Accidents and first aid for children

An active and curious toddler intent on exploring his (or her) environment is extremely vulnerable to acci- dents. A number of commonsense measures can be taken to limit the possibility of serious injury. Sharp domestic utensils such as knives and scissors should be kept out of the reach of small hands, as should toxic substances such as detergents and household cleaners. Similarly, plastic bags or anything else that might cause suffocation are best not left lying around. An open fire should always be protected by a fixed fireguard and a child never left alone in a room that has any kind of heater that could tip over easily or that might cause burns. An obvious safety measure is to ensure that containers of hot liquids are not left where they can be spilled, and to turn saucepan handles inwards, away from a toddler’s reach. Less obviously, perhaps, long tablecloths that can be pulled by a child playing underneath (a favourite retreat) constitute a potential hazard. Doors and gates should be locked to prevent young children from wandering out into the street unaccompanied, and windows that can be climbed up to should be firmly secured. However vigilant the parents, minor accidents are part and parcel of childhood. A basic first aid kit is generally all that is needed to deal with these. Parents should have to hand: bandages and plasters in various sizes, antiseptic cream and liquid, lint, sterile gauze, cotton wool, scissors, safety pins, tweezers and children’s soluble aspirin.

Superficial cuts and grazed knees seem to be a virtually permanent feature of childhood. They should be treated by thorough washing with clean water before the application of a little antiseptic and sterile dressing.

Nosebleeds are also a relatively frequent occurrence. The child should be made to lean over a basin to prevent him swallowing any blood and a cold compress applied to the bridge of the nose while the nostrils are gently pinched together. If the bleeding is prolonged and has not stopped within 15 minutes or so, a doctor should be consulted. There is little that can be done for bruises other than applying a cold compress to ease any pain. Cold water should also be applied as soon as possible to minor burns to reduce their heat.

Burns should most definitely not be treated with creams or ointments, which only aggravate the injury. If a child is choking, and the object cannot be removed with the fingers, he should be held upside-down and hit smartly on the back. If the object is still not dislodged the child should be taken immediately to the casualty department of a hospital. A visit to a doctor or hospital is also in order if a child has pushed an object into his nose or ears.