How to Help Someone in an Adrenal Crisis

I wrote a post about Awareness Campaigns, and then it occurred to me that I haven’t actually explained to most people what to do if I have an Adrenal Crisis. While unlikely, it’s good to be prepared!

An Adrenal Crisis is life-threatening so you have to act fast. It comes about when the patient has experienced a ‘stressful’ event, such as being in an accident, having an injury, or being in an emotionally fraught situation, and they haven’t replaced the amount of cortisol required adequately with their oral medication. Sometimes it might be a combination of stressors. The person might be unconscious, sometimes not, but the signs of an adrenal crisis to look out for are:

  • unresponsiveness (either conscious or unconscious)
  • lethargy
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • vomiting/abdominal pain/diarrhoea
  • low back or leg pain
  • seizure
  • struggling to keep awake
  • low blood sugar
  • often low blood pressure (but not always)

It gets pretty difficult to communicate even if conscious, so asking questions which are either long or require long answers won’t help- yes or no questions are better. Like:

  • Have you taken your emergency injection/stress dosed?
  • Do you need an ambulance?

If asking questions doesn’t get you a response then:

  1. Check for Medical ID Most likely in the form of a bracelet.  A lot of people also have something on the homescreen of their phone, or in the Medical ID app on Iphone. To get to this you swipe right, click emergency, click medical ID. One of these should tell you what you need to do.
  2. Call 999 preferably at the same time as giving emergency medications. State ‘adrenal crisis’. If you get asked ‘is the situation life threatening?’ then the answer is yes.
  3. Give Emergency Meds. Emergency Injections aren’t like epipens, you have to prepare it first. It looks like this:


and has instructions with it, which are taken from:

4) First Aid If the person is unconscious for an obvious reason eg car accident then other first aid might be required as well. However, the injection is really important- CPR by itself won’t save their life.

5) Call their emergency contact. Again, usually this is on their medical ID. It’s important to let their contact know what’s happened, but they might also be able to tell you information which will help paramedics in their treatment.

I tend to cry if I need to call an ambulance. I’m not necessarily stressed (believe it or not), it’s because my system is haywire and trying to stop crying uses energy I don’t have. It’s a bit like pregnant women and their hormones in labour- you can’t really control it. Either that or I go really quiet because it takes too much energy to talk. Just keep chatting away to give me something to listen to and focus on helps. If you end up helping me or another Adrenal Insufficient person, thank you. If not, a lot of this could apply to other conditions, such as allergies and epipens 🙂


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