Nurture Article | The Portland Hospital Parenting Magazine
Autumn Issue 2012 | Sophie Goodchild
An active child will inevitably have accidents. That means parents need to be on hand with a well-equipped first aid box. But is yours stocked with all the essentials?
Pharmacist Stephen Whyte says the ‘ideal’ box is closable and not easily opened by a child. It also needs to be stored in a cool, dry place that is out of children's reach but easily accessible for adults.
While there is no definitive tick list for the contents of a first aid kit, Mr Whyte, who works at the Portland Hospital and HCA International, recommends parents include disposable gloves, scissors, a variety of plasters and dressings as well as saline wipes.
“Sterile gloves will protect you if the injured person is bleeding - and they protect that person from any bacteria which may be on your hands,” he says.
Safety scissors with a blunt edge are the best type for removing clothing and getting to the wound or injury site.
Water is best for cleaning cuts and grazes. But if you’re not near a tap then use saline (not alcohol) wipes.
“Wipes containing alcohol may sting, and are not recommended for use on children’s delicate skin,” says Mr Whyte.
“An important tip is to wipe away from the wound as this moves bacteria away from the wound reducing infection.”
He adds: “Your first aid box should include several types of dressings and include a sterile pad for eye injuries or if you get a foreign object in your eye. Do not be tempted to remove stubborn objects from the eye, as this could cause further damage. Place a sterile eye pad over the injured eye and secure it around the head using a bandage. It is important to then seek expert medical attention at your local accident and emergency.”
Guidance leaflets can also come in handy for dealing with burns or severe bleeding, according to former nurse and paramedic Joe Mulligan, from the Red Cross.
“No one wants to think about emergencies but always have a guidance leaflet to hand so you know what to do,” he says.
Another tip is that tweezers should only be used to remove splinters, not insect stings.
“There’s a small capsule of poison under the sting and tweezers will just inject this further into the system,” says Mr Mulligan, head of first aid education at the Red Cross.
“Use a credit card instead to scrape across the sting site.”
Many parents can also find first aid essentials around the home such as a bag of frozen peas for treating sprains, and cold water for burns.
“Most burns and scalds happen at BBQs and the primary treatment is cold running water and a piece of cling film on the burn,” says Mr Mulligan.
“If a child pulls a hot drink over themselves then any cold liquid will do - even a can of cold beer.”
First Aid Checklist:
* Selection of waterproof plasters (for minor wounds)
* Small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings (for larger wounds)
* Sterile eye dressings (for small wounds/foreign objects)
* Triangular bandage (for sling)
* Crepe bandage (for sprains)
* Safety pins (to secure bandage/sling)
* Disposable sterile gloves (non-latex)
* Saline cleansing wipes
* Sticky tape (to attach dressings)
* Insect bite cream/spray
* Antiseptic cream
* Guidance leaflet
A dose of painkiller can quickly ease the symptoms of a sick child. But knowing whether to give paracetamol, ibuprofen, both or neither can be challenging.
A child is considered to have a fever if his or her temperature is 39°C or higher.
However, Dr Ian Hay, a Consultant Paediatrician at The Portland Hospital, advises not to reach for the medicine bottle immediately. Instead, in the first instance, offer regular fluids, check the child regularly (including two to three times during the night), dress them appropriately to prevent them overheating or shivering and use cool water to sponge them down.
Despite this, if the temperature is greater than 39°C and the child appears to be distressed or unwell then consider using paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Dr Hay says: “Do not alternate or combine paracetamol with ibuprofen at this stage.
“If the temperature remains greater than 39°C despite using paracetamol or ibuprofen then switch one for the other (e.g. if you have been giving paracetamol, stop and switch to ibuprofen).
“If it remains greater than 39°C despite switching paracetamol and ibuprofen, consider alternating paracetamol and ibuprofen. Add in a dose of the second drug after two hours.”
Paracetamol is normally given every six hours and ibuprofen every eight hours, so care needs to be taken not to exceed the maximum stated dose of each drug in a 24-hour period.
Parents and carers should seek medical help if:
* The child is getting dehydrated (signs include dry mouth, sunken fontanelle, absence of tears, sunken eyes, and poor overall appearance).
* The child has a fit.
* The child develops a non-blanching rash.
* The fever lasts longer than 5 days.
* The child is getting more unwell.
* They are distressed or concerned that they are unable to look after the child.