Knowing the most basic tips of first aid can save your child’s life. Thousands of children every year suffer from life-threatening accidents such as poisoning, head trauma, and burns. Statistics show that 140,000 people die each year in situations in which first aid could have helped save their lives.
Unfortunately, most parents aren’t doing their part to help; 80 percent of parents with children aged 6 to 9 say they wouldn’t have a clue how to deal with a medical emergency. Another disturbing statistic is that 57 percent of parents said they would leave an injured child alone until an ambulance arrived.
As far as first aid is concerned, a little knowledge goes a very long way. The key to handling an emergency situation successfully is to be calm and prepared. Here are the most common injuries in kids and how to deal with them.
A child’s airway can be impeded by small objects, toys, or food like nuts, grapes, and hot dogs. If you notice your kid coughing, they’re trying to get air into their lungs and clear their airway. Coughing is the most effective way to clear an airway. If the child can’t cough or make a sound, or if their skin turns bright red or blue—they may have stopped breathing and someone must call 911 immediately.
If you’re alone, administer two minutes of CPR, then call 911. Proceed with the following.
Try to dislodge the stuck object by giving five blows to their back. Place them face down on your forearm, and use the heel of your other hand to deliver five firm back blows to the area between their shoulder blades.
If the object doesn’t come up, turn them on their back and make sure that their head and neck are lower than their torso. Start with five chest compressions. Repeat five blows and five chest compressions until the object is coughed up or baby starts to breathe or cough.
If the baby becomes unconscious, give them two rescue breaths by putting your mouth on their mouth and nose. If the breaths don’t go in, tilt their head further back, lift their chin, and give two more breaths. Try looking for the stuck object. Be careful not to stick your finger in their mouth unless you can actually retrieve the object—you can end up pushing it down further.
Give another rescue breath. If their chest doesn’t rise, you must start CPR. Give 30 compressions followed by two rescue breaths. Check for breathing and if the stuck object has dislodged. If you notice no change, continue giving sets of 30 compressions and two rescue breaths until they can breathe, an automated external defibrillator (AED) is ready to use, or emergency medical services arrives. If they begin to breathe, give one more breath then monitor their breathing and pulse.
Minor Scrapes and Cuts
Most of these can be treated easily. Simply wash the cut with soap and water, pat dry, and then apply an antibiotic ointment (bacitracin or Neosporin) and a bandage. Replace the bandage once a day until it heals.
If you notice the area getting redder or pus discharging—or if your child develops a fever—call your doctor.
If your child’s skin looks purplish or red, it means that there was bleeding under the skin. Apply ice to the area to decrease pain and swelling.
(Pro tip: freeze wet sponges in Ziploc bags to create reusable, affordable ice packs!)
If you can’t stop a wound from bleeding after several attempts at direct pressure, or if it continues to bleed for more than five minutes, call 911.
Continue to apply pressure with a clean cloth to the site and elevate the injured area above the heart if you can.
Head injuries are the most common type of injury in young children. There are varying degrees of injury to the head, but as a rule of thumb, call 911 immediately if your child exhibits any of the following: loss of consciousness, seizure, bruising around the eyes or behind the ears, lethargy or disorientation, or oozing blood or other fluid from the ears or nose.
In the case of a head injury, your child SHOULD NOT be moved under any circumstances. It could further injure them. Even the mildest head injury should be seen by a doctor; they’ll be able to test for a concussion and other injuries.
Nosebleeds may be common in kids, but they also may be a result of injury. Have your child sit upright and pinch the lower end of their nose close to their nostrils.
Lean them forward and apply constant pressure for five to 10 minutes. If trauma occurred to the nose, apply ice against the bridge of their nose.
An eye injury needs to be handled with as much care as a head injury. The greatest concern with eye injuries is if the vision is damaged. As with head injuries, all eye injuries, no matter how minor they seem, should be seen by a doctor. Common injuries to the eye include bruising, scratches on the cornea, or foreign substance in the eye.
If the child has severe pain, tearing, blurry vision, or light sensitivity after being hit in the eye, hold a cool, wet cloth over their eye and head to your doctor or emergency room. It’s important not to rub the eye, administer any medication, or remove any embedded objects on your own.
If a substance does happen to fall or splash in the eye, flush it with water for 15 minutes, then head to the doctor. If the substance is a chemical, call Poison Control: 800-222-1222.
Burns to the skin are normally classified into three degrees and characterized by the following: first degree (redness), second degree (blistering), and third degree (charring of the skin).
For any type of burn, the first rule is to cool the burned area by running it under water. Cover the burn or any blisters with a clean bandage or gauze. Never apply ice or ointment directly to a burn.
If any burns are on the face, hands, or genitals or if they’re larger than ¼ inch, then you should call the doctor. Additionally, if the burn is deep (skin is white or brown and dry) go directly to the ER. If your child has been burned by a chemical (e.g., paint remover, oven cleaner, or bleach) run cool water over the area and call 911.
If it’s an electrical burn (such as when a child puts a metal object into an outlet or bites an electrical cord), keep the burn away from water, cover it with a bandage, and call 911.
Accidental poisoning should be taken extremely seriously. Babies and young children are especially susceptible to poisoning because of their small size and underdeveloped physiology. If you think that your child has ingested a toxic substance (e.g., medicine, pesticide, supplement, cleaning product, household chemical) you must call Poison Control immediately: 800–222–1222.
When you call, try to have as much information as possible for the phone agent: what product was ingested, ingredients in the product, how much you suspect your child ingested, the child’s symptoms, at what time the ingestion occurred, and if your child has any medical conditions.
Do NOT make your child vomit by administering ipecac or activated charcoal unless directed by a healthcare professional. Check your child’s mouth to see if any poison remains and have them spit it out. Save this, along with any vomited material. They may be necessary to analyze what was ingested.