First aid skills that make a difference

Published February 24, 2024
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed

Extracurricular activities are very important in children’s lives. They make kids intelligent and disciplined, plus kids learn a great deal of completely different skills beyond academics. For instance, learning an instrument and joining the school band or taking special lessons in photography, chess, robotics, or coding outside of school not only gives them ace over their academic skills but also boosts confidence.

Now, when considering extracurricular activities, an area that is often overlooked or hardly discussed, yet remains extremely valuable, is first aid training. First aid is an extremely helpful skill in times of emergencies, and everyone should know how to properly respond in such situations.

First aid is helping someone who is hurt by an accident or gets suddenly sick. The goal is to stabilise the person, preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening and promote recovery until professional help arrives, such as an ambulance or paramedics. For immediate help, you must know some skills like bandaging cuts, giving CPR if someone stops breathing, knowing where to put pressure in bumps, and using things like arm slings and treating minor burns, strains, etc.

If you think first aid is only for adults to learn, then you are wrong. Knowing about first aid is a skill that anyone should learn, regardless of gender or age, so that when an emergency occurs, they can help deal with the situation or even save someone’s life.

There is no doubt that our homes are safe and secure places, but accidents occur anywhere. From falls and burns to cuts and poisoning, the familiar surroundings of our own house can pose various risks. And this is where first aid comes to ours and others’ rescue. Of course your parents are always there to help you, but what if you fall while playing in the ground and your parents are not there; what if you get bruised, choke or get a cut accidentally? So kids, you must know how you can take care of yourself in times when there is no adult around.

The following is just a roundup of some common mishaps and injuries that you can easily treat yourself; if you want to get first aid training (which you should), look for a course or training taking place in your area.

Falls

Remember the song “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed…”, I am sure you do, well kids, the song not only teaches you rhythm and melody, but it actually gives an important lesson — jumping on furniture can lead to dangerous falls and bumps. As kids, I know you love to jump on bouncy places like sofas and beds. But it’s important to remember that furniture is not the same as a jumping castle. So leave this fun to jumping castles.

Falls can also happen from slippery floors, stumbling, inadequate light, collision, etc. Anyone can fall, resulting in minor to serious injuries. In a situation like this, unless it is very serious, put a cold compress on the bruised or area with a bump. Gently press on the area, if it is not bleeding. Massage it lightly to keep the blood flowing. Make sure to tell an adult exactly what happened — even if you get scolded. Don’t hide anything; hiding what caused the injury could make things worse.

Always memorise emergency numbers of police, ambulance and firefighting services.

Burns

As you grow up, you want to try grown-up things like ironing or taking part in kitchen activities, like frying yourself an egg, etc. However, being naïve to these grownup things, you may get burns. For example, unknowingly touching a hot iron or hot pans, spilling hot water or milk on yourself, such accidents can cause mild to severe burns. The best thing is always having an adult by your side.

Here are some first-aid steps to take right away:

• Apply cold water or an ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth. Do not put ice directly on the skin. Cold compresses help reduce swelling and pain.

• Protect the burnt area from sun exposure and any other type of heat.

• If you are wearing tight clothing or jewellery, on the affected area, remove it immediately before it starts swelling.

• If you get blisters, do not pop them, this can cause infection.

Remember, these quick first-aid measures are only meant to provide relief before you get proper medical care, so they are not a substitute for professional medical help.

Illustration by Faraz Ahmed
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed

Cuts and lacerations

Cuts are usually caused by sharp objects like knives, scissors or broken glasses, but they can also happen from places and things you have never imagined. Before you get the help of an adult, evaluate the severity of the cut. For a minor cut, wash and clean the affected area with a towel.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), suggests that one must apply pressure to the cut using a clean cloth and maintain pressure for a couple of minutes or until the bleeding stops. This is recommended for minor cuts and not for severe cuts with heavy bleeding. Remember to wash hands before treating cuts or burns as it minimises infection.

Poisoning

Poisoning is also a common occurrence in homes and is usually caused by substances like pest control sprays, household cleaners and sometimes from certain plants. For example, if you sprayed a cockroach, but the spray part was facing your face, as a result the spray gets in your eyes and mouth.

In this situation, don’t panic, remain calm and thoroughly wash your face. Flush water in your eyes until the stinging/itching goes away completely.

Apart from that, insect bites or stings from bees, wasps or mosquitoes can cause allergic reactions or infections. Always apply mosquito repellent lotions or sprays when going outside, and be cautious around areas where there are beehives. If stung by a bee, you will notice they leave behind their stinger in the skin, which is visible and can be taken out carefully with tweezers by an adult. Apply cold pack to reduce swelling and pain.

