Grazed knees, broken bones, snotty noses: Do you sometimes feel like your child is especially sickly or accident-prone?
As parents, we are expected to tend to a whole range of unforeseen ailments and medical emergencies. It’s impossible to pre-empt every injury or illness that may afflict your family.
But give yourself a head start by preparing for the following seven most common household injuries and emergencies.
Few things are more distressing for a parent than to see their child overwhelmed by a seizure. During a seizure (also known as a fit or convulsion), the muscles in the body contract uncontrollably and the child can lose responsiveness.
Seizures are caused by an interruption in the brain’s electrical activity and, in rare cases, they can be a symptom of epilepsy. In children, seizures commonly occur as a result of high temperatures, or serious infections.
When a seizure is imminent, warning signs may include fever, sweating, facial twitching, vomiting, squinting eyes, and loss of bowel-bladder control.
If you suspect your child is having a seizure, clear a comfortable space for them and try to cool them down by removing excess clothing or bedding. Ventilate the room with fresh air. Don’t try to restrain your child during the seizure. Once the convulsions subside, the child will be groggy or unresponsive so call emergency services for assistance. While waiting for help to arrive, monitor your child’s breathing, pulse and responsiveness.
Most parents find out the hard way that their child suffers from asthma, when the child is gripped by an asthma attack. These attacks occur when the muscles of the child’s air passages become constricted, making it difficult to breathe.
An obvious trigger doesn’t always aggravate asthma; but attacks can be sparked by allergies, colds, or cigarette smoke. Signs that an attack may be imminent include wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
Children who suffer from asthma should have an inhaler available at all times. If you suspect that your child is about to have an attack, ask them to breathe calmly and deeply. Once they have used their reliever inhaler, sit your child down in a comfortable position and urge them to recuperate.
If symptoms persist, the attack may be severe. Instruct your child to puff on the inhaler once or twice at two-minute intervals. If the attack continues after ten puffs, call triple zero for medical assistance.
While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, monitor your child’s breathing, pulse and responsiveness. Advise them to continue puffing on their inhaler until help arrives.
Young children are forever putting small objects in their mouths or swallowing food without chewing properly. As a parent, you must keep a watchful eye to prevent your child from choking.
When a child chokes, they tend to get distressed very quickly so you should be prepared to act fast. Choking happens when the child’s airway is partly or entirely blocked. If the blockage is mild, your child should be able to rectify it by simply coughing. If they can’t cough or make any noise, it’s serious.
Severe blockages can lead to a loss of responsiveness. If that happens to your child, call for an ambulance. While you wait, try to open their airway and administer rescue breaths and chest compressions.
Some children are especially susceptible to nosebleeds. These incidents are usually due to the tiny blood vessels inside the nostrils being ruptured. Something as innocuous as a light tap to the nose, sneezing, or nose blowing can cause nosebleeds. High blood pressure is also a common culprit. Most cases are minor and only last a few minutes, but they can be dangerous when there is substantial blood loss.
If your child has a nosebleed, you need to focus on controlling the bleeding and keeping their airway open. Urge them to sit down; keeping the nose above the heart will stymie the bleeding. Prompt your child to lean forward to ensure that any blood drains out via their nose, rather than down their throat.
Encourage your child to breathe through their mouth and pinch the soft part of the nose, briefly pausing at ten-minute intervals, until the bleeding stops. Tell them to avoid speaking, swallowing, coughing, spitting or sniffing because this can prevent necessary blood clots from forming.
In cases where blood loss is heavy, or lasts more than 20 minutes, contact emergency services for further assistance.
5. Grazed Knee or Elbow
Most kids will experience a few nasty falls during the course of their childhood so you should expect to see a few grazed knees and elbows over the years. Equip your home with a well-stocked first aid kit so that you are prepared to treat their wounds.
When your little one takes a tumble, clean their grazed knee or elbow with lukewarm water to remove any dirt from the wound. Once the graze is clean, dry it with a soft cloth, ensuring that no fibres stick to the wound.
Sterilise the area around the wound with antiseptic lotion and cover the injury with light gauze and dressing, to prevent infection.
If the graze becomes infected, it can swell and fill with puss, causing fever and flu-like symptoms. If signs of infection appear, seek advice from your doctor who may need to prescribe antibiotics for your child.