If you are a parent or work in the childcare sector then having an understanding about first aid for children and babies is essential. This article is meant as an introductory guide only and should not be used as a replacement for paediatric first aid training.
Children are by nature inquisitive beings and love to learn by investigating new things. They will use their hands, fingers and their mouths to touch, feel and taste new objects. As they begin to learn to toddle, walk and then run, the world around them becomes their adventure playground.
Unfortunately babies and children have a diminished ability to recognise dangers and often find themselves in trouble. It is your role as a parent, child minder, nursery nurse or teacher to take on the responsibilities of a first aider. The following article will give a brief overview of the skills required by a paediatric first aider. It is essential that you receive training in these skills as you could mean the difference between the life and death of a child in the case of an accident or emergency.
Very often in the event of an accident or an injury the first aid given immediately can improve recovery time and even in extreme cases save the life of the patient. The roll of first aiders cannot be underestimated.
Having a first aid kit specifically designed with children in mind and keeping up-to-date with paediatric first aid skills are essential in dealing with emergencies. Your first aid kit should contain:
The first aid kit should be checked regularly to make sure that everything is in date and that anything that has been used has been replaced. It should be stored in a clearly marked first aid kit plastic container and it is essential that it is easily accessible. Ensure that everyone knows where it is.
CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is a technique to be used when a child is unconscious and has stopped breathing normally. The aim is to keep the oxygen flowing through the child’s body. If you have not been trained the give mouth to mouth resuscitation then you should do chest compressions only. The following information is no substitute for getting proper training in the correct CPR techniques.
The NHS website outlines the technique for doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a baby:
Of course, prevention is better than a cure and all electric sockets and appliances should be out of bounds for an inquisitive young child. If a child does suffer an electric shock, then always make the area safe. Turn off the electrical power or, if this is not possible, then move the child away from the cause of the electrocution. Use a wooden or plastic pole, such as the handle of a broom, to push the child away. Call the emergency services.
Next try to stimulate the child by speaking their name to them loudly and asking them if they are awake. Tap the child’s feet or hands but never shake them in case they have injured their neck in the accident. If a child does not respond and is not breathing then you will need to begin CPR. If you suspect that the child has injured their neck then tilt the head very carefully. Stay with the child until emergency help arrives.
After any kind of accident, a child may go into shock. A child that has gone into shock will look pale or may complain of feeling unwell or feeling faint. In these cases make the child lie down and ensure that the child is kept warm. Do not allow them to get too hot and ensure that they stay led down until the faint feeling passes.
If a child has injured themselves then the first priority is to stop any bleeding. If there is a lot of bleeding then use the following techniques:
The very first thing you should do if a child burns or scolds themselves is run cold water over the burn to reduce the heat and any further damage. If you do not have access to cold running water then place the burn in a container of cold water if you can.
When covering a burn use fabric such as cotton or linen that is clean and will not stick to the burn. Clingfilm also works very well and by covering the wound in this way you are helping to prevent any infection. If the child’s clothes are stuck to the burn then do not try to take them off as you may cause more damage. In this case get the help of a doctor.
Never apply anything such as butter or toothpaste to a scold or burn as it will not help and will only make the job of treating it harder. If the burn is not too severe then make an appointment to see a GP, if it is more severe then take the child to the accident and emergency department.
A burn may well blister, but these will burst by themselves. Ensure that they are covered appropriately when they do burst to protect the sore skin underneath.
A baby is a child who is under 1 year old. A baby may choke for a number of reasons but it is often caused by food or an object getting stuck in their airways. When a baby is choking they will usually be unable to cry or breathe so immediate action is vital. The NHS website gives this advice on what to do when a baby is choking.
To give the chest thrusts the NHS recommend the following method:
If after three cycles of the above method the baby still cannot breathe and you could not dislodge the blockage then call for an ambulance immediately. Keep the baby with you as you phone for the emergency services and then continue the above methods until help arrives.
If you suspect that a child has broken their arm or their leg then help to move the child very gently. Support the injury by placing one hand below the injury to steady it and keeping one hand above the injury. The child will need to be taken to accident and emergency to have the break treated. Keep the child calm by comforting them. If the child is in too much pain for you to move them then call for an ambulance.
Do not attempt to move a child if you suspect that they have injured their spine or their neck as this can cause paralysis. Keep the child still and comfort them whilst you phone for emergency services.
You can give the child painkillers if they are in a lot of pain. Take care to follow the recommended dose for the child’s age.
If a child starts to fit then try to keep calm. Lie the child on one side so that they do not choke if they vomit and try to keep them cool by removing any coats and blankets. If the fit does not stop within 3 minutes then call the emergency services. Most fits will stop by themselves within 3 minutes but try to keep calm if they do not stop. To do any brain damage a fit would need to last over half an hour.
If a child has not had a fit before then they will need to be taken to hospital to be checked out. It is still important to keep the child’s GP up-to-date after the child has had a fit.
The role of a paediatric first aider is vast and it is important to have a good knowledge of a wide range of skills and techniques. Everyone who has dealings with children as part of their job or their day to day lives should have basic paediatric first aid training. First aiders are the first people on the scene of an accident or an emergency and their aid is so important that it saves the lives of children every day. The above described techniques are a basic guide to the role of a paediatric first aider and should in no way be used as a replacement for proper up-to-date training.
Lebreton Training strongly recommends that anyone responsible for the care of children seeks training in paediatric first aid techniques. If a first aiders techniques are poor or are not performed correctly then they could cause the child more harm than good.