Don’t touch any switchboard, button, cord or wiring, with wet hands, and always avoid using them near water.

Choking

Choking is a common accident, but it’s very scary, it can happen to children as well as adults. Usually, it happens when food or any other object gets stuck in your throat and blocks your airway.

Most toddlers are prone to putting edible or non-edible stuff in their mouths out of curiosity, and it often results in choking. If you see any child choking, immediately take him/her to an adult. Or bend them forward, hold them tight and give some firm hits between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. Keep hitting until the object comes out or an adult arrives.

If you start choking, try to cough as hard and loud as you can, it also alerts others. You can also do thrusts on yourself. Or you can thrust your upper abdomen against the back of a chair, the edge of a table or any counter top.

Electric shocks

You may have been warned millions of times by your parents or adults to stay away from wiring, or electrical appliances, because they can lead to shocks or electrical burns, more so because you are young and are still inexperienced in dealing with electricity.

So don’t touch the electric appliances in your house, always have an adult by your side and if you are outside, stay away from power lines and transformers. These areas are likely to contain high-voltage equipment and, therefore, pose a major life risk.

Illustration by Faraz Ahmed
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed

Strains and sprains

Most of us get strains and sprains sometimes, from lifting objects, stretching too much or exercising. Strains happen when muscles or ligaments stretch too much or when they tear. They are very common in sports or PE class, when you have done excessive running, jumping, stretching, or have played for long hours.

So when your muscle strains, firmly massage the area. Let your parents wrap the affected area with a crepe bandage, as this provides support and good compression.

Rest is very important. Depending on the injury, use an ice pack or hot compress wrapped in a thin cloth, for five to ten minutes in breaks on the strains.

Dog or cat bites

If you have pets in your house, it is likely that you may have experienced bites too. Your parents must have taken good care in those situations. But what if you get bitten by a stray dog or cat?

For emergencies like that, rush to wash the wound immediately. Apply pressure with a clean cloth to the injured area to stop any bleeding. And then seek medical help. You must get a tetanus shot if you haven’t taken it previously.

Staying safe around water

Water is fun but staying safe is crucial, whether in a pool, beach or bathtub. Even great swimmers shouldn’t go alone — always have an adult or friend. At the beach, play only in shallow water, where your feet touch the sand. Water draws you in to go deeper, but stop where it’s safe.

Be careful of slippery areas, they are usually around water parks. If you slip and fall, don’t panic. Check if you can stand slowly or crawl to safety. Call the life guards loudly for help.

CPR

CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency life-saving technique. It is performed when someone stops breathing, or their heart has stopped beating. You may have seen in many movies and dramas when it was performed on someone lying flat on the floor, perhaps because of an electric shock, heart attack, drowning or other medical emergency.

As a child, you should also know how to give CPR correctly. But for that, you must have practiced and learnt doing it under adult supervision before using dummies and role playing chest compressions.

Remember, providing first aid is not a substitute for professional medical care. Always call for emergency assistance.

So kids, with the right knowledge, you can protect yourself and others when accidents occur rather than panicking or freezing in crisis moments. Always be mentally prepared and have confidence in your skills.


When to apply cold and hot compress

It is very tricky to know which situation needs a hot compress and which needs a cold. Sometimes a single treatment will even include both. As a general rule of thumb, use cold for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling. Use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.


The importance of the tetanus shot

Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that is caused by germs that live in soil, dust and manure. The infection spreads if that dirt gets into a cut or scrape, it then directly affects the nervous system and tightening of the muscles. To avoid the infection spreading in the body, a tetanus vaccine is taken immediately. The vaccine trains your body to make ‘antibodies’ — that fight and beat the infection before you get sick.

A tetanus shot should be taken every 10 years as it keeps enough tough antibodies circulating to beat a tetanus infection.


Facts

• Choking, that is a blocked airway, can kill someone in three to four minutes, but it can take more than eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive. So a simple procedure, such as opening someone’s airway, can save their life whilst waiting for emergency help to arrive.

• The use of CPR dates all the way back to 1740, yet even today, many individuals don’t know how to perform it. Given properly and immediately to sudden cardiac arrest victims, CPR can save lives.

• A survey found that in the event of a child choking 53 percent of parents would try to get the object out using their fingers; however, placing fingers into the throat could cause damage!

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 24th, 2024

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