Safe Not Sorry

10th June 2011

The long summer holiday is fast approaching, so it’s all aboard for a rollercoaster of fun-filled days at the park, ear-bashing afternoons in the activity centre, boisterous play dates and sun-soaked trips abroad! Weeks of fun and precious family time... and plenty of opportunity for grazed knees and broken limbs.

Paediatric first aid specialist Danielle Bruce offers tips and advice on common first aid scenarios to keep your offspring safe this summer.

In an average year one million children under the age of 14 visit A&E as a result of an injury in the home; 35,000 under fours fall down the stairs and 3,000 injuries are caused by tripping over piles of laundry or toys around the house.* It’s only common sense to be prepared for any eventuality…

A simple day in the park is a favourite for both children and parents, but the potential for hazard is high. For example, if your child was stung by a wasp or bee, would you grab a pair of tweezers from your make up bag and automatically tug out the sting? Most people would, but this will actually squeeze the sting bulb and release additional poison into the skin. The correct procedure is to use a long finger nail, or stiff card and scrape the sting away from the wound at the angle that it entered. It should come out easily, and once it does, simply hold a cold compress on the wound for ten minutes.

Once that’s done, don’t let the child run off at once with their friends; they will need to be watched for any adverse reaction. If the child suddenly acquires difficulty in breathing, swelling, feels very unwell and/or develops a patchy rash over the body, call an ambulance immediately – do not wait. Anaphylactic shock is potentially fatal.

Grazed knees and palms come hand-in-hand with playing in the park. If the wound is minor and there is clearly no foreign body embedded in the skin, then simply clean with water (use soap, too, if you are dealing with a dog bite, to combat the germs) but remember always to go to the centre of the wound and clean outwards – we carry bacteria on our skin at most times so it’s important not to wipe additional nasties into an open wound. Dry thoroughly before applying a plaster as bodies heal quicker when dry. Plasters should be replaced in 2-4 hours to ensure that the area remains clean, but if the wound was superficial, do not replace: fresh air will help the wound to heal quicker.

If bleeding is profuse, call emergency services immediately and apply pressure directly on to the wound. Providing the wound is not on the chest or the head, lie the child down and raise the legs to delay the onset of shock; if the wound is on the head or chest, then keep the child seated.

Sun safety is a hot subject and I remind parents that under 4s are unable to regulate their own heat, so it is your responsibility to ensure they are protected. This includes providing a constant supply of cold drinks, ensuring that they are wearing suitable clothes, engineering that they spend ample time out of direct sunlight, and reapplying sun lotion regularly.

If your child feels unwell after a day out, you need to ascertain whether they are suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as there is a big difference. If they have no appetite, look pale, are sweating, confused and suffering body cramps, it is most probably heat exhaustion, a reaction to the body’s loss of salt, water and minerals. They need to drink lots of water followed by a weak salt solution (1 tsp salt per litre of water) and see a doctor straight away (even if they appear to be recovering quickly).

If your child is not sweating but is suffering a severe headache, is restless, confused and showing flushed, hot and dry skin then this could be a result of heat stroke – a serious condition which means that the body’s inbuilt thermostat is failing. Call 999 at once, then take the patient to a cool place and, if possible, wrap in a cold wet sheet. Continue wetting the sheet until the child’s temperature has returned to normal (37°) and then replace the wet sheet with a dry one. If you do not have access to a sheet then fan the child whilst sponging them down with a cold flannel until the temperature has returned to normal.

It’s natural to feel more vulnerable when holidaying abroad, but the reality is that by far the most common place for children to have an accident or become ill is in their own home! That’s where knowing what to do in case of an accident is really crucial…

For more information, and details of first aid courses, see

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