Caregiver Blog: Alert! Danger Signs in Patients You Need to Report Immediately!

Article Categories: Diseases and Conditions & Caregiver Skills

Caregivers serve as the healthcare team’s eyes and ears when it comes to patient care, as they stay with the patient most of the time. Patients who are older, those who are ill, getting worse, or not getting relief from treatments are always at risk of dangerous health conditions that could possibly take their lives.

If you are a caregiver, you don’t need to be an expert in nursing or medicine to spot danger signs. You only have to be alert to recognize any unusual or sudden changes in your patient’s physical and mental conditions. The timely reporting of your observations is key to making sure the patient is given immediate medical attention.

So, keep your eyes peeled for the following signs and symptoms in the ABCs—airway, breathing, and circulation.

Airway and Breathing

The airways are the tubes from the mouth or nose to the lungs, where air passes during breathing. When these passageways are blocked, the patient will show these signs and symptoms:

1. More breathing effort. The patient may appear to be anxious, panicky, and gasping for breath. They cannot lie still and may sit up and lean slightly forward if they are able.

2. They seem to be breathing faster but do not get relief.

3. If the patient is asleep or unconscious, their breathing may be noisy.

4. If the increased effort to breath is followed by drowsiness or unconsciousness, and their breathing becomes quiet and slow, check their skin color. If their skin appears darker or bluish, this is a danger sign that breathing may stop altogether.

5. Another danger sign is when the breathing of an unconscious person becomes like a wave of deeper, faster breathing followed by shallower, slower breathing until it temporary stops for a few seconds. The patient slowly gains breathing efforts and the cycle repeats itself over and over again. When a patient is terminally ill, this is a sign that death is near.

If you observe any of the above signs, drop whatever you are doing and call the supervisor or nurse immediately.


There must always be enough blood flowing to important parts of the body, such as the brain and heart, or the body will stop functioning altogether. Here are danger signs of poor circulation:

1. Pale and cool face, arms, and legs. If the patient can speak, they may complain about feeling colder than usual. When blood flow is poor for long periods, light-skinned patients will look bluish while dark-skinned individuals will have greyish or pale skin around the mouth.

2. Sweating. The patient becomes sweaty and feels cool to the touch, even at a comfortable room temperature.

3. The pulse is more difficult to feel and beats are irregular or faster than normal. When there is no blood flow, such as in the case of cardiac arrest, the pulse will be absent.

4. Mottled skin. When the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, blood flow slows. Poor circulation causes mottling, or reddish or purplish marbled appearance of the skin. It is usually a late sign that the heart is shutting down.

5. Scanty urine. People with poor circulation will pass very little urine or none at all.

Other danger signs include changes in the patient’s alertness and responsiveness. If the patient suddenly becomes unusually drowsy, faint, weak, or confused, the caregiver must inform their supervisor or the nurse immediately.

The caregiver's unique presence at the bedside puts them in a very special position to spot changes that signal the need for emergency treatment and other life-saving measures. If any of the above signs and symptoms are observed, caregivers must never hesitate to call for help.


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