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Top First Aid Skills Every Parent Should Know to Keep Their Children Safe...

As a parent, nothing is more important than ensuring that your child is safe and healthy.
It’s true that accidents and injuries can happen at any time, and it’s natural to feel worried about the possibility of an emergency.
Having a basic understanding of first aid can bring you peace of mind and make all the difference in an urgent situation.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of essential first-aid skills that every parent should know in order to keep their children safe.

Since children haven’t been exposed to years of unhealthy habits and a lack of exercise, it’s important to consider that they don’t tend to succumb to the same kinds of illnesses that we, as adults, do. So have a good think about what kinds of situations might cause a child to become unconscious and cease breathing. Consider things like drowning or perhaps choking. Things where the child has been deprived of oxygen first, THEN fallen unconscious. Let’s dive into it…

CPR

It goes without saying that knowing how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is the ultimate life-saving skill.
It’s the kind of skill that should be trained regularly so that if you ever need to draw on it, muscle memory would simply take over. During emergencies, it’s quite common for logical thought to go “out the window” as panic sets in. In that moment there is no room for error or second guessing your skills. That’s why we teach CPR refreshers annually. It’s not so much about the skill itself being updated, but rather re-wiring your brain to take action in an emergency.

CPR involves 30x chest compressions followed by 2x rescue breaths and works to maintain breathing and circulation when the heart has stopped doing its job properly. You essentially become a life-support machine. Once you stop CPR, you effectively unplug that life support. Therefore continuous, uninterrupted CPR is necessary to maintain the pressure and flow of blood around the body. Delivering much needed oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and tissues. CPR only buys you time. The defibrillator is ultimately what makes the heart beat again on its own.

Now, you might be thinking…  “But I don’t have a defibrillator!”
While that may be the case – look around you.
Your local shopping centre probably has one…
Your child’s school or local swimming pool likely has one too…
How about your nearest gym or community sporting club?
You’ll notice defibrillators are everywhere if you start looking for them.

Now consider how long it takes for an ambulance to receive the call, mobilise the crew, get through all the traffic, find the address amongst several houses with no numbers visible on the letterboxes. And you can start to see why it’s SO important that someone is working to maintain blood-flow to your child’s vital organs in those moments before help arrives.
YOU save the life. YOU are the crucial link in that chain of survival.
Without YOU, paramedics, doctors & nurses would save very few people.

Drowning

According to the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia, Over the last 20 years, 549 children have died from drowning in Australia.
Of these, 40% were aged just one year old. For every fatal drowning in this age group, eight children are admitted to hospital following a non-fatal drowning. So how do you manage it?
As with most injuries, prevention is key. But if that doesn’t work then follow DRSABCD:

DANGER
Safely remove the child from the water.

RESPONSE
Assess their level of consciousness. Are they alert?
Are they responding to pain only?… Are they respondingto voice? Or are they not responding at all?

SEND
If unresponsive – Send for help (call 000).
At this stage it might also be worth sending for a defibrillator (on the off-chance that you may need it). Place the phone on speaker beside you, so that your hands are free to help your child. The call-taker will help guide you through basic life support and first aid skills and prompt you what to do next.
It is important to remember that you are also a potential patient at this point… For all they know,  you may have an underlying cardiac condition, resulting in a sudden change in your blood pressure as a result of your rescue efforts. And so by keeping you on the line they can not only receive real-time updates on the patients condition, but they can also assess if they need to send an additional crew to assist, should you collapse too. 
From the moment they answer that phone-call, they have a duty of care to you and your patient. That duty of care is passed onto the attending paramedic crew upon arrival, who then hand you over to nursing staff at the hospital. This is what we call continuity of care.

AIRWAY

Assess the airway. If you can see water/ vomit roll the child onto their side and point the mouth down towards the ground so that gravity will help drain the fluid (down and away). For children over one, tilt the head back in the same way you would lift your chin to take a big breath in (this pulls the tongue off the back of the throat and opens up the airway). For infants under one year old, the Australian Resuscitation Council suggests you maintain a neutral head position (no head tilt) to avoid “kinking” off their soft, little airways. 

BREATHING
Are they breathing? Is it good enough?
Between 3-5 regular breaths in 15 seconds is considered normal. What we don’t want to hear is gurgling or snoring, as this indicates that something is obstructing the flow of air down into the lungs – and you need to intervene / clear the airway for them.
If you see/ hear regular breathing, GREAT! Roll them into the recovery position and monitor for changes until the ambulance arrives.
If not, it’s time to start CPR immediately.

CPR                                                                                                                          
Place a single hand in the centre of the child’s chest, on the lower half of the sternum (or breastbone). For babies aged one year and under, use two fingers instead of a whole hand. Begin 30x compressions followed by 2x breaths. Keep going until help arrives.

DEFIBRILLATION
According to the Australian and New Zealand Committee on Resuscitation (ANZCOR) guidelines defibrillation should occur without delay / as soon as a defib (AED) becomes available. Using the paediatric sized pads, place one on the front of the child’s chest and one on the back between the shoulder blades (suitable for children under the age of 8 years (including infants < 1 year). For older children use the adult pads and settings as you normally would on an adult. Using an AED with paediatric capabilities works to drop the joule setting (the size of the zap) down by approximately two thirds from what would otherwise be delivered to adult patients. This works out to be around 360J down to approx. 90J.

