Earlier this year, we experienced our first medical emergency when my 4-year-old busted his lip and chin open and needed to get four stitches. I took a first-aid course two years ago, which covered everything from head injuries to tick bites to broken arms. In the time that has passed since that class, I’ve often wondered if I would remember everything I had learned — if I would actually know what to do, in the heat of the moment, if an emergency were to occur.
As it turns out, when my son was injured everything came rushing back to me in an instant. It was as though I had my first-aid instructor’s voice in my head, guiding me on how to help my son:
First, apply pressure and clean the wound. I calmly led my child to a small chair in our kitchen, grabbed a paper towel, wet it with lukewarm water, and pressed it to his chin. Next, call for backup. With one hand on my child’s chin, I used the other hand to dial my mother-in-law and husband and tell them to drop everything because we were heading to the hospital. Step three — ice. I had just washed the ice cube trays, so we were completely out of ice. Turns out, freezer pops wrapped in a paper towel are a perfect substitute. Then get ready and head out the door. I sat my bleeding child in front of the television to distract him while I got him and his brother dressed. As soon as my mother-in-law arrived at the house, 15 minutes after I called her, my son and I were out the door.
Once we got to the hospital, thankfully the medical staff took over. However, I found my first-aid course to be invaluable, as it prepared me to calmly handle an emergency situation.
As we approach summertime, a time full of outdoor activities, rough housing, and lots of bugs, perhaps many of us need to brush up on our first-aid tips and tricks. Here are a few common first-aid situations you may encounter this summer:
Remove the tick immediately. My father-in-law has a great trick — he spins the tick counter-clockwise; it gets so dizzy it comes out on its own. I have yet to master this technique, so tweezers work great. You don’t need to worry about getting the head out, because it usually makes its way out of the skin on its own. Contact your pediatrician to see if you need antibiotics. Fortunately, if you remove the tick within 24 hours of its bite, the risk for Lyme disease is minimal.
While tweezers are great for tick bites, when used to remove an insect stinger, they could push the venom further into the skin. Instead, gently use your fingernail or a credit card to remove the stinger without breaking it. After that, use a cold compress, hydro-cortisone, or calamine lotion to calm any itching. Call 911 if you see that your child is having trouble breathing or is swelling, particularly in the lips and tongue.
Don’t tilt your child’s head back, as that could cause blood to run down their throat. Instead, have them tilt their head slightly forward, and apply pressure on the soft part of the nose, right under the bridge. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 10 minutes, call your doctor.
My very active toddler has already had several nosebleeds, but he does not like me to touch his nose when it’s injured. I use the “1-2-3, dab!” trick I learned from a preschool teacher. I count “1-2-3!” and then press a paper towel or gauze to his face for one second, repeating until the bleeding stops… or he finally shoves my hand away. The counting is a good distraction to calm him down, and the technique really helps to stop the bleeding.
Unfortunately, head bumps are a normal part of childhood, and they cause a fair share of gray hairs. Thankfully, most of these bumps are not serious and can be treated with a pack of ice and children’s Tylenol. However, if your child bumps his head, watch out for these signs of a concussion:
- Loss of consciousness
- Does not cry immediately after the injury
- No outward goosebump, or the bump is concave
If you see these signs, call your pediatrician or head to the emergency room immediately.
Do not move your child if the injury is to the neck or back. If the bone is protruding, call 911; if it’s out, don’t try to push it back in! For other breaks, you can create a splint using boards, brooms, or cardboard, and pad it with pillows, shirts, towels, or anything soft. Then, ice the injured area. For sprains and strains, follow the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
If you have the opportunity, enroll in a local CPR and first-aid course. It’s always good to brush up on these skills and prepare yourself for any accidents that may occur. For further first-aid resources, check out Kids Health and HealthyChildren.org. And, of course, when in doubt, contact your pediatrician.
Have a healthy and safe summer!