First Aid for Common Emergencies

Childhood injuries are preventable if parents anticipate dangerous situations.


Most childhood injuries can be prevented with careful attention to a child's environment, parental supervision and knowledge of appropriate first aid.

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, every emergency can be handled by remembering four things: prevent, prepare, recognize, act. Quick action can save a life, since the initial minutes after an injury or medical crisis are frequently the most critical. Calling 9-1-1- is one of the most important things you can do in case of an emergency.

How can I prepare for an emergency?

  • Keep a list of emergency numbers by the phone. The police, fire department, poison control center, hospital, ambulance service and your family doctor's office should be included.
  • Keep a list of all the medications you and your family take and their dosages. In an emergency, you might not be able to speak for yourself, so carry it with you. The list could help prevent serious drug interactions.
  • Make a list of allergies, particularly drug allergies or those with severe reactions.
  • Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit at home, at work and in your car. A good first-aid kit helps you handle everything from blisters to severe cuts.
  • Take a first-aid class. A basic class will teach cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and proper methods for treating burns, wrapping sprains, applying splints and performing the Heimlich maneuver.

How do I recognize an emergency?

Part of handling an emergency is being able to evaluate warning signs and make quick decisions. It's always best to err on the side of caution. In an emergency, always call 9-1-1 for assistance.

If you answer "yes" to any of these questions below, or if you are unsure, call an ambulance:

  • Is the child's condition life-threatening? Is the child having trouble breathing or is he or she too sleepy or unresponsive? Is the child confused or agitated?
  • Could his condition worsen and become life threatening on the way to the hospital?
  • Is there bleeding that won't stop?
  • Does the child become dizzy with standing or pass out?
  • Could moving the child require the skills or equipment of paramedics or emergency medical technicians?
  • Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the child to the hospital?

How do I treat cuts and scrapes?

For bruises:

Elevate and apply ice for 20 minutes. Don't massage the area.

For minor bleeding:

First wash your hands, then wash the wound thoroughly for at least three minutes with soap and water. Rinse the wound. If the wound is in an area that will get dirty, cover it with antibacterial ointment, gauze or an adhesive bandage for a few days, but change the gauze daily.

For heavy bleeding:

Put continuous, direct pressure with the palm of the hand on the wound to control bleeding. Use gauze or a towel. Wash the wound with soap and warm water.

Call an ambulance or go to the hospital if:

  • The wound is large, deep or bleeding heavily
  • Blood spurts from the wound
  • Your child can't move or feel the body part below the wound
  • The bleeding is still heavy after pressure has been applied for 15 minutes

See your doctor or go to the emergency department if:

  • A one- to three-day-old wound shows signs of infection (redness, warmth, pain, swelling)
  • Cuts are on the child's palm, neck, face, or genitals
  • Dirt or debris is embedded in the wound
  • The child develops a fever or swollen glands after getting hurt
  • The cut is made by a knife, scissors, or ragged piece of metal

For puncture wounds:

Clean the wound thoroughly for at least five minutes. Dry gently and apply and adhesive bandage. Notify your physician for further treatment advice. Your doctor may want you to receive preventive treatment, such as a tetanus toxoid booster injection. If there might be glass or another foreign body in the wound, see your doctor.

How do I treat burns?

For chemical burns (caused by acids or chemicals):

Remove the clothing contaminated with the substance. Rinse the burned part of your child's body with clear water for 20 minutes. If the chemical sildenafil without prescription gets into the eyes, rinse with water for at least 30 minutes and, at the same time, call the regional poison control center about the need to go to an emergency room.

Do not rub the skin.

Do not apply ointments or butter. Call your physician for treatment advice.

For electrical burns (for example, from a power line):

A child with an electrical burn should go to the hospital right away. Electrical burns often cause serious injury inside the body, but may not show on the skin.

For burns from heat - hot water, stoves, heated appliances such as irons:

Do not remove the child's clothing. Put the burned area of the body in cool tap water or under water from a hose if you are outdoors. Continue to cool the burn for at least 20 minutes.

Do not apply ointments or butter.

