The Menace of Medicines in the Home

Here in Australia we tend to associate poisoning with jellyfish stings, snakes, and spiders. But there’s something way more dangerous – and potentially deadly – lurking in the average household cupboard: medicines. Children are most at risk from accidental poisoning in the home, and those under 5 are in the highest risk category.

How do you know if your child has been poisoned in the home?

Young children love exploring, and one of the ways that toddlers learn about their environment is by putting things in their mouths. If a child could (or would) tell you that he or she has swallowed something they shouldn’t have, it would make a parent or carer’s job a whole lot easier. But they don’t, do they? So knowing a few of the tell-tale signs of poisoning is essential. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Stomach pains, and possibly diarrhoea
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • General weakness
  • Shivering or sweating
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Rash (or perhaps burns around the mouth)
  • Seizures

That’s a long list of symptoms, and if you do suspect that your child has been poisoned by medicines you should try to establish which medicine is to blame and get medical help immediately.

Prevention is better than cure

Though little hands and enquiring minds mean almost nowhere is safe in the house, there are some precautions you should take with your medicines:

  • Keep all medicines in a locked cupboard out of the reach of children
  • Never take your tablets and other medicines out of their containers, and make sure the lid is secured always
  • Keep bags out of children’s reach. This is especially important when you have visitors: a woman’s bag is a favourite place to keep medicine, and a target for toddlers
  • When visiting friends and relatives, keep an eye on your toddler at all times

Avoid Bath Time Danger and Keep Your Child Safe

Baby bath with foam washesBath time is one of the happiest moments with a baby. A few minutes of fun and baby giggles, never mind the cuddles afterwards. Unhappily, the bath is one of the most dangerous places for your baby, toddler, or young child. Every bath time brings two main dangers: drowning and scalding.

Before bath time

Rule one to make sure bath time is a happy time is to be prepared. Get the towel and face washer, soap and hair shampoo ready. Make sure that you have a clean nappy and a change of clothes on hand.

When you run the water, always run the cold water first and check the temperature is between 37 and 38 degrees Celsius.

During bath time

Never leave your child alone in the bath, and always stay close – no more than an arm’s length away.

There are plenty of distractions that could pull you away from where you should be − a knock at the door or the telephone ringing, for example. Ignore them all.

As a habit,  a safe practice could be to turn your mobile phone off  before you take your child into the bathroom to avoid distractions.

After bath time

Once bath time is finished, let the water out. In fact, pull the plug out of the bath as soon as you lift your child from the water. It’s the only safe way. It’s easy to forget the water is still in the bath, and even the smallest of crawlers will be tempted back into the water while you’re not around.

One final thing…

Every year, an average of five children under the age of five will drown in the bath in Australia. Another 47 will spend time in hospital because of a near-drowning in the bathtub (Department of Health and Ageing). Hundreds more are scalded by bathwater that is too hot. Taking the simple precautions above will ensure your baby or young child does not join these numbers. And if – Heaven forbid – the worst should happen, make sure you know what emergency action to take for burns and scalding and for drowning.

Don’t Let Your Child Become A Statistic – Accident-Proof Your Home

Toddler playing with household cleaners at homeWe all like to think that when we’re at home we’re in the safest place possible, but statistics just don’t back this up. According to data from Allianz, 33% of all accidents occur in the home, and the home is the second most likely place that someone will suffer an accidental death (after roads).

We all know that accidents happen, but the same study shows that 6 out of every 10 preventable accidents happen in the home, with children most at risk.

Your home is a dangerous playground

Children learn by play − a fact we tend to forget in the home. Every room is a playground that should have a hazard warning. Poisoning, falls from windows, cuts and drowning are all common accidents in the home.

And just when we think we’ve childproofed our home, they go and grow a little taller and grab things that were once safely out of reach. So childproofing your home is a constant challenge that has to be met.

