Common First Aid for Infants and Small Children

Small children are notoriously curious creatures, and while that’s part of why we love them so much it can also mean that they’re especially prone to silly mistakes. Whether they fall, burn themselves on the stove, or try to eat something they shouldn’t, chances are your little one is going to get a boo-boo before long.

For parents, this can be a terrifying truth. That’s why first aid for babies and small children is essential knowledge: the best way to make a situation less scary is to be prepared by knowing how to keep calm and best respond.

Here are a few helpful first aid tips for some of the most common medical situations kids are likely to end up in. Please note: in emergencies, it’s always best to seek medical attention from a professional.

First Aid for Babies and Small Children with Small Cuts or Lacerations

This is likely to be scary for any small child, so the first step is to get them to calm down enough that you can clean the wound effectively. Act confident and calm – the best way to make a child think something is really wrong is to act like something is.

Gently clean the wound with soap and warm water, applying an antibiotic gel such as Neosporin if you like. If the wound continues to bleed, apply gentle pressure until it stops. If it doesn’t stop, seek immediate medical attention.

Once the wound is clean and the bleeding has stopped, apply gauze or a strong adhesive bandage. Voila! Keep an eye on the cut for a few days to make sure it doesn’t look infected (look for swelling, redness, and pus). If an infection looks likely go to the doctor. If not, everything is healing as it should.

First Aid for Babies and Small Children with Burns

Burns are extremely common among small children. They have a tendency to reach for heavy cups of hot coffee, stove burners, and electrical outlets. That’s why “don’t touch the hot stove” is commonly cited as the first lesson many of us learn in life.

If your baby or toddler gets a mild burn, stay calm and follow these directions:

  • Run the affected area under cool running water. This brings the temperature of the skin down and has a soothing effect as well. Do not use water that’s too cold, this can further damage the skin.
  • Cover the affected area loosely with gauze or another light bandage.
  • If you know the proper dosage, aspirin or acetaminophen can be used to control pain and keep swelling down. (Consult your doctor for dosage. Overdose is extremely serious.)
  • DO NOT: Remove clothing stuck to the skin; don’t apply cream, Vaseline, or salves; don’t break blisters.
  • SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION IF: clothing is stuck to the skin, the burn covers an area larger than 2 inches across, blistering is severe, or if the burn affects the mouth, nose, or airways.


If Your Infant or Toddler is Poisoned

If your child has consumed something that’s potentially harmful, there are generally three courses of action:

  • If the child is unconscious, having difficulty breathing, or making seizure-like motions, call 911 immediately.
  • If you don’t know exactly what the child consumed, like loose pills or something from an unlabeled container in the garage, take a sample if you can and head to the emergency room right away.
  • If you know what your child took, and they seem awake and alert, call Poison Control at 800-222-1222. They might tell you just to sit tight at home until the poison works its way through, or they might tell you to call 911 or go the ER. Whatever they tell you, you can be sure it’s the right thing to do.
  • DO NOT: Give your child ipecac or activated charcoal, unless told to do so by Poison Control or a medical professional. Neither is currently endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


First Aid for Choking Infants and Toddlers/Infant CPR

If you are alone, perform no more than 2 minutes of CPR as described here before calling 911. If there is another person with you, have them call 911 while you perform CPR.

CPR for Infants (Less than 1 year)

  • Determine if the infant can cry or cough. If they cannot cry or cough and they are conscious, support the head with the face down, and pat the back (between the shoulder blades) five times firmly to dislodge any foreign objects in the airway.
  • If the object is not dislodged, flip the baby over. Support the head face up, and with your middle and index fingers give five sharp thrusts under the breastbone.
  • If the child is still choking, tilt the head back to look for any foreign objects in the throat. If you see any, remove them.
  • If the child becomes unresponsive, perform CPR by laying the child flat on their back and giving 30 gentle chest compressions before covering the baby’s nose and mouth with your own and giving 2 gentle breaths. Their chest should rise and fall with each breath. Repeat compressions and breaths until help arrives.
  • REMEMBER: Always call 911!


CPR for Small Children (1 – 8 years)

CPR for small children is similar to CRP for adults.

  • First, call 911!
  • Use the heel of your hands to perform 30 chest compressions at the rate of about 100 per minute. Press the sternum to the depth of about 2 inches.
  • Listen for breathing by tilting the head back. If breathing is shallow, irregular, or absent, pinch and nose and cover the mouth with your own. Give breaths. The chest should rise and fall. If not, check for blockages and remove if possible.
  • Repeat alternative breaths and compression until emergency responders arrive.

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