Infant and Child First Aid: An Essential Skill for All Those Caring for Children
Being trained in infant and child first aid is essential for anyone caring for children. In many countries, it is a legal requirement for nurseries, schools and nannies to have first aid training and is strongly recommended for all parents as part of pre-natal care.
Globally, 2000 children die every day as a result of accidental injuries and every year tens of millions more are taken to hospitals with injuries that often leave them with lifelong disabilities . St. John’s Ambulance estimates that in the UK alone, (in spite of having one of the World’s best medical emergency ambulance service), 1,50,000 people a year could be given a chance to live if more people knew first aid.
Accidental injury is the sixth most common cause of death in infants and children in India and accounted for almost 82,000 deaths among children under the age of 5 in 2005.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in India, the top five causes of accidental death in children are: road traffic accidents, poisoning, burns, falls from a height and drowning.
The death of any child, particularly when the death could have been prevented, impacts all of us- it is something that should never happen. In Mumbai, we hear of children being grievously injured or dying due to accidents almost on a daily basis. Some of the more recent articles have included the death of an 8 year old boy due to drowning at a water park, a 3 year old being electrocuted, and the death of a 5 year old due to choking on his own vomit at school. I find comments such as ‘whether the accident had taken place because of negligence on the part of xxx or it was due to some mistake by the child’ appalling. It is unacceptable to hold any children responsible for their own death or injury.
By their very nature, children are curious, want to explore, tend to be absorbed in their own immediate interests and hence, are oblivious to their surroundings; they lack experience and therefore not aware of the consequences of the many new situations that they encounter daily. Children play without thinking about the consequences of their actions – that is the joy of childhood!
It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and anyone else caring for children to be aware of the potential dangers and know what to do in the event of a child falling ill or being injured. Even more so, in a country such as ours, where national emergency medical services such as ambulances are almost non-existent.
The first few minutes after an injury or medical emergency are the most crucial. Knowing what to do in those first few minutes can save a child’s life and minimise any permanent damage.
But it’s more than just having the knowledge to save a child’s life, it is also about the ability to remain calm and in control. Being trained in infant and child first aid is essential for a number of reasons.
The obvious one: first aid trains you to save a child’s life and minimise further injury. Knowing the correct the primary first aid techniques can mean the difference between life and death in a matter of a few minutes. It is impossible for a doctor to advise on primary care techniques over the phone and impossible to get the child to a doctor or hospital within a few minutes. First aid trains you in how to place a child who has vomited to prevent choking or how to treat minor injuries such as burns, cuts, bruises, nose bleeds and sprains to prevent the injury from getting worse. First aid techniques cannot be learned through books, they must be practiced.
Second, it enables you to remain calm and in control. Whilst most people would try to help an injured child, it is often done in a state of panic, chaos and fear. One of the most important things you learn in first aid is to stay calm, in control and confident. For example, knowing how to treat a child with a spinal injury and calmly direct others to assist you, forms a basic part of first aid training; it is essential for administering quick and effective first aid and keeping the child, his parents / carers, friends calm, in a traumatic situation.
Thirdly, it prevents the situation from becoming worse. As a first aider, you are trained to recognize conditions and prevent them from becoming worse. For example, in the case of a dislocated jaw, you would know that supporting the jaw in an open mouth position minimises pain and supports the dislocation, whilst closing the mouth will cause further pain and damage to the joint. In the case of a nosebleed, you would know that that the correct technique is to pinch the soft part of the nose (without blocking the nasal passage) and tilting the head slightly forward, to prevent choking.
Fourth, it lessens the child’s panic. A child who is injured will most likely be in a state of panic, try to move and desperately seek her parents. In a case of shock, a child in a state of panic could be disastrous; it is essential to be trained in knowing how to keep a child calm and still. Just being treated by a person who is trained in emergency medical care itself is more likely to keep the child and her parents calm.
Fifth, it makes other parents feel more secure. Imagine a situation where a young child is choking and the mother is in a state of panic. Despite it being an emergency situation, the mother is unlikely to trust you to help her child unless she knows that you are trained to do so (particularly because the treatment for choking is very “physical” – back blows and abdominal thrusts!). First aid training not only qualifies you to deal with an emergency situation, it also provides security to those around you that you are qualified to do so. As a result, you have their support and so, an increased chance of success.
And lastly, it increases awareness of safety and acts as a preventative. First aid is based on prevention. When you undertake training in first aid, you promote a sense of safety, to yourself and others around you. Notice how parents are calmer when there is a doctor present! Your training encourages others around you to be more aware and vigilant, with a heightened focus on safety. It is simple: the more people trained in infant and child first aid, the less likely it is that children will be injured.
Parents, carers, teachers often believe that only doctors can save a child’s life or treat an injury. Medical training is not a pre requisite to learn first aid and life-saving skills. Remember: first aid is not about diagnosing and treating an injury or illness. It is about providing emergency treatment to stabilize, minimize the impact, and prevent further injury until one can reach a doctor or other professional medical care. In an emergency situation, first aid is not a substitute for professional medical care, it is an essential precursor to it. In an emergency situation, where time is of the essence, one does not have the luxury of time to call a doctor for guidance.
As a person trained in first aid, it is not just the emergency help you provide, but the calm and confidence you exhibit enabling you to gain the trust and support of the people around you, thereby increasing the child’s chances of survival and minimising further injury. This is why infant and child first aid is an essential skill for all parents, carers, and teachers.