Here are ssome things to do that will make your home as safe as it can be, especially for children who just want to play:

  • Be a constant supervisor – keep an eye on what your child is doing and on the new hazards they begin to encounter as they grow
  • Make sure all cupboards and drawers are protected by childproof locks
  • Keep windows locked, and pools safe with suitable fencing
  • Keep tools locked away, and unplug electrical tools and appliances when not in use
  • Cover all chains and springs with a sheath and ensure that none are more than 5cm long (that way they can’t be wrapped around a baby’s neck)

Some of the easiest things to do are those that are most easily forgotten. Installing smoke alarms, replacing old electrical appliances, and making sure safety guards are across balconies and at the top and bottom of stairs are all common-sense actions of responsible parents.

Finally, always have a first aid kit in a handy place in the home, and pin up useful emergency numbers next to the ‘family portrait’ by your favourite artist – the portrait that is stuck on the fridge door.

5 of the Most Common Emergency Situations Involving Children and How to Respond

1. Falls are one the most common emergency situations paramedics see involving children. The effects of falls can range from bleeding and abrasions (which are usually easily managed by a parent with a first aid kit) to sprains/fractures and head injuries. Head injuries from a fall are most likely to be minor but it is crucial that parents learn to recognise when the injury is serious as a serious head injury may require emergency care.

2. Choking is often described as one of most scary things a parent may encounter! Being aware of the different types of choking and knowing how to respond can really be a matter of life and death. A choking event may be a complete obstruction where the child is silent as the airway is completely obstructed, or a partial obstruction with the child having difficulty breathing and hearing a wheeze. Appropriate treatment will depend on which type of choking but may include back blows and administering CPR.

3. One of the most common ambulance jobs our Paramedics attend is for Febrile Convulsions although many parents don’t know what they are or how to respond and often cannot stay calm to help the situation. It is important to call 000, Lay your child on the floor and loosen any tight clothing, roll the child onto their side only once jerking has stopped or if the vomit. Never try to restrain a fitting child.

4. Children are naturally curious. They learn by putting things into their mouths and touching things they shouldn’t. Among the most common injuries suffered by children are burns (caused by dry heat) and scalds (caused by hot liquids). Of course, prevention is better than cure. So keep children away from the kitchen, away from hot water taps, and away from anywhere where hot surfaces or liquids may be within touching distance. In the event your child is burned, you must act quickly. Call 000, remove clothing, nappy or jewellery (unless it is stuck to the skin) cool the skin under cold running water.

5. Recognising respiratory distress early can have a huge impact on the final outcome, so knowing the signs is vital. Some signs and symptoms of breathing difficulties may include, wheezing sounds, pale/cool sweaty skin, hoarse barking cough, shortness of breath and sucking in of chest muscles, blueish colour around the mouth and the child may have a fever. If your child is in respiratory distress you must call 000, keep upright and forward, provide reliever medication if available and if not breathing commence CPR.

The most important thing for parents and carers to do is to equip themselves with the correct skills to use in an emergency situation involving their child. It is essential that parents try to remain calm and collected during the event and have the knowledge and skills to render the appropriate treatment. What happens immediately after an emergency can make all the difference!

Learn all of this and much much more including how to administer CPR from a Qualified Paramedic in a 3 hour Kids First Aid course, available across Australia.

Visit www.kidsfirstaid.com.au or call 1300 138 133 for more information.

Dealing with Accidental Amputations

Hands in gloves putting on a bandageAccidental amputation of limbs can happen at any time and any place, and young children’s delicate limbs are most at risk. Not only are young children’s bodies not fully formed, and therefore easier ‘to break’, but little children don’t understand the dangers posed by doors and drawers.

In the UK, one case that hit national media headlines was that of little Sophie Dedek, who lost a fingertip while at a nursery taster session. Staff didn’t even realise the finger had been severed until someone spotted it on the floor while cleaning. Sophie’s parents arrived to find their child’s hand wrapped in a blood soaked towel and the fingertip in a cup of ice. Unfortunately, despite surgeons working for more than two hours to try to reattach the fingertip, Sophie is now left maimed for life. If the correct procedures had been followed, the outcome may have been entirely different.

