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Is First Aid Treatment Different for Kids?

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Disasters bring danger to you and your family, but your children may be at an even higher risk because they lack the maturity or experience to recognize real threats. Being prepared and knowing how to provide first is imperative, but can we give the same treatment to kids and adults the same when it comes to first aid?


Below are guides for how to handle some common injuries that can happen to a child and when appropriate, the differences between treating a child and an adult are pointed out.


How to stop bleeding

In the event of an evacuation, urgency and panic can result in accidental injuries like cuts and wounds. Children are smaller than adults and therefore more sensitive to blood loss. If the wound, for instance, is on the head or neck you should contact a doctor for advice (more on head trauma later). You should also contact a doctor if the wound becomes red, warm and leaks pus as it might be infected. Call an ambulance as your child may need immediate medical attention when:


-the bleeding spurts from the wound

-the bleeding has not stopped in 5 min

-the wound is on the chest

-you suspect internal bleeding


Smaller cuts

First, make sure you wash your own hands before performing first aid to minimize the risk of infection. Then wash the cut with water and some gentle soap to clear out any dirt. If you have a well-stocked first-aid kit, bring it out and take some clean gauze or a bandage to cover the cut. An adhesive or surgical tape can help keep the gauze in place or it can be used to keep the edges of the cut close together. Typically these smaller cuts heal rapidly to form a scab. Once this has occurred the bandage is no longer needed. Make sure you keep an eye on the cut, preferably every day, to catch an infection early on.


Larger wounds

As with smaller cuts, clean your own hands before helping the child. Start by rinsing the wound to estimate the size and depth. If the wound is more than half an inch in length or you can see bone or ligaments, seek medical help as soon as possible, as the wound probably needs to be sown by a doctor. For wounds smaller than that, you can provide first aid by covering the wound with clean gauze or cloth and applying pressure. This is most easily done with the palm of your hand. Should the bleeding soak through the gauze, simply put more gauze on top of the previous one and keep applying pressure. If the wound is on a limb, raise it as high as possible (preferably above the heart level) to help stop the blood flow. As mentioned before, blood loss is more severe in children so when possible, contact a doctor if their general state worsens and the child becomes pale, weak, or sweaty.


How to tend sprains and dislocations

Sprains are injuries to ligaments and can easily occur after sudden movements in a limb. These sorts of injuries are not very common as the children are small but become more likely in older children and adults. A sprain is associated with swelling, pain, warmth, and stiffness or difficulty moving the limb. Sprains typically heal themselves after a while but there are things to do to speed up the process. The standard methods for tending to a sprain is normally abbreviated as RICE, and stand for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In short, you should cool the injured area, apply pressure and keep the limb elevated whenever possible. However. convincing a child to rest can be somewhat difficult. Depending on the location of the sprain, a splint or cast of some sort may aid in keeping the injured limb immobile and limit further use and damage. To manage the pain, over the counter painkillers can be useful. Just make sure you follow the dosage appropriate for a child as that varies from that for an adult.


A dislocation is similar to a sprain but is due to joint damage and not ligaments. The symptoms are also similar to a sprain (swelling, pain, warmth) but a dislocation can, in addition, make the joint seem deformed. RICE is the common way of treating dislocations as well. Sometimes the joint does not come back into place on its own and needs to be manually repositioned. Incorrect repositioning can make matters worse so if you suspect this is the case (deformed joint or low mobility), call a doctor when possible to have a professional put the joint back into place. For both sprains and dislocations, having ice packs and maybe some splints and a sling in your emergency kit is good preparation in case this happens.


How to deal with head and neck injury

Head injuries in adults can range from a mere bump to a concussion or skull fracture. Typically, medical attention is not needed unless the person starts experiencing symptoms such as severe dizziness, becoming very tired, losing consciousness or vomiting. For children, some of these symptoms are more difficult to assess especially at a younger age. Therefore, contacting a doctor for advice can be a good idea even when you are not sure how bad the injury was. Children otherwise exhibit many of the same symptoms as adults, only you may need to be the one seeing them as they may not know or be able to put words on what they are feeling. Keeping a close eye on them for two days after the injury is recommended after any hit or trauma to the head. Even though it may be hard, try to limit any excessive activities as these increase the risk of further damage. As many types of painkillers can worsen potential bleeding, contact your doctor or a medical professional about what types are suitable after a head injury and make sure you follow the appropriate dosage for a child.


Neck injuries can have a wide range of causes too. Some are mild and can be treated at home whereas others require medical attention. For milder injuries, rest and cooling or heating the area can be used as a first-aid if the injury is related to the muscles. However, if the pain comes from a traumatic event or stiffness is also present you should contact a doctor for a more complete examination. As was mentioned earlier, you should contact a doctor after any head or neck injury that results in bleeding.


Learn All You Can

There are many other First Aid skills that are valuable to learn like CPR and using an AED defibrillator. There are many organizations that can provide certification for these. They will also provide the latest and best practices. Regardless of your level of training, you should always call 911 if there is a severe injury or someone is unresponsive. The quicker emergency medical services can arrive the likelihood of survival goes up.

Today there are great resources available at the tap of a button on your smartphone. The American Red Cross has a free app that will provide step by step guides to assist you in various medical emergencies. The app also gives you local hospital information based on your location and if you need you can also call 911 directly from the app. You can find great information to learn and prepare in this app as well. One of the great features of this app is its simplicity so even if you open it for the first time you should have no trouble getting the info you need quickly (however, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with this app before and an emergency occurs).


First Aid Kits

Besides having the know-how, you may also want to invest in a first aid kit to have at home in case of an emergency to easily help your child should the need arise.

A good First Aid Kit should include antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointments, anti-itch creams, aspirin, and thermometers. They also include items such as bandages, tweezers, and gloves. In addition to these, Over-the-counter medications such as pain and fever killers, antihistamines, diuretics, and antidiarrheal medications should also be made part of your First Aid Kit. Special items like candy, crayons and colored bandages can be included in your first aid kit to provide comfort and distraction to kids. Every parent should always keep a first aid kit in their home, in a location that is reachable to all adults in the house.



Be Prepared for Anything

The differences in First Aid treatment for kids and adults may be subtle but it is important. Children often outnumber adults in households and are more prone to injury, therefore parents and guardians should know the best way to provide treatment for kids, especially during a disaster where medical help may be delayed or unavailable. Being prepared for disasters and emergencies is a daily lifestyle and not just buying a first aid kit and forgetting about it. Learning the basics of first aid treatment will give you peace of mind and help you care for those who matter most.


Note: Many medical emergencies will be beyond the average person’s ability to treat, and a doctor or emergency medical personnel will be needed. Obviously, it may not be feasible to contact a doctor or you may not have access to a phone or transportation during a disaster. If it is not possible to contact emergency medical help then it is crucial that you seek ways to find help as soon as possible. Keeping a medical reference book or first aid guide can provide you with more instructions on how to keep a severely injured individual alive until you can get help but will not replace professional medical care.




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