Choking

It’s important to stay vigilant when it comes to choking hazards, particularly for children under four years old who have a tendency to put small objects in their mouths. While obstructing the airway is of primary concern, we must also consider the potential for airway trauma and burns.
Take a look at our experiment What Happens When – Kids Swallow Batteries.

If your child is displaying signs of choking, such as difficulty breathing, coughing or wheezing, it’s essential to act quickly. Parents in Australia are advised to perform 5x back blows followed by 5x chest thrusts, then continue alternating these techniques until the object is dislodged and normal breathing is restored. How to perform these techniques is covered in your typical Children’s First Aid Course.

PLEASE NOTE: The Heimlich manoeuvre, which was once common practice, is no longer acceptable practice. Evidence suggests that the Heimlich manoeuvre causes further injuries like fractured ribs and damage to internal organs.

Burns

It’s important to be mindful of burns as they can cause severe pain and can, on occasion, be life-threatening. The damage caused by a burn is not strictly limited to the wound itself. In fact, the fluid shifts within the body (that contribute to some of the swelling) can lead to a cascade of other problems, if not handled correctly.
To ensure the best outcome, it’s essential to cool the injured site right away, by running cool water over the affected area for at least 20 minutes. This helps to reduce pain and swelling and prevents further injury. Applying a sterile, non-stick dressing can also provide protection against infection and limit the exposure of nerve endings to the elements, which can also help further reduce discomfort. Remember… Cool the burn, NOT the patient!

Poisoning

Poisons Info line 13 11 26Ingesting harmful substances can be a dangerous situation for children. Parents should know the signs of poisoning and what steps to take in an emergency. For something you KNOW is dangerous call 000 immediately. If you are ever unsure about something your child swallowed – don’t waste time on Dr Google!
Call the poisons information line on 13 11 26. They are available to answer your questions 24/7.

Let them know:

  • What was taken
  • When it was taken
  • How it was taken
  • How much you think they had

    DO NOT induce vomiting! If something burnt on the way down, it can certainly burn on the way back up.

Seizures

Seizures can be a scary and unpredictable experience. Febrile seizures are the most common seizure disorder in children, affecting around 2-5% of all children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years. They usually occur as a result of a sudden spike in temperature. It is important to distinguish that the temperature itself does not cause the seizure, but rather the speed at which it jumps up. Management over the long-term typically involves treating the underlying cause – which could be a virus or bacteria causing ear-aches and common coughs and colds that caused that temperature to spike in the first place. 

 

It is important to ensure that the child is safe during and after the seizure.
It is likely that they may bite their tongue, so don’t be too alarmed if you see bleeding in the mouth. Wetting themselves or becoming incontinent of faeces are also common during seizure activity. Remember to check the airway and roll them into the recovery position once the seizure has ended, allowing any fluids to drain away from the airway. It’s also important to remove any objects around them that may cause further injury during the seizure. It is a good idea to also place a pad underneath their head to protect it from any potential trauma should they start seizing again and repetitively hit their head on a hard surface. Stay calm and provide reassurance to the child throughout the entire process.

 

During a seizure, a child may not be breathing effectively, resulting in a lack of oxygen supply to their vital organs. It is therefore crucial, for you as the caregiver, to accurately record the start and finish time of the seizure and make a note of whether there were multiple back-to-back seizures or if it was a singular event.  This information will help the medical professionals provide the best possible care and treatment for your child.
Remember, every second counts, so stay calm and focused and call for emergency assistance immediately.

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe, and knowing how to recognize the signs and symptoms can be critical in administering proper treatment. Parents should know how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector if their child has a known severe allergy, as well as how to monitor and treat milder allergic reactions.
Take a look at our 40sec video for a short step-by step guide on
How to administer an Epi-pen.
Or for some hands-on training with Epi-pen’s come and join us at our Wanneroo Training Venue for a public First Aid Class (running weekly).

Basic Wound Care

Minor cuts and scrapes are a common occurrence in childhood, and knowing how to properly clean and dress a wound can help prevent infection and promote healing. We stick to the motto “Keep it covered, keep it clean!” and let the body do it’s thing. Dressings don’t actually fix the wound, they simply help to create an ideal environment for skin to heal by adding or removing moisture and debris and promoting good blood-flow to promote wound recovery. Each wound requires very different management over the long-term. But in the short-term we focus on managing bleeding.

For bigger trauma and major bleeds you need to apply “sustained, direct pressure” to the wound site. Our body is effectively a network of straws, aka veins, arteries and capillaries. Think about how much pressure you’d need to squeeze a drinking straw closed to stop any fluid getting through it. You could do this either with a tightly wrapped dressing/ bandage or by manually holding pressure on the wound with your hand. For severe, uncontrolled bleeding you might consider applying a tourniquet.

We cover all things bleeding over in our Stop the Bleed blog.

It’s important to have the necessary first-aid skills in case of an emergency with your child, but there’s no need to wait for a crisis to happen before learning them. We understand how daunting the idea of an emergency can be, which is why we offer a range of first-aid courses for parents at Action & Emergency. From CPR and wound care to choking prevention and seizure first aid, our experienced instructor provides hands-on training to help you feel confident and prepared. We encourage you to take the step towards preparedness by booking a course with us today. By doing so, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills needed to keep your children safe in any situation.

 

For more information and to sign up for a course visit the link below:
HLTAID012 – Provide First Aid in a Childcare and Education Setting

Alicia White
Alicia White

Registered Paramedic - Perth, W.A.