Call the doctor if:

  • There are three or more blisters on the skin, or if a blister is bigger than 1 inch.
  • It was an electrical burn or if the burn is on the face, neck, hands, feet or genitals.
  • An explosion caused the burn.
  • There are areas of white or charred skin.

What do I do if my child is choking?

Call 9-1-1 for a rescue squad.

If a child is choking, see if the child can dislodge the food or object by coughing.

Do not give fluids. It may worsen the problem.

If the airway is completely blocked and the child is not able to speak or breathe, do the following:

For a child younger than age 1:

  1. Use back blows.
  2. Place the baby facedown in a 60-degree incline over your knees or on your forearm (gravity will help propel the object out).
  3. Give four hard blows with the heel of your hand between the shoulder blades in rapid succession. If the breathing hasn't resumed, lay the child on the floor and apply four rapid chest compressions over the lower breast bone (the sternum) using two fingers.

For a child older than age 1:

Give the Heimlich maneuver if your child can't breathe, cough or make a sound.

  1. Grasp your child from behind, just below the lower ribs, but above the navel, in a bear-hug fashion.
  2. Make a fist with one hand and fold your other hand over it. Give a sudden upward jerk at a 45-degree angle to try to squeeze all the air out of the chest and pop the lodged object out of the windpipe.
  3. Repeat this upward abdominal thrust six to 10 times in rapid succession.
  4. If the child is too heavy for you to suspend from your arms, lay him on his back on the floor. Put your hands on both sides of the abdomen, just below the ribs, and apply sudden, strong bursts of upward pressure.

How do I treat animal or human bites?

Calm the child and control bleeding with pressure on the wound.

Wash with warm water.

Call the doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if:

  • The area around the bite is swollen and red.
  • Your child was bitten by an animal at risk for carrying rabies (bat, fox, raccoon, skunk).
  • Your child's skin is broken by an animal or human bite.

What do I do if my child has fallen?

Falls are the most common form of injury visits to the emergency room for young children. If your child falls, she may have a head injury, fracture or blunt trauma.

  • Call 9-1-1 if your child is unconscious, having trouble breathing or moving, or may have a neck injury.
  • Go to the emergency room if your child is younger than 6 months, can't move a limb normally or if a bone looks deformed or crooked.

Call the doctor or go to the emergency room if your child:

  • Is younger than age 1, has a severe headache or if a seizure
  • Has lost consciousness or is not acting normally
  • Has broken skin and may need stitches
  • Is still crying 10 minutes after the fall
  • Has slurred speech, has blurred or doubled vision or is walking or crawling unsteadily
  • Has vomited
  • Is unusually sleepy and difficult to awaken
  • Has blood or watery fluid coming from the nose or ears
  • Complains of worsening head or neck pain

Observe your child during the first two hours following the fall. If she falls asleep, wake her after two hours to check her ability to walk and talk.

What do I do if my child is drowning or has nearly drowned?

Call 911 for emergency help if:

  • Your child is or was unconscious.
  • Your child is or has been in shock.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or coughs or wheezes continuously.
  • Your child was submerged in water for more than a few seconds.

To rescue your child from the water:

  • Try to reach the child without getting into the water yourself.
  • Look for the spot in the water where you saw your child last until you reach the child. Bring a rope, towel or another hard object for your child to hold onto while being brought in.
  • Do not walk on thin ice if your child has fallen through: use your leg, hand or branch for the child to grasp.

When your child is out of the water:

  • See if your child is breathing. If not, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (rescue breathing). If no pulse, perform CPR.
  • Remove wet clothing. Cover child with dry clothing or a blanket.
  • Continue CPR if your child still is not breathing and has no pulse.
  • If your child is unconscious but breathing, turn her on her side so she doesn't inhale more water, saliva or vomit if she throws up.
  • If your child is unconscious but breathing, call for help. DO NOT leave the child. If no help is available, take the child to the hospital yourself while being careful to immobilize the child's head between pillows or rolled-up articles of clothing. Keep the child's body lying straight.
  • DO NOT give up. Keep giving CPR until your child begins to cough and breathe alone.