As a parent, you have to be prepared for an emergency will ensure you stay calm and get your child help fast. While not every injury results in a trip to the delivery room, it is important to have a first aid kit or some home remedies around.
Let’s face it, when you’re a parent, you’re also a cook, a chauffeur, a counselor, a tutor, a handyman, a coach, and more. But perhaps the scariest role you’ll have to fill at some point is that of an EMT. You know how it goes: You turn your back for just a few seconds and then suddenly your kid is bleeding, or holding a wrist that’s swelling before your eyes, or screaming after touching the hot pan you thought was totally out of reach.
It’s entirely possible that all of your family’s health emergencies will be pretty minor. But being prepared for the bigger problems, just in case, is important. You don’t actually need to have medical training, of course. What you do need to know is how to recognize the following serious situations, the steps you should take right away, and whether you should call your doc or 911, or go to the E.R.
Here are tips to handle everything from a nosebleed to a broken bone.
1. Head Injury
This might actually be an incident that needs to go to the emergency room. After a bump to the head, red flags of a concussion can include passing out (even briefly), severe headache, vomiting, confusion, sleepiness, or difficulty walking.
Check your child. If they seem to have hurt his neck—which is possible if they fell on their head—or have any weakness or tingling in their arms, keep them still and call 911. If they hit their head at a sports event, they must stop playing at once to avoid a second injury. Also call 911 if they pass out after a fall and have any trouble waking up. Go to an emergency room if they have a severe headache or if they’re confused, much sleepier than usual, stumbling, persistently vomiting, or doing anything else that’s worrisome. Otherwise, you should still call your doctor for advice right away.
2. Severe Allergic Reaction
Depending on the seriousness of the allergy, another emergency room visit may be necessary. Your child could break out in hives. Their face or lips might swell, and they may cough or breathe with difficulty. Dizziness, vomiting, or diarrhea are also possible.
If there is an epinephrine injector (such as an EpiPen) available, use it. Even if they seem better afterward, take them to an E.R. anyway—the effects of the medication can wear off. If they are experiencing difficulty speaking or breathing, or if they pass out, don’t bother with the emergency room—call 911 immediately. No injector? Call 911. Make them comfortable. Check to see if you have any Benadryl (diphenhydramine) in the house, and give it to your child as you wait for help to arrive.
3. Chipped or Knocked-Out Tooth
In addition to the obvious dental damage, the area around their mouth might be red. Call your dentist right away, especially if it’s a permanent tooth. If you can’t reach your dentist, head to the emergency room. A chipped tooth with an exposed nerve requires immediate attention. Place a knocked-out permanent tooth back in its socket ASAP if your child can hold it in its spot by biting a paper towel or a clean washcloth. (Rinse the tooth gently if need be.) Otherwise, keep the tooth in a sealed container with milk or a bit of saliva.
Again, this is an injury that is hard to miss. But most nosebleeds look worse than they are. Pinch your child’s nose right where the soft part meets the bone, and have them lean forward for at least five minutes. If that doesn’t stop the bleeding, squeeze for another ten to 15 minutes. If it still doesn’t stop, go to the emergency room. If your child’s nosebleeds more than once or twice a week, or if they’re having other bleeding or bruising, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
5. Broken Bone
If the bone is crooked or sticking out, it’s broken. But often it’s less clear. After an injury, if your child is in a lot of pain, has swelling in the injured area, throws up, or feels light-headed, it is possible that a bone is broken. Make them comfortable. Move the affected limb as little as possible. Call 911 if the bone is sticking out or crooked or if they’re in severe pain. If not, call your doctor for advice, or go to the E.R.
6. Eye Injury
Your child will probably be in a lot of pain and will rub or press on their eye(s), which might be red or tearing heavily. Call 911 if there’s obvious damage to the eye or if whatever is in it has burned their face too, if they’re having trouble breathing, or if they faint. Don’t force the eye open if there was trauma from a direct blow or an object. Otherwise, hold it open as best you can and pour saline solution or tap water into it. If they seem fine, call your doctor. Go to the E.R. if he doesn’t.
They’re having trouble breathing and may hold her hands to her throat or faint. It can happen while they’re eating or playing, if they put a toy in her mouth. Encourage them to cough it up. If the object doesn’t come out that way, perform the Heimlich maneuver. Stand behind them and reach around their waist; place your fist (with the thumb in) above their belly button, and grab your fist with your other hand. Pull in and up quickly. Repeat this process a few times. If your child can’t speak or passes out, call 911 while someone performs CPR if possible to dislodge the object by doing chest compressions.
8. Bleeding Wound
A cut is serious when the bleeding doesn’t stop after you’ve applied pressure for a few minutes. Continue to put pressure on it (a clean dishcloth or a piece of clothing works well). If it still won’t stop bleeding, call 911. If it does stop bleeding with pressure, go to the E.R.—but you might need to call 911 anyway if you can’t continue applying pressure while on the way. Go to the E.R. if the edges of the cut gape apart or if there’s a deep hole. Otherwise, clean it well with soap and water, and once it has stopped bleeding, put a bandage on it. Call your doctor if you have any questions.
Symptoms depend on the poison. They commonly include burns on the mouth, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, and vomiting. Poisoning could be to blame any time your young child is suddenly ill or acting strangely. If they’re having trouble breathing or staying awake, call 911. Otherwise call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 to find out whether you need to get medical attention. It’s helpful if you know what they’ve ingested; if possible, have the container handy and be ready to tell the staffer what your child weighs and how much you think they consumed.
Your child’s skin could be very red and blistered. A third-degree burn, the worst kind, can appear white or black. Run his skin under cold water. Call 911 for a significant burn that’s caused by an open f lame or electricity, or if your child is acting confused or short of breath. Otherwise, call your doctor right away for advice. If you can’t reach someone within 30 minutes, go to an E.R.
These 10 tips can help in a pinch and can help until you get your child to the doctor or emergency room.