Minor Sickness or Severe Illness: Recognise the Basic Vital Signs

Minor sickness  in AustraliaBy checking the vital signs of the person, you will be able to determine their health condition objectively and accurately. Most people think that a condition is severe if a person has blood all over or broken bones.

However, injuries do not really say if the condition is severe or not, or how they are doing internally. Think about a person who is having a heart attack, but does not have any physical signs. In some cases, that may be more dangerous than the sight of someone with scrapes and broken bones.

If you want help someone using your first aid knowledge check their vital signs:

Level of Consciousness

You have to understand that asking Yes or No questions does not determine the full state of consciousness of the person. They might be able to answer everything, but you have to know if their mind is on full alert. An alert person will know who they are, where they are, the approximate time and the date. They can provide coherent answers and can communicate clearly. Consciousness is the person’s ability to respond properly.


A person has a severe sickness if you hear rasping, gurgling or wheezing when they breathe and if the rhythm is irregular. Determine if the depth of air movement is shallow, light, week, deep, heavy or strong and if the rate is too slow or too fast. All of these is an indication that something is wrong.


Skin colour is the most obvious vital sign that you can rely on. A person with pale skin is either losing oxygen or blood and they will then turn blue if it worsens. If a person goes red and they are just sitting in a cool environment, this is a sign that they need immediate assistance. A yellow skin could mean that they have jaundice, while people who look green is going to be sick.

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You can never tell whether an illness of a casualty is minor or severe just by how they look physically. Rely on the above vital signs to determine their real state of health.