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You can’t always prevent accidents from happening, but you can be prepared! Here are some basic first-aid tips to help you with home emergencies.

We look at five common household injuries and the first-aid assistance parents can give. Plus a paramedic tells what you what basic items should always be in your first-aid kit.

Read our Plasters 101 article to find out which plasters to use where and for what type of injury.

Bumps and falls

As your inquisitive child becomes mobile, they will start to explore their surroundings, climbing objects, which could result in falls, bumps and stumbles. Russel Meiring from ER24 says that falls from just a few metres can cause serious injuries and even death. After a fall, apply an ice pack on any bumps or bruises. However, should the incident cause profuse bleeding, Meiring says to make sure it is stopped immediately by applying direct pressure to the wound or by using a first-aid dressing. Call emergency medical services (EMS) and seek medical attention right away if your child seriously injures their head, neck, back, hipbones, thighs, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing.

Burns and scalds

Burns and scalds are other common injuries in the home. According to Meiring, ER24 often sees burn injuries in the home that stem from touching the stove, spills from kettles and hot water from unattended baths. In treating a first-degree burn, where only the first layer of skin has been affected, you should immediately cool the wound under a cold tap. Do not use ice water as this can cause further damage by cooling the body too quickly. Once the burnt area is cooled, wrap it in a moist dressing and then seek medical attention urgently. For all other burns, call EMS for immediate help.


Children tend to put a host of weird and wonderful things in their mouths, which can subsequently lead to accidental poisoning and choking on swallowed objects. Michelle Cahi from ABC of CPR says that choking is one of the leading causes of death for infants and toddlers. If your child is choking, do not try to grab the object lodged in their throat or pat them on the back, as this could push the object further down the airway and make the situation worse. Call EMS immediately and perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. If you are unable to remove the object and the child becomes unresponsive, lower them to the floor and begin CPR.


Cahi warns that children are often poisoned by household and cleaning products, personal care and beauty products, medicines, vitamins, plants, lead and carbon monoxide. Meiring advises that the ingestion of poisons should be treated very carefully. Do not make the child vomit as this may cause an airway obstruction, which may cause choking. If the child is actively vomiting, do not stop them from doing so. Keep any open containers or bottles so that the poison may be identified. Seek medical attention immediately.

Water emergency

Seconds count when it comes to water emergencies. Cahi says that most children who drown in swimming pools had been missing from their parent’s sight for less than five minutes, and adds that most drownings take place in suburban swimming pools. More than half of all drownings among infants under the age of one occur in bathtubs. Another 12% of drownings in this age group occurs in buckets. In the event of a water emergency, get your child out of the water, call EMS immediately and prepare to begin CPR. Meiring says you need to make sure that the child has a pulse and is breathing. Check that the air passages are clear and if no pulse or breathing is present, CPR must be started immediately.

Education is key

Attending child first-aid and CPR classes will equip parents, childminders and caregivers with the knowledge to handle emergencies and save lives. While no parent wants to think about the worst happening to their child, in an emergency you will be glad you did.

First-aid essentials

Here are a few things that ER24 says should be in all first-aid kits:

  • sterile gauze
  • bandages in several sizes
  • large and small sterile dressings
  • sterile eye dressings
  • eye pads with bandages
  • pack of paracetamol tablets, including liquid paracetamol
  • assorted plasters
  • antiseptic wipes
  • antibiotic cream
  • rehydration sachets
  • tweezers
  • sharp scissors
  • safety pins
  • gloves
  • CPR mouthpiece
  • torch and spare batteries
  • list of emergency contact numbers

Find out more about first-aid kits.

Simone Jeffery