Treating an amputated limb

The most common accidental amputation is a finger, but whatever the limb affected the treatment will be the same. There is likely to be a lot of blood, and bleeding is the first thing you must control:

  • Apply firm pressure to the finger with something dry and clean. If you have your first aid kit nearby, use some sterile gauze.
  • Raise the finger above the heart: this will help slow the flow of blood to the finger.
  • Call for an ambulance.
  • Inspect the finger to see if it is intact

Preserving the severed limb

With the bleeding under control, the amputated piece of the finger will need to be properly preserved for the paramedics and proceeding surgical procedure. If the amputated finger part is dirty, rinse it under running water. Wrap it in damp, sterile gauze (or, failing this, use paper towel) and seal it in a plastic bag to ensure the air doesn’t get to it.. Finally, place the sealed plastic bag on a bed of ice and water.

Avoid the common mistake

The most common mistake, and one of the accumulating mistakes made by Sophie’s nursery, is to place the severed finger directly into ice. This only causes more damage and reduces the possibility of reattachment.

Whatever you do, don’t separate the finger from the child. Make sure they stay together the whole journey to the hospital. Plastic surgeons have fantastic abilities to ‘do the impossible’ – but they can only do this if they have the equipment available to do so, and the most important piece of that equipment is the severed limb!

Spotting and Treating an Allergic Reaction

Close up image of a little boy’s body suffering urticaria.Allergies are on the increase, with one in three Australians estimated to have one or more. Foods are the most common substances to which people are allergic, with nuts, eggs, and dairy products high on the list of allergens (substances which cause an allergic reaction). In the most severe allergic reactions, your child could suffer breathing problems and the result could be fatal. So knowing the signs of allergy – and how to treat a child suffering an allergic reaction – is a vital skill for a parent.

What is an allergy?

An allergic reaction occurs when a substance which the body considers to be a foreign invader enters the body. The body produces antibodies which battle against the invading substance, and various symptoms become visible very quickly. Commonly, such allergies are to food; but while the symptoms of an allergy and food intolerance to food may be similar, an allergic reaction happens almost immediately, is far more severe in nature, and has to be treated differently.

Signs of an allergic reaction

When the allergen and its antibody come into contact with each other, the body releases a number of other substances. One of these is histamine, and this causes inflammation. In turn, this inflammation causes a number of visible signs, which can appear seconds after coming into contact with, eating, or drinking, a substance to which the child is allergic. Typical allergic reactions include:

  • Swelling
  • Hives or a skin rash
  • Tingling of the lips and mouth
  • Stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhoea

In the worst cases, the throat can close, the tongue swell, and breathing become severely affected, with the worst reaction leading to anaphylaxis.

What to do

How you treat an allergic reaction depends upon its severity. However severe, it’s important to stay calm, reassure your child, and remove the offending food or sting. You should then call for help, and follow the DRSABC procedures if you need to and should the symptoms become life-threatening (but remember, stay calm).

Where allergies are known to exist, it may be that a child has an adrenaline auto-injector. Make sure you know how to administer (take a few seconds to read the instructions, for example), and always inject in the thigh. There’s no need to remove clothing to do this, but the needle must stay inserted for ten seconds.

In your treatment of allergies and administering an adrenaline auto injector, always err on the side of caution: allergic reactions can be fatal, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Babies: the Pleasure and Pain

baby newborn sleeping on parents hands, kid and family concept

No matter how many good parenting guides have been read, a new mother and father will always feel they have no idea about how to look after their recently delivered baby. Babies tend to cry, eat, and sleep. They are wonderful bundles of joy, but sometimes difficult to cope with in the early stages. Imagine if they could transfer all that noisy energy to walking and running: injuries would beckon at every step. For parents, bumps, scratches, cuts, bruises, and broken bones are rarely on the agenda with their babies, and amen to that! However, there are other medical concerns for all parents of their newly born child.

Babies and respiratory infection

A leading cause of admissions to hospitals of those under one-year old is infection of the respiratory system. This occurs after accidental falls, either while being carried or out of bed. Baby walkers also have a bad reputation when it comes to causing falls (they’re even banned in Canada).

