Outlet Stores and

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. 

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points