First aid for babies
Posted on 11 April 2019
Treating babies and toddlers at the Emergency Centre can be tricky, since they can’t verbalise their ailment. But with a little knowledge of what to do – and what to avoid – parents can assist with their child’s diagnosis and treatment.
Mediclinic Vergelegen Hospital Clinical Manager Dr Natalie Hobbs has extensive knowledge and experience dealing with baby and toddler medical emergencies. She answers five commonly asked questions by parents of toddlers.
▶ WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON REASONS BABIES ARE BROUGHT TO THE EMERGENCY CENTRE?
“Symptoms relating to infection, such as a fever, are why most toddlers are brought to the Emergency Centre,” says Dr Hobbs. “Often parents have tried to manage their child’s fever at home, but when this doesn’t succeed, they seek assistance. It may be because their baby is listless, irritable or has a decreased appetite, indicating illness or inflammation. Sometimes these symptoms may be related to something as simple as teething, but we need to assess each organ system carefully to ensure there are no other underlying causes – since the complaint is verbalised by the parents and is often non-specific.” Dr Hobbs says she also sees a number of toddlers with self-sustained injuries. “At the toddling phase children are very inquisitive, unaware of potential dangers, and, as a result, are injury prone. Head injuries and lacerations from falls and burns are quite common cases at the EC.”
▶ WHAT CAN PARENTS DO IN THE EVENT OF THESE EMERGENCIES EN ROUTE TO THE EMERGENCY CENTRE?
“The golden rule for a parent, no matter what the emergency, is to remain calm and to reassure your child. Being ill or injured is a terrifying experience for a baby or toddler, and entering the unfamiliar space of a hospital is scary. So it is essential that parents remain calm and that they comfort the child throughout this highly stressful experience.” Dr Hobbs says that an analgesic, such as paracetamol, can be administered for fever. “The child should also be undressed down to the nappy to allow the core body temperature to drop. Putting the air conditioner on in the car on the way to the hospital can also assist in bringing down their temperature.” In the event of a traumatic injury, pain relief, again in the form of paracetamol, can assist in relieving anxiety. “Parents should try to immobilise an injured limb. If the child is bleeding from a laceration, the parent can apply direct pressure with a towel or bandage.”
▶ WHAT SHOULD PARENTS NEVER DO IF THERE HAS BEEN AN ACCIDENT?
Panic. “Always remain calm so the situation can be managed to the best of your ability,” says Dr Hobbs. “First assess the accident scene for any potential hazards. If you will be jeopardising your own safety, then do not approach the child. Call for an ambulance and if it is safe to approach the victim, assess for responsiveness by tapping the child and shouting, ‘Hello’. If there is no response, check if the child is breathing and if there is a pulse. If you are unsure and the child is unresponsive, call an ambulance immediately and begin CPR.” Highly recommended by Dr Hobbs is that parents attend a heart-saver course, which is aimed at the general public, and teaches parents the basics of life support and what to do in the event of such an emergency. Contact your local hospital for more information about these courses, where they are offered and how much they cost. Remember, you can call 084 124 at any time to contact the ER24 Call Centre.
▶ WHEN SHOULD PARENTS HEAD DIRECTLY TO THE EMERGENCY CENTRE?
“If there are any signs of your child’s airway or breathing being compromised, noisy breathing, blue fingers, toes or tongue. Compromise of the circulatory system is another reason to head for the EC,” says Dr Hobbs, “as is a depressed level of consciousness, convulsions, dehydration or an inability to tolerate oral fluids. An accidental drug overdose or any neurological change also requires immediate attention. Then there are injuries: any burns, eye injuries, fractures or dislocations or injury resulting from a fall must be treated urgently – along with uncontrolled bleeding. Apply direct pressure to the wound with a towel or bandage until you reach the Emergency Centre.” The triage nurse will assess your child on arrival at the EC to determine the urgency of attention by a doctor.
ALWAYS REMAIN CALM SO THE SITUATION CAN BE MANAGED TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY.
WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR BABY’S FIRST AID KIT
- Barrier cream
- Blunt scissors
- Brush or comb
- Bulb syringe
- Cotton wool balls
- Medicine dropper
- Nail clippers
- Panado for infants
- Petroleum jelly
- Saline drops
WORDS KERI HARVEY