Taking care of a newborn baby is a daunting prospect. EMMA HAMMETT, from First Aid for Life, provides a step-by-step guide to enable you to help with confidence if faced with emergencies
Babies love to put things in their mouths and anything small enough to fit through a loo roll can prove a potential choking hazard. When starting on solids, cut foods into sticks rather than into perfect circles as these could block the airway completely if they were to get stuck.
Babies have sensitive gag reflexes and often appear to struggle when trying new food textures and this can be frightening. The majority of the time they manage to clear the obstruction themselves, but repositioning them so that their head is lower than their body can help.
Keep as calm as you can as they will quickly pick up on panic and this can make things worse. If they are able to cough, encourage them to do so – if they are quiet and struggling to breathe, help immediately.
First Aid Kit
Ideally every house and car should be equipped with a Family First Aid Kit and parents should also have a small handbag or nappy-bag-sized kit for emergencies when you are out and about.
- Sterile saline (a salt water solution) or non-alcoholic wipes to clean wounds or rinse sand and dust from eyes.
- Non-adherent, absorbent dressing along with scissors or a conforming bandage to dress a wound. Remember to pack hypoallergenic plasters.
- A burn dressing is helpful if your child is wriggly and unable to tolerate prolonged running water, or if they are burnt somewhere that is difficult to cool.
- An instant ice pack is great when you are out and about to quickly reduce swelling if your little one has a nasty fall or bump.
- TraxIt thermometers are specifically designed for use with young children and are handy to have.
How to Help
- Stay as calm as you can.
- If they are able to cough, reposition them to see if they can clear it themselves.
- Have a quick look in the baby’s mouth and carefully remove anything obvious. Never blindly sweep inside the baby’s mouth with your fingers as it can cause damage and push the obstruction further down.
- Lay the baby downwards across your forearm, supporting them under their chin.
- Using your hand, hit the baby up to five times firmly between their shoulder blades.
- Check after each back blow to see if the obstruction has cleared.
- If still choking, lay the baby on its back across your knees, head downwards. Place two fingers in the centre of their chest at the nipple line and give up to five, firm upward chest thrusts.
- If the baby is still choking, call 999/112 and continue giving your baby five back blows, alternated with five, upward-chest thrusts, until help arrives.
- If the baby becomes unconscious start CPR immediately.
Having to resuscitate your child is every parent’s worst nightmare, but not knowing what to do if in the unfortunate event that something did happen would be a disaster.
As a parent or carer, do you know what to do if your baby is unconscious and not breathing? You are far more likely to need to resuscitate an adult than a baby – but here is a step-by-step guide to help just in case.
How to Help
- First check ‘The Primary Survey’ (Danger, Response, Airway and Breathing). If you are not absolutely sure whether or not they are breathing, you will need to start CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation).
- Carefully tilt the head and lift the chin to roughly a horizontal position to take the tongue off the back of the airway.
- Look, listen and feel to check for breathing.
If they are not breathing give five rescue breaths to re-oxygenate them. Babies and children are much more likely to have a breathing problem rather than a heart problem causing them to lose consciousness.
- Seal your mouth around both their mouth and nose, and blow into them gently with a puff of your cheeks.
- Make sure their chest rises each time, if it doesn’t, you probably haven’t opened the airway sufficiently – tilt the head a little further but do not over extend their neck and try your rescue breaths again.
- If they start to gurgle when you breathe into them, you will need to briefly turn them onto their side and empty the vomit from their mouth, before continuing with the breaths.
- You will then need to circulate the oxygenated blood by pushing down on their chest with two fingers or thumbs.
- Push hard and fast on the centre of their chest – roughly between the nipples.
- Push down by a third of the depth of their chest, ideally with two thumbs or fingers, at a rate of 110-120 beats per minute – roughly two per second.
- After about 30 compressions you will need to give them two more short, sharp breaths and then continue with the compressions, again at a rate of 30:2.
- Keep going – you are being a life support machine and keeping them alive.
- When you push on the chest, you are being the baby’s heart.
- When you breathe into them, you are being the baby’s lungs.
- If you are on your own, you should perform one minute’s CPR before phoning for an ambulance (five breaths and 30 compressions to two breaths works out at about a minute).
- Do not expect them to come back to life until the paramedics are there to help.
First Aid Courses
It is strongly advised that you attend a practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. There are many courses available in local areas across London:
Or complete an online course at: onlinefirstaid.com
Burns and Scalds
Burns are horrible and the pain and damage caused can be devastating. Knowing what to do if this should happen can make a massive difference in reducing the amount of pain and scarring and may avoid them having any tissue damage at all. A hot drink that was made nearly 10 minutes ago can still be hot enough to scald a baby.
How to Help
- For all burns, treat them straight away.
- Immediately, but extremely carefully, remove loose clothing covering the burn. However, if the skin has stuck to them or blistered, do not take the clothing off.
- Hold the affected area under cool running water for at least 10 minutes.
- Reassure the child and keep them warm and dry. Be aware of any signs of clinical shock, such as a fast heart rate, confusion or loss of consciousness.
- Phone an ambulance; particularly if a large area is affected, if the skin is broken or blistered, or if your child shows signs of shock. Keep the area under cool running water while you are waiting for the ambulance.
- Never touch the burn, pop blisters, or put on any creams whatsoever. Take burns very seriously and always seek medical advice as soon as you can.
- Always get a professional to assess a burn.
Babies and children often bang their heads and it can be difficult to assess how seriously they are hurt. Fortunately, most head injuries merely injure the scalp, which is usually more frightening than life threatening as the head and face are very vascular and consequently bleed profusely! A severe blow to the head or repeated injuries can cause damage to the brain and are far more serious.
Signs and Symptoms to Look Out for
The following signs and symptoms can appear immediately or over the next couple of days. Keep a close eye on the casualty and seek medical advice if at all concerned.
- Appears stunned or dazed.
- Loses consciousness (even briefly).
- Is confused or can’t recall events.
- Trouble thinking or concentrating.
- Shows behaviour or personality changes.
- Answers questions slowly or repeats the questions asked.
Experienced by casualty:
- Headache or pressure in the head.
- Balance problems or dizziness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Sensitivity to light or noise.
- Blurred vision or double vision.
- Feel dazed, sluggish or groggy.
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering.
- Feeling irritable, sad, nervous or emotional.
- Sleep disturbances.
If your baby or child loses consciousness, even momentarily, won’t stop crying, complains of head and neck pain, or isn’t walking normally call 999 or 112 immediately.
If the child is not an infant, has not lost consciousness, and is behaving normally:
- Apply a wrapped ice pack to the injured area for 10 minutes.
- Observe your child carefully for the next 24 hours. If you notice any worrying signs (see below), get medical help immediately.
- If the incident has occurred close to bedtime or naptime, check in continually to look for anything unusual – in particular twitching limbs or disturbances in colour or breathing. It is perfectly ok for your child to go to sleep and there is no need to keep a child awake after a head injury. However do not confuse falling asleep with losing consciousness.