No parent wants to think about their child getting hurt or injured, yet it’s impossible to keep your child in a bubble forever (though don’t we all wish we could?). All children are going to have mishaps and injuries—some will even be serious. That’s why it’s incumbent on all of us parents to be prepared, and that means having a basic understanding of first aid for children.
Probably the best way to do this is to take a first aid class, as nothing can beat “hands-on” knowledge. CPR specifically is something that is really best taught in person, and experts recommend all parents take infant and child CPR classes. But if you are looking for a “cheat sheet” for what to do in various emergency situations, we’ve got you covered.
Here are the most common situations where your child may require first aid—and how to do it.
How to Treat A Cut
It’s common for children to get scrapes and cuts from time to time—that’s par for the course for an active child. The most important thing to remember when treating these is the importance of keeping the area clean to prevent infection, how to stop bleeding, and how to know when medical attention might be required.
Cuts and Scrapes
Small cuts and scrapes can be treated easily at home. If there is bleeding, you can apply gentle pressure to the area to get the bleeding to stop. After this, wash your hands, wash the cut with soap and water if it’s dirty, apply antibiotic cream, and apply a bandage to the area. If the bleeding is profuse or doesn’t dissipate after about five minutes of pressure, call your pediatrician or 911.
If your child received a bump to their body (bumps at the head are a different thing and will be covered separately) and they are sporting a bruise, you can apply cold packs to decrease any swelling. Call your pediatrician if the swelling doesn’t decrease and to ask whether pain medication might be appropriate for your child.
Deep Wounds and Puncture Wounds
If your child is experiencing a deep wound (a large gap in the skin) or if their skin has been punctured by an object, you will likely need to take them to the doctor for stitches and possibly a tetanus shot to reduce infection. While you wait for medical attention, apply pressure on the wound to stop bleeding, wash your hands thoroughly and/or wear non-latex gloves when you are caring for the wound.
How to Treat An Insect Or Animal Bite
It’s never fun, but it’s likely that at some point in your child’s life, they will be bitten by an insect or an animal. Many insect bites and stings are uncomfortable but relatively innocuous; animal bites almost always require medical follow-up.
If your child gets stung and the stinger is still lodged in their skin, you need to remove it. The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) recommends removing it with “a scraping motion using a firm item (such as the edge of a credit card).” You can use cold compresses to decrease swelling and pain. Ask your pediatrician about over-the-counter pain medication and proper dosing for your child.
Most bug bites are simply itchy and uncomfortable. If your child seems very uncomfortable or the bites are unusually swollen, talk to your doctor about ointments that might help as well as over-the-counter antihistamines. Spider bites necessitate a call to your pediatrician or poison control (1-800-222-1222). If your child gets bitten by a tick, remove the tick with a tweezer, and put it in a ziplock bag. If your child develops a rash or fever after the tick bite, take them to the pediatrician—and bring the bag with the tick in it so that your pediatrician can identify the tick.
How to Treat a Bump on the Head
A light bump to the head is usually not an issue for a child. If your child bumps their head, doesn’t lose consciousness, and develops a slight bruise (or goose egg), you should be a watchful eye on your child, and contact your pediatrician with any concerns. But in all likelihood, your child is fine.
However, a strong blow to the head, or any head bumps that are followed by concerning behavior, may be considered medical emergencies. Here’s what to look for.
Call your pediatrician right away if your child:
Is unusually drowsy Can’t be woken from sleep Is vomiting Complains of a headache Seems generally disoriented or out of sorts
Call 911 or visit the emergency room if your child:
Loses consciousness right after a head injury Experiences a seizure Seems suddenly uncoordinated Can’t move a part of their body Has slurred speech Has water or blood coming out of their ears or nose
If your child has experienced a serious head, neck, or back injury, do not move your child. Call 911 and wait for emergency services to come and assess the situation.
How to Treat Nosebleeds
Nosebleeds are common in childhood and usually look scarier than they are. If your child has a sudden nosebleed but seems otherwise fine, have them tilt their head forward a bit, and apply gentle pressure to the nose area by squeezing both nostrils together between your thumb and forefinger. Don’t let your child blow their nose. Call your pediatrician or visit the emergency room if the bleeding doesn’t stop after 5-10 minutes or if the bleeding is profuse.