21 October 2012

First Aid in Children

Thankfully most accidents and injuries in children are minor and uneventful. However there are a few situations which are really a matter of life and death. These include suffocation and heart arrest following drowning, trauma or electrocution.

If the heart or breathing stops for any length of time, irreversible damage will immediately start to take place in all the cells of the body, especially the brain cells which are especially sensitive to lack of oxygen. Death occurs after a few minutes unless the circulation is restored. That is why immediate intervention is so crucial in such situations.

A child may choke on pieces of food, such as nuts, and small toys.
Usually the child coughs up the obstructing object and all will be well without the need of any special intervention. But if the child stops coughing and loses consciousness, the parent may be able to clear the obstruction by a technique that involves back blows and chest thrusts (in infants) or abdominal thrusts (in older children).

In the case of loss of consciousness following drowning and similar accidents, the rescuer should first check if the child is conscious and breathing. If not, the rescuer should immediately start cardiopulmonary resuscitation and continue to do so without interruption until the child recovers or until help arrives.

These techniques are simple enough to perform but they cannot be learned by reading an article. I strongly recommend all parents to take a first-aid course where they can learn and practice basic life support. Such courses are organized in Malta by various societies. Hopefully they will never need to use such skills, especially if they take child safety seriously. Even so, serious accidents can still happen to our children. In such situations prompt and effective resuscitation is life-saving.