paediatric first aid

Paediatric first aid

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:

  1. Lay baby downwards on your forearm. Give up to five back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
  2. If the obstruction is still present, give up to five chest thrusts, with two fingers in the middle of the chest.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 awareness

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., 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.

paediatric first aid

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. 
  • Amputation. 
  • 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

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Tackling tonsillitis
How to boost immunity

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.