Babies and SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS is devastating to parents and families. Also known as Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), this can occur at any time, though most commonly when asleep. The Kids Safe Sleeping campaign has helped to reduce the number of SIDS deaths by more than three quarters in Australia, but it is no less catastrophic. There is no rhyme or reason, nor enough compassion to give to the victims of SIDS. The Kids Safe Sleeping campaign does make six positive recommendations which seem to have helped prevent many SIDS cases:

  • The baby should sleep on its back from birth
  • The baby’s head and face should remain uncovered
  • Make the home a smoke free environment (including no smoking during pregnancy)
  • Ensure the sleeping environment is safe
  • The baby should sleep in the same room as an adult for the first six to twelve months of their life
  • Breastfeed

Know what to do for choking babies

Moving a baby from liquids to solids is a tough time, and many parents worry about the risk of choking and allergic reactions. So long as you know the signs and what to do, you’ll be fine.

In the end, you’ll have a terrific toddler

Bringing a baby into the world and looking after him or her for those first few months is the biggest responsibility anyone can take on. The dangers are reduced by making sure you are prepared, and realising that most of what happens (for example a baby’s gagging) is natural. Be wary of things that happen which are out of the ordinary, and grow with your new baby. It’s a wonderful experience.

Finally, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a must have skill. If your baby has a life threatening condition, it will usually be the breathing which gives way before the heart. Make sure you’re prepared to give CPR by taking a CPR course.

Kids Choking: not a gag, and certainly not funny

Gagging is often mistaken for choking, but, while they may be similar, choking is a symptom of possible life endangerment while gagging is a natural body reflex reaction. If you understand the difference between the two, you’ll always take the right action.

Is it gagging or choking?

Babies gag on milk (even when breastfed), and as they move to solids they will often gag, too. Gagging is a reflex action when an item of food or drink has ‘gone down the wrong way’ or simply been swallowed too fast. In trying to expel the offending item, the tongue moves forward and coughing usually begins. There may be some redness in the face, and the mouth opens involuntarily. It looks a lot worse than it is, and can cause a little discomfort for a short period of time. (Try putting your fingers in your mouth and toward your throat and you’ll get the idea.)

Choking happens when something blocks the airway (the windpipe, or, to give it the proper name, trachea). When the trachea is partially blocked, a baby will begin to cough to try to clear it. Usually this clears the problem. But when the trachea becomes completely blocked, the redness in the face increases and then turns blue, and the mouth may open as the baby tries to breath. But there won’t be any noise at all. It is a silent reaction, and this is one of the most telling signs of choking.

How to treat choking

As soon as choking is observed, it is time to react. Use blows to the back (between the shoulder blades) and chest thrusts. With older children, you might find they are able to take a breath and cough. If this is the case, allow them to do so: it’s always better to allow the child to clear the obstruction themselves, if possible. Using a back blow while a child is breathing-in can cause the object to fall further into the trachea and make matters worse.

Whatever you do, if you are treating a young child for choking avoid the temptation to practice the Heimlich manoeuvre as this could cause damage to internal organs.

Finally, if in doubt, shout! Objects can get stuck in the oesophagus too (that’s the ‘food pipe’). When this happens, breathing is still possible – as is talking – but the item may need to be removed at hospital to prevent further complications and allow normal eating and drinking to resume.

Seeing Your Child In An Emergency Can Be Horrifying – Feeling Helpless is Worse

With the help of our training, you’ll sleep easy knowing that you’re prepared for almost every emergency.

  • If your child is burnt or scalded, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child eats something and starts choking, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child experiences a sudden seizure, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child has been underwater and drowning, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child is suffering from a super-high fever, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child suffers a severe allergic reaction, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child swallows poison or a household substance, you’ll be prepared.
  • If your child has an accident and breaks a bone, you’ll be prepared.

For the Price of a Restaurant Dinner, You Can Know PRECISELY How to Deal with Your Child’s Emergency…

Our most popular course is the Kids FIRST Aid — 3 Hour Course

This engaging and practical course covers the 10 most common emergency situations. At the end of 3 hours, you’ll know precisely how to deal with the emergency situation before the paramedics and first responders arrive. You’ll also receive a take home poster to remind you of the correct techniques.

