Eight Childhood First Aid Emergencies

St Andrew’s First Aid is Scotland’s dedicated first aid charity, and has been saving lives and supporting communities since 1882. Learn more about our 140 years of history here.

Click to download Poster – Eight common child first aid emergencies

Young children are prone to choking.

If the child is breathing encourage coughing.

Remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth.

If the child stops coughing begin back blows, using the heel of your hand between the shoulder blades.

If the back blows fail, try abdominal thrusts. Put your arms around the child’s upper abdomen. Place your fist between the navel and the bottom of the breast bone. Pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times. Stop if the obstruction clears.

When to call 999/112:
• If the obstruction does not clear after repeating back blows and abdominal thrusts 3 times.
• If the child becomes unconscious.

Broken bones are common childhood emergencies. While these injuries are usually not life threatening, the child should be taken to a hospital Emergency Department for assessment.

Generally speaking, parents can drive children with broken bones to the hospital themselves.

When to call 999/112:
• The break is so severe that you can’t control the pain.
• The bone is sticking out of the skin.
• The accident involves trauma to the head or neck.

Respiratory distress refers to difficulty breathing and taking in enough oxygen.

Causes may include choking, asthma, an infection or pneumonia. The signs of respiratory distress are coughing, wheezing, flaring of the nose and use of chest and neck muscles to aid breathing, grunting or turning blue.

When to call 999/112:
• Child has stopped breathing.
• The rate of breathing is greater than 50 to 60 breaths per minute.
• The child is turning blue around the mouth.
• The condition is worsening instead of improving.

In infants and toddlers, a rapid rise in temperature can cause a febrile seizure. These convulsions are not usually linked to epilepsy.

Most seizures associated with fever end quickly and are not emergencies. However, unless the child has had a short fever-related seizure in the past, and looks fine after the seizure, the child should still be checked by a doctor as soon as possible.

When to call 999/112:
• The seizure doesn’t stop within three minutes.
• The child has laboured breathing or is turning blue.

Falling from a significant height can injure the head, spine or internal organs. If you suspect a head injury, talk to your child and make sure they answer questions appropriately.

A child may suffer shock after an accident, if so, lie them down and keep them warm. In the case of a potential injury to the neck or spine, do not attempt to move your child before the paramedics arrive.

When to call 999/112:
• The child vomits more than once.
• If they lose consciousness.
• You suspect an injury to the neck or spine.
• The child complains of numbness or tingling in arms or legs.
• You suspect internal injuries.

If your child is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound and assess the extent of the damage.

With heavy bleeding, press down on the wound with a clean cloth, like a tea towel, until the bleeding stops. This could take 10 minutes or longer.

When to call 999/112:
• There is a known bleeding disorder.
• You are unable to stop the bleeding.
• Foreign body in wound.
• The wound needs stitches.

Vomiting and/or diarrhoea can require emergency care if a child becomes dehydrated. If your child can’t keep anything down or has severe diarrhoea, watch for signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, and abnormally low amounts of urine.

When to call 999/112:
• The child is unresponsive.
• There is severe cramping and unrelenting abdominal pain.

The first priority when dealing with a burn is to cool the area to prevent further burning and to assess the severity of the burn.

Continue cooling the burn for a minimum of 20 minutes. If the
burn has been caused by chemicals, cool for at least 20 minutes. Do not put fats, creams or lotions onto a burn. Do not burst any blisters as this can introduce infection.

When to call 999/112:
• If the burn is severe, or you are unsure of the severity.
• If the burn or scald appears to worsen.

St Andrew’s First Aid volunteers teach life-saving first aid to more than 12,000 community members each year. 

To invite our volunteers to your community, group, or school, please make an enquiry here

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