Are you a parent or grandparent, or do you have responsibility for young children?
Then you’ll know that you need eyes in the back of your head sometimes. Trust me, we’re all in the same boat! But as we’re all too aware, accidents do happen – regardless of how closely we watch our precious cargo - and that’s why it’s a good idea to brush up on your basic first aid skills.
Let me share with you six of the most common childhood injuries, how to fix them calmly and quickly, and when to contact the professionals.
1. Minor Cuts, Scrapes or Skin Wounds
Whether a child has fallen off their bike, scooter or skateboard, or they’ve tripped over their own feet and landed on the gravelly playground, minor cuts, scrapes and skin wounds are common and can usually be dealt with some basic first aid.
How to treat minor cuts, scrapes and skin wounds quickly:
Stem the blood by pressing firmly over the site with a clean cloth until it stops – this might take anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes.
Clean with lukewarm water and gently pat dry. If the wound is dirty (or caused by an animal scratch) rinse with water and gently lather with soap.
Apply antiseptic (Savlon or Germoline are great solutions).
Cover with a bandage or gauze and adhesive tape.
Word of warning: if the bleeding doesn’t stop after several attempts with direct pressure, or if the child has been bitten by an animal, then call your doctor, 111, or 999, or head straight to your nearest hospital’s accident and emergency department.
Follow-up care for minor cuts, scrapes and skin wounds:
Dab on more antibacterial ointment.
Apply a new bandage – daily (or twice daily, if it's a large or deep wound) until the cut heals, so your child can't pick at it.
Apply SPF30 sun cream once the wound has healed and until it starts to fade because newly healed skin sunburns more easily, and any eventual scar will be more noticeable.
Word of warning: if pus appears to be forming or draining, or the area becomes swollen, tender, or red, see a doctor asap – it may be infected.
2. Minor Burns and Scalds
Do you know that scalds from hot foods or liquids are the most common burn injury in children aged 6 months to 2 years? Kitchens and bathrooms are the most common places where minor burns and scalds occur, so be extra vigilant.
How to quickly treat minor burns and scalds:
Immediately hold the affected area under cool running water or apply a cold, wet towel until the pain subsides.
Cover any small blisters with a loose bandage or gauze and tape.
Word of warning: if burns are on the face, hand or genitals, or the area is larger than the child’s hand size, call a doctor immediately. Go to A&E if the burn looks deep (the skin may be white or brown and dry in this case) and if the burn covers a tenth of the body or more, call 999 and cover the child with a clean sheet to prevent hypothermia until help arrives.
Follow-up care for minor burns and scalds:
Do not pop any blisters.
If the skin breaks, apply an antibacterial cream and cover the area with a bandage or gauze and tape until it's healed.
Watch for any redness, swelling, tenderness, or discharge - all signs of infection – and get in touch with your GP if you spot any of these signs.
3. Nosebleeds in Children
Although they can be messy, and look a little scary, nosebleeds are generally nothing to worry about, and can be safely treated at home.
How to deal with a child’s nosebleed:
Word of warning: don't release and check the nose before 10 minutes; it could prolong the bleeding.
Follow-up care for nosebleeds:
If the nosebleed is the result of a trauma, wait for the bleeding to slow down and then hold an ice pack against the bridge of the nose (to reduce the swelling).
If the bleeding persists after ten minutes, or returns later, call your doctor or get your child checked for a fracture at A&E.
4. Splinters or Glass
It’s so easy for anyone – not just children – to get a splinter of wood in their finger, or step on a tiny piece of glass, but if you know how to deal with these minor injuries, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of time it causes pain.
How to remove splinters of wood:
Using a mild soap and water, wash gently around the splinter.
Slowly pull out the splinter with a pair of tweezers.
Wash the skin again.
If a splinter is hard to remove, leave it for a day or so to see if it works its own way out.
Word of warning: if your child steps on a piece of glass, and it's not a single shard you can easily remove, gently wrap a clean cloth around the area and go to A&E. Even if you think all the glass has been removed, ask your GP about having the area x-rayed - scans often find shards that have been missed, and when left can lead to infection.
Follow-up care for splinters: if the splinter isn't out after a few days or is causing your child pain, turning red, or contains pus, visit your doctor to have it removed safely.
5. Eye Injuries
Minor eye irritations can be dealt with at home, and without much fuss. It’s easy for children to get things such as sand, dirt and even eyelashes (!) in their eyes, so knowing how to remove them quickly will save lots of tears and discomfort. And knowing when to act fast and seek professional advice is crucial too.
How to treat minor eye injuries and irritations:
Clean your hands thoroughly before touching the eyelid (do not touch the eye).
If possible, stop the child from touching the eye (babies can be swaddled in a blanket if you’re home alone).
Gently tilt your child's head over a sink with the affected eye closest to the water stream.
Pull down the lower lid and flush the eye with lukewarm water (avoid touching the eye).
Continue to flush for up to 15 minutes and keep checking to see if the irritation has disappeared.
How to handle a more serious eye injury:
If your child is in severe pain, or their eyes are very sensitive to light, or their vision becomes blurred after being poked or hit in the eye, hold a cool, wet cloth/compress over the area and head to A&E. They may have a scratch on the eye's surface – and although this can be painful, it is easily treated with prescription drops or ointment and usually heals within 48 hours.
Follow-up care for eye injuries:
Monitor your child for pain and vision problems in the weeks that follow a poke in the eye. These could be a sign of traumatic iritis, an inflammation of the coloured part of the eye, or a deeper injury, and medical investigation will be necessary.
6. Insect Bites and Stings
Bites and stings are the third most common accident seen in the A&E department. among children aged 4 and under. Most insect bites and/or stings in the UK, however, are pretty harmless and can be handled with ease. However, they can escalate into something more serious, so here’s some advice to help you deal with them safely and quickly.
How to treat an insect bite or sting:
Word of warning: call 999 immediately if your child has trouble breathing, or they’re coughing, or they develop a hoarse voice, hives, or swollen lips or tongue.
To soothe itching, hold a cold compress over the area for a minute, or apply calamine lotion or an antiseptic cream like Savlon or Germoline (if the skin isn't broken or scabbed).
Contact your doctor, however, if you suspect your child has a tick bite. It is a good idea to be tested for Lyme and any other tick-borne diseases. If you aren’t sure what a tick bite looks like, by the way, look at these images on the NHS website, and/or discover more about the dangers ticks pose in this great video from Public Health England.
Hopefully, you’ll feel much more prepared and confident about giving first aid to your children now, should the need arise.
If you’re a childcare organisation you can find out about the paediatric first aid training courses we deliver right here - https://www.fleximedtraining.co.uk/first-aid-courses.