First-aid for parents: being aware of the dangers and knowing what to do

First-aid classes for parents and childminders, to learn how to cope with a home emergency, are a must

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:00

Like many parents, one of my greatest fears is of one of my children choking. With three smallies under five at home, I’ve had my fair share of minor scares. However, a recent incident involving my accident-prone three year old was far too close for comfort when he almost choked on a 20-cent coin.

Fortunately, the coin came back up (along with his dinner) after what felt like an eternity, but it was only about 60 seconds and the emergency had passed.

However, it struck me later that despite having completed a first-aid course many years ago and being as vigilant as I could about choking hazards – cutting food into small pieces, cutting sausages lengthways, never giving my kids peanuts or popcorn and trying to teach them not to put small objects in their mouths – when my child started to choke before my eyes, fear and adrenalin took over. Apart from thumping him on the back in a complete panic, I would not really have known what to do next if he had not brought the coin back up himself.

I immediately resolved to follow up on an ad I had seen in my local supermarket, offering basic first-aid classes for parents and childminders. The following day, I had signed up for the next course with a qualified midwife, nurse, first aid instructor and mum of three, Anne Canty.

The 2½-hour course, which took place in Canty’s rural home near Mallow, Co Cork, focused solely on the first aid needs of children. There were six of us in the class: three parents and three au pairs who were sent by the parents of the children for whom they cared.

Basic first-aid skills

Canty began by explaining that most accidents happen at home and can be prevented by proper childproofing and keeping a close eye on children at all times. However, with basic first-aid skills, there is a lot you can do to help your child in the event of an accident or injury.

She ran through the most common causes of injury to children, which include falls – usually from a raised surface like a high chair or kitchen table – burns, poisoning, drowning and choking. We learned that the majority of children are burned by hot drinks and that hot liquid can keep burning through a child’s delicate skin for 10-15 minutes after it hits the skin. This is why it is vital to keep the site of the burn under cold running water for 15 minutes – which is not easy with a screaming child.

The number one cause of unintentional poisoning in children is the ingestion of dishwasher tablets, but common sources of poisoning can be found in places other than the obvious places such as the cupboard under the sink.

Danger lurks everywhere, we learned. In a handbag (headache tablets, perfume, the Pill); bedside lockers (medication, deodorant, nail-polish remover, which kids like to drink despite the strong smell); glove compartments and grandparents’ bathrooms (medication and denture-cleaning tablets which kids, inexplicably like to lick), to list just some.

While Canty went through all the recommendations for various emergency situations from burns and broken bones to choking and, importantly, CPR training, she pointed out that parents had to assess each situation themselves and use their common sense.

What to watch for

“Most children are fine after a bump to the head, for example,” she said. “However, it’s important to know what to watch out for just in case a child is concussed and whether you need to take him to the doctor or call 999 or 112.

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