Basic first aid tips all parents should know

All parents should arm themselves with basic first-aid knowledge

All parents and caregivers of children should be aware of these basic first aid steps for dealing with common conditions.

First aid 101

Cuts and scrapes

Basic first aid for scrapes and cuts is just that… basic.

Most childhood cuts and scrapes will bleed a bit before the bleeding stops on its own. Cleaning the wound with mild soap and water to remove dirt and debris is often all that is necessary once the bleeding has stopped.

If it will make you feel better, or if the cut or scrape comes from something rusty, dirty, etc., applying a thin layer of antibiotic ointment is a good idea. A bandaid can also be applied if you think it's necessary (or, in some cases, if it makes your child feel better).

Insect bites and stings

Insect bites need a bit more attention than cuts and scrapes. Diseases carried by insect bites are real and can happen to you or your child.

When your child receives a bite form an insect, you should apply ice and/or anti-itch cream (follow directions regarding infants and small children) and keep an eye on the bite to make sure it doesn’t become infected (due to scratching and itching).

Signs of infection include the bite area increasing in size, becoming red and/or warm to touch and/or the bite oozing pus or a discharge. For more serious occurrences, oral antihistamines may be necessary.

Insect stings should be handled in much the same way as bites, with the following additional treatment:

  1. Remove the stinger using tweezers or your fingernail.
  2. Apply ice to numb the pain.
  3. Administer children’s acetaminophen for pain.
  4. Watch for signs of anaphylactic shock.

Burns

Burns are categorized into 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

First degree burns leave the skin red. The area can be warm and painful, but no blistering is present.

This type of burn should be treated in the following manner:

a) Cool the burn by allowing a gentle stream of cool (not cold) water run over the burn area for several minutes.

b) Follow this up by covering with a sterile bandage. NO butter, ointments or anything else should be applied without a doctor's advice.

c) Give oral over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen for children if needed.

Second degree burns are burns that result in blistering, swelling, intense redness and pain on the burn area.

Treat second degree burns that are less than 3 inches in diameter the same way you would treat a first degree burn. Larger second degree burns should be treated in the same manner as third degree burns.

Third degree burns are burns that invade all layers of the skin and cause permanent tissue damage. This mean that fat, muscle and even bone tissue may possibly be affected.

The skin may be charred black or appear dry and white. People who have suffered third degree burns may have difficulty breathing or may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning or other toxic effects of smoke inhalation.

To treat burns of this severity, you should cover the burned area with a clean, cool, moist cloth, elevate the burned area, check for breathing difficulties and act accordingly. It is crucial, too, to seek immediate medical attention.

Also, remember that you should NOT remove burned clothing, pour water over the burn or submerge the burn in water, or attempt to remove burned skin or pop blisters.

Choking

Choking is one of a parent’s greatest fears. If your child begins to choke, will you have the capability and mindset to act quickly and appropriately?

The answer should be and can be ‘yes’ so you should familiarize yourself with the proper procedures.

The following instructions on first aid for choking are from the Mayo Clinic’s first aid page. Take note that these instructions apply to very young children (younger than age 1) only.

  • Assume a seated position and hold the infant facedown on your forearm, which is resting on your thigh.
  • Thump the infant gently but firmly five times on the middle of the back using the heel of your hand. The combination of gravity and the back blows should release the blocking object.
  • Hold the infant faceup on your forearm with the head lower than the trunk if the above doesn't work. Using two fingers placed at the center of the infant's breastbone, give five quick chest compressions.
  • Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts if breathing doesn't resume. Call for emergency medical help.
  • Begin infant CPR if one of these techniques opens the airway but the infant doesn't resume breathing.

NOTE: If the child is older than age 1, give abdominal thrusts only.

Broken bones

Broken bones should be treated by seeking immediate medical attention because they need to be treated and set by a medical professional. However, the initial treatment will likely be yours to start since you’ll likely be the one present when these injuries occur.

If your child suffers a broken bone, you need to:

  • Immobilize the injured limb
  • Apply ice (gently) to reduce rapid swelling and to help numb the pain
  • Check for signs of shock. If these are present, cover your child with a warm blanket and keep them focused on you.

NOTE: If the fracture has caused the bone to break through the skin, stopping the bleeding should be the first course of action.

Do not, however, attempt to remove clothing from the injured child unless it is absolutely necessary. If it is, gently cut the fabric to get to an area of bleeding.

Also, do not attempt to move a child if the fracture is to any part of the body other than the legs or arms.