First Aid Tips for Common Injuries in Children

Okay, so your kids are happy and healthy, you’ve averted the latest disaster and are feeling pretty smug about being a parent. Great! How about taking a quick quiz to see if you need to bone up on first aid? This information needs to be in place long before it’s needed in your home, so let’s see how you do.

1. ___ is the leading cause of childhood death in the United States.
2. The warning label on balloon packages instructs us to supervise children through ___ years old while they are playing with this product.
3. Regular use of sunscreen can reduce a child’s risk of skin cancer by ___.
4. Fluid in a blister caused by poison ivy can/cannot cause the rash to spread.
5. Each year approximately ____ children are hospitalized with burns in the US.

Our jobs as parents are tough. Like doctors, when we get it right we’re heroes. When we get it wrong it can be tragic. Fortunately, most of the fist aid we need in the home is fairly minor stuff, dealing mostly with cuts, scrapes and bruises. But even with these types of injuries, the right time to formulate a plan of action is ahead of time.

A first aid kit in the home and vehicle is the first step to quick intervention in the injuries that will inevitably crop up in your family. These are commercially available, but we use the shoe box’ style. We’ve placed Band-Aids, antiseptic ointment, a bottle of saline solution, latex gloves, butterfly stitches, a red cloth and allergy cream in a child’s sized shoe box. Yours may vary to better reflect the needs of your family. On the inside lid of the box write the number to poison control, your doctor and local hospital, children’s medical allergies, your health insurance information, and any other facts you may find helpful in an emergency situation.

Nothing scares a child more it seems, than the sight of their own blood. When cuts occur, use a clean, red cloth (set aside for this purpose) to gently apply pressure to the wound. The red rag prevents children from seeing the stain of blood, and helps keep them calm .Minor cuts will stop bleeding in ten minutes or less, appear closed around the edges and be no more than inch long. After the cut stops bleeding, wash it with warm, soapy water and apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Any cut that doesn’t stop bleeding in ten minutes is not considered a minor cut and needs medical attention.

Even scrapes, the bane of the bad of bicyclers, should be attended. Wash the area thoroughly, dry gently and apply antibiotic ointment. Remove the bandaid the next day to allow the injury to dry.

Nosebleeds are another potential bleeding situation many parents face. A head-on crash during a rousing game of tag’ in the front yard or a fall from a bike can result in the dreaded bloody nose. While it’s frightening for the child (and parent) it’s usually not a serious injury. Have your child, in either a sitting or standing position, lean forward and pinch the lower part of his nose for a FULL TEN MINUTES. Do not allow him to stop early to see if the bleeding has stopped. This procedure may be repeated one time if the nosebleed hasn’t stopped in the first ten minutes. After this, a medical professional should be consulted.

A cup of hot coffee or tea, a pot of boiling water and curling irons or straightenersall are potential sources of burns for our children. In the United States alone, over one million people are burned each year. Over half of the victims are two years old or younger.

Even minor burns are a horror for both child and parent. Here, as in all preventable injury, foresight is the most important part of caring for our children. If a burn occurs, quick action is important. Obviously, correct first aid is dependent on the severity of the burn, and in order to provide appropriate aid we must be able to assess the degree of injury.

First degreeSkin will be red, itchy and painful, but have no blistering. Moderate sunburns are a good example of a common first degree burn. In this type of burn, the injury is limited to the outer layer of skin. Cool the affected area with cool water by holding it under cold running tap water or placing a cold wet cloth over the area for approximately fifteen minutes. Never place ice or butter on the skin, as these old methods have been proven to cause additional skin trauma. Keep the burn clean and treat it with burn cream or aloe vera.

Second degreeThis burn affects more than just the first layer of skin, and is also called a partial thickness burn. Skin will blister and appear moist, and is painful. Treat this burn as for first degree burns. Never pop blisters. If clothing is burned onto the skin, remove it or cut it away. Contact your health professional if you feel the burn warrants such attention.

Third and fourth degreeA full thickness burn affects all skin layers in a third degree burn. The burned area will be white, charred, firm and leathery. Because nerve endings are also destroyed, your child may not feel pain in the burned area. Treat as for above and contact emergency services immediately. Fourth degree burns extend into muscle and bone and must also be treated by a professionally trained specialist.

Children have small windpipes, which can lead to choking. Cutting food in bite sizes appropriate to your child’s age is important to prevent choking form occurring. Watch children while they play, making periodic checks on them to ensure their safety. Read warning labels on toys, pay attention to age restrictions and keep small toys picked up so that younger siblings cannot accidentally find something that will be dangerous for them. If your child begins to choke it is important to remember that, if he can speak or is coughing, he will likely recover on his own. Keep him as calm as possible while his body forces the foreign object from his windpipe. If, however, your child cannot talk or cough, or if he begins to turn blue or pass out, it is important that you act immediately. In children over one year of age, the Heimlich Maneuver is helpful. Children under one require a different tactic. Local hospitals and Red Cross’ provide CPR classes for parents and caregivers, as do some daycares. It’s not enough for you to learnmake sure your babysitter also knows how to intervene on your child’s behalf in this situation.
With the number of children entering sports each year, broken bones and sprains are common. It’s difficult to tell the difference in these injuries, sometimes even with x-ray. If your child exhibits swelling in the affected area, complains of pain, has trouble moving the area or is unwilling to try to do so, seek the opinion of a professional.

Head injuries
No one can go through childhood without getting a knot on their noggin. Bumps are a common occurrence, and are usually not serious. If, however, your child complains of dizziness, blurred vision, severe pain that does not go away, drowsiness or loses consciousness, the injury should be checked by a doctor. For less major injury, administer Ibprophin for pain, apply a cool compress to the affected area and allow your child to rest for a few minutes. Keep an eye on himif he dozes off you may have a situation requiring more extensive intervention.

Sometimes it seems that there are as many types of childhood injuries as there are children. Having a familiarity with basic first aid and a plan of action will make you a more effective parent in the eventuality of your child being injured. There are great books and websites available, giving parents an enormous resource of information. And information is the key to keeping our kids healthy and happy, and to our being able to avert the next disaster, whatever it may be.

Answers to Quiz:
1. Accidents
2. eight
4. cannot
5. 40,000

Sun Safety for You Child by Vincent Iannelli, M.D.
Poison Ivy Myths and Facts by Vincent Iannelli, M.D.
Booster Seats and Harness Straps by Vincent Iannelli, M.D.