Your entire workshop tuition is just AU$ 85 per person (plus GST). A nominal sum to ensure you’re equipped to respond to a first aid emergency, whenever the need arises.

Unlike many other first aid courses, ALL our workshops are delivered by qualified and experienced paramedics – many of whom are parents themselves.

Make Sure Your Child Gets the Correct Dose

Ill girl with tabletThe old wives’ tale that ‘if it doesn’t taste bad it won’t work’ may still hold as true today as it did in years gone by, but it doesn’t really help when medicating your child. However a medicine tastes, a child will try to avoid taking it. That doesn’t help your child’s health or your peace of mind. You’re old enough and wise enough to understand that the correct dose is vital to a medicine working, and this is vital to getting your child’s life, and yours, back on track.

Here are four ways to overcome your child’s natural reluctance to take their medicine.

1. Sweeten the pill with bribery

Older children react especially well to a little bribery: ‘Take this medicine and you can watch your favourite film’. However, bribery methods become more expensive as children get older and realise the value of things. Younger children can often be tempted to take medicine by pretending to give it to a favourite doll or teddy bear.

2.Disguise the medicine and fool your child

It may be possible to hide thei r medicine in an item of food or drink. Don’t forget, though, that your child will need to eat or drink the whole portion to get the full dose of concealed medicine. The trick here is to hide the medicine in a small treat if possible. One word of warning: some medicines shouldn’t be mixed with food or liquid so always check before using this method.

3. Syringe the cough syrup

Young babies seem to know immediately that there is a spoonful of medicine on its way. They squirm and shuffle, and spit it out as soon as it’s in. If this describes your baby, then try using a syringe. Put the dose in a syringe and squirt it into your baby’s mouth: their reflex will be to swallow.

4. Give something to take away the taste

Most often it’s the taste that makes a child not want to take their medicine. Explain that without the medicine they won’t get well enough to go out and play with their friends. Give them the option of a drink to take straight after swallowing the medicine, to take the taste away.

Be firm and stand your ground

For your child’s health and your sanity, it’s important that your child takes the right medicine in the correct dosage. Make sure you read the instructions and measure accurately. It may be that you need to be as stubborn in administering medicine as your child is in refusing it.

Finally, the best method of measuring dosage is to use a syringe (even if the medicine is to be spoon fed). A study by the National Institute of Health in the United States has found that almost half of parents measured dosages incorrectly when using spoons, with more than 10,000 calls to poison control centres received each year because of incorrect liquid medicine dosages.

Should I Take My Toddler To Hospital After A Bang On The Head?

For a parent, one of the most worrying things to see on a young child is a rapid swelling of the head after a fall or bang. There may be no need for concern as the skull is thick to protect the brain from injury–and more than a few of us really were dropped on our heads as children! However, it is important to know the difference between a minor bump and something more serious.

 

The difference between minor and serious head injuries

A head injury might be accompanied by any one of a number of symptoms. There may be bleeding, swelling, and discolouration. Typical is the ‘egg’ swelling on the forehead. None of these symptoms should be an immediate cause for concern. However, if your child lost consciousness when injured, then it’s important that you seek immediate medical help.

 

Treating minor head injuries

Minor head injuries are often accompanied by screaming and crying. That’s perfectly normal. If the head injury happens just before bed and there’s no swelling or bleeding, then it’s fine to let them sleep. Check on your child ten or fifteen minutes after they’ve fallen asleep, and if you are still concerned, wake them up to see that they’re alright. If you are having difficulty waking them and you’re concerned, phone for medical help.

 

Treating more serious head injuries

Very occasionally the swelling caused by a head injury will be soft and spongy. If this is the case, there may be some significant internal bleeding and you should get medical help immediately. The same applies if there are any symptoms of vision difficulties. Other symptoms which may be concerning and require immediate medical attention include: continued drowsiness, dizziness, seizures, headache, confusion, vomiting.

 

Trust your instinct

No one knows your child better than you. If they suffer a head injury, always trust your instinct. It is better to be safe than sorry, and if your child is acting stranger than usual after a head injury then seeking medical advice is always the right thing to do.