One of the biggest worries for new parents is what to do in the middle of a medical emergency. We run through some possible medical situations, and give you some paediatric first aid tips on how to deal with them.
A choking infant
According to the Irish Red Cross if an infant is unable to breathe, cough or cry, and you suspect they have a severe obstruction in their throat then:
- Lay baby downwards on your forearm. Give up to five back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
- If the obstruction is still present, give up to five chest thrusts, with two fingers in the middle of the chest.
- Continue this cycle of five back blows and five chest thrusts until help arrives. If the infant goes unconscious dial 999/112 for an ambulance and then follow CPR protocols.
- Anyone who has been treated for choking in this way should be advised to see their doctor after the incident.
If your child stops breathing
Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is the most important lifesaving skill you can have.
1. If a baby is unconscious, check their mouth for any items blocking the airway. If a blockage is present, use your little finger to clear it.
2. Check for breathing. Listen for the sound of the breath, look for movements of the chest or feel for the breath on your cheek.
3A. Breathing? Place the baby in the recovery position (shown below). This position prevents the infant from choking on his/her tongue or from inhaling vomit. Phone 999/112 and check regularly for continued signs of life until the ambulance arrives.
3B. NOT breathing? Tilt head back very slightly, lift chin to bring the tongue away from the back of the throat, opening the airway. Take a breath and seal his mouth and nose with your mouth. Blow gently and steadily for about one second. Watch for the rise and fall of the chest. Take another breath and repeat the sequence.
4. If there are no signs of life after two breaths, make sure someone has phoned 999/112 and commence chest compressions.
- Blood loss can be serious and should be treated as quickly as possible.
- Your aim is to stem the flow of blood.
- Wear disposable gloves if available.
- Check if there is an object embedded in the wound.
If there is NOTHING embedded:
- Press on the wound with your hand over a clean pad.
- Secure with a bandage.
- Raise the wound above the level of the heart.
- Call for an ambulance.
If SOMETHING is embedded:
- Do not press on the object.
- Instead, press either side of the object and build up padding around it before bandaging to avoid putting pressure on the object itself.
- Get the person to hospital as quickly as possible.
How to deal with child or infant burns
1. Cool minor burns under cold running water.
2. Cover with clean cling film or a loose sterile (non-fluffy) bandage.
3. Seek medical assistance if you are unsure of the severity of the burn.
Top tips for emergency awareness
- Ensure you know how to call an ambulance (999/112) and make sure when you travel abroad that you know the local number.
- Keep all stairs, doorways, and walkways tidy and clear of obstructions to prevent trips and falls.
- When preparing hot food or drinks ensure young children are at a safe distance from boiling pans and kettles. Keep all pan handles turned in so they can not be reached by little hands.
- Keep all cleaning products and hazardous and flammable liquids clearly labelled and in a cupboard that is locked or childproof.
- Move small objects and plastic bags – anything that could choke or suffocate – out of reach.
- Never leave a small child unattended in a bath or near water. It only takes one inch of water and a few seconds for a child to drown.
Meningitis is an inflammation of linings surrounding the brain and spinal cord, caused by bacterial or viral infections. The red flag signs are cold hands and feet, pain in the limbs or joints, and abnormal skin colour. Other signs can include high temperature, a blotchy purple rash, which doesn’t fade when squashed with a glass tumbler, drowsiness, severe headache and a stiff neck.
A symptom card is available from www. meningitis.org, which you can stick on your fridge for easy reference. If you have any concerns, call your GP and explain the symptoms clearly. The Meningitis Research Foundation has a nurseled helpline, Freephone 1800 41 3344. If the rash is present, call an ambulance.
When to call 999/112
Attending a proper first aid course will teach parents and caregivers how to identify the sometimes subtle symptoms and signs that will help you determine whether or not to call 999/112. This list includes times when you should immediately make the call:
- An unconscious/unresponsive infant/child.
- Deteriorating levels of responsiveness, e.g. post head injury.
- Becomes unwell after swallowing something poisonous or harmful, such as medicine meant for adults. (Remember to take the packet or bottle to the hospital with you.)
- A choking child after you have tried three cycles of the choking relief.
- Extreme allergic reactions – causing swollen airways and breathing difficulty.
- Prolonged asthma attack.
- Severe eye injury.
- Shows signs of meningitis.
- Febrile convulsions/fitting.
- Extremely high temperatures.
- Severe burns.
First aid course
The Irish Red Cross offers a Family First Aid Training course for parents and child carers. Family First Aid is designed to allow you to attain a basic understanding of key first aid situations and basic treatments for the infant patient. The step-by-step, eight-hour course, takes you through first aid scenarios such as; CPR and choking, bleeding, unconsciousness, injuries from falls, burns, poisons and medical conditions specific to children. To learn more about Family First Aid Training, call the Irish Red Cross on 1890 502 502 or see http://www.redcross.ie
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