parenting / child-health

Prepping your child to help during a medical emergency

Equipping children with basic knowledge on how to react in emergency could save lives

How to prep children to respond in an emergency
Image Credit: Seyyed Llata
Baby & Child Editor

The perfect time to equip your child to respond in an emergency? During a pandemic, of course. It’s never been more important to give your child the tools they need to be able to react if something were to happen to you or anyone else, in the home or outside. A little training and briefing on emergency situations can help minimize the impact of an emergency on the entire family, and equipping children with appropriate first aid knowledge can help prepare them, irrespective of the presence of an adult. Here’s what your family’s emergency preparedness plan should look like…

BEING ALERT

“First and foremost, it is important to limit the time we spend on our phones and be cognizant of our surroundings,” says Dr Gurudutt Bhat, Consultant Paediatrician at Fortis Hospital.

The adult in charge should ideally be trained in first aid themselves, and should be aware of any hazards in the area. The vast majority of child deaths and accidents in the UAE are down to parental neglect - this can mean something as seemingly innocuous as the supervising adult looking at their phone and not realizing that the child in their care has entered the balcony alone, or is struggling in the swimming pool.

You can also teach your kids to be alert of the people and potential hazards around them; if they hear or see any unfamiliar sounds or occurrences, teach them to make note and inform a family member.

THE FIRST AID KIT

Although some children may not be old enough to know how to use a First-Aid Kit, they can still be taught some essential skills for when emergencies do happen. Show them where the First-Aid Kit is kept in your home (and make sure you have one). Give details of each item and purpose; have your children handle the items and use them in a demonstration, creating made-up scenarios that might warrant the used of the supplies stored in the kit. There are some great kid-friendly videos that can take children through these principles, like the Operation Ouch series for children, hosted by real-life doctors and identical twins from the UK, Dr Chris and Dr Xand.

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

We have all heard those stories about the tiny kid who saved his or her parent’s life because they managed to call the ambulance in time. Equipping your child with the ability to call the emergency services if necessary is one of the most crucial ways you can prepare them to respond in an emergency.

“While you hope your child never has to deal with an emergency medical situation, it's important they know what to do in case they ever find themselves facing one,” says Dr Bhat. “Talk to them about it and define what a medical emergency is. Explain to them that these are not things that happen on a daily basis and that they rarely happen at all, but that they need to know what to do in case something like one of the scenarios happens.”

Ensure that you have the major emergency telephone numbers listed on your fridge, stuck on at their height. Encourage them to memorise the numbers and teach them how to dial a phone.

“Another useful teaching is to inform your little one about Makani numbers,” says Rebecca Smith, managing partner of Safe Hands UAE, which runs first-aid courses in Dubai. “These are unique numbers assigned to buildings here in Dubai. Teaching them what they look like and where they might be situated could help the emergency services reach the location more quickly.”

EMERGENCY NUMBERS TO TEACH YOUR CHILD
999 – Police.
998 – Ambulance. While the police can redirect you to other emergency services if needed, you can waste precious time in an emergency if you don’t call the ambulance directly.
997 – Fire brigade
MAKANI number - This number is unique to your residence in Dubai and makes it very easy for the emergency services to know exactly how to find you, without any need for a delay at a crucial time. Show your child how to discover your Makani number, and ideally put it on the fridge as well.

THE DRABC PRINCIPLE

The emergency five-step DRABC process is a base for all emergencies that can be taught to younger age ranges, says Rebecca Smith from Safe Hands UAE. This stands for:

  • DANGER – Check the area for any dangers and make sure the environment is safe before approaching an emergency. Getting a first aid kit if one is available is priority, teach children where this is kept and what it is.
  • RESPONSE– Checking for response and assessing level of consciousness. Teach children to check for this by asking questions like “can you hear me?” and “are you ok?”. Always promote using your voice instead of shaking the person to avoid making potential injuries worse.
  • AMBULANCE – The importance of calling for help is a simple but important step that can be taught to children. Make them aware of the emergency numbers (998 for ambulance, 997 for fire, and 999 for police) and educate them on the information the operator may require such as location and situation. Finding the nearest adult to help is an alternative if a phone is not available.
  • BREATHING – The emergency operator may ask about a person’s state during an emergency. You can practice checking for normal breathing by using a look, listen and feel technique for 10 seconds.
  • CPR – The last step in the emergency process if regular breathing is not detected is to perform 30 chest compressions followed 2 rescue breaths repetitively. Although younger age ranges will not be able to perform this step, it is useful for them to at least understand what this is.

FIRST AID BASICS

You can start teaching children the basics of first aid from the age of around four, but you should probably wait a bit longer before putting them on a professionally taught first-aid course. “To attend a full certified course, we recommend the child be a minimum age of 12 as we find at this age children are competently able to perform skills such as chest compressions and CPR,” says Rebecca Smith, managing partner of Safe Hands UAE, which runs first-aid courses for mums, dads and nannies. “The amount of strength and force required to perform this skill effectively is considerable and children may struggle for certification purposes before this age.”

Rebecca says that at the age of around 6 or 7 children should be able to remember and follow instructions well. “You can teach the five-step DRABC process as a base, keep it on the fridge along with the emergency numbers to call. As minor emergencies happen in the home remind them of the steps that can be taken and where they can find the emergency numbers.”

“We encourage all parents to attend a first aid course to ensure they themselves are responding to emergencies in the correct way,” adds Rebecca.

“First aid scenarios can be panicking so always teach your little one to take a big, deep breath initially and try to stay calm.

“You can run telephone drills as a game with your child so that they know the numbers that should be dialled, what they have to say and learn how to react to the “operators” instructions.

“As near accidents occur, educating your children on what best to do to prevent certain dangerous situations e.g not touching the stove top, not running with sharp objects, chewing your food.

“When smaller accidents do occur, for example a cut, explain the steps that you taking and how to treat it (applying firm, continuous pressure) and why you are doing it (we need to stop the bleeding)."

Bruises: Teach them that if they or someone else gets a bump on their body that hurts but isn’t bleeding, they can apply an ice pack to help the bruising. Show them where your ice pack is in the freezer, and teach them how to use an ice cube wrapped ina clean cloth as an ice pack.

Cuts: Teach children that applying pressure to a wound will help stop it bleeding. Teach them what constitutes a minor injury and what wouldn’t be, and how to handle it.

Burns: Teach children to immediately place a burn under running cool water.

Fire safety: Teach children about the stop, drop and roll principle of fire safety, and also the fire exits and how they would escape from your home if they were a fire.

Choking: Teach children what choking is and, if possible, teach them the Heimlich maneuver. Discuss how choking happens and why it’s important to act quickly.

Emergency treatment for severe conditions: If you or your child has any allergies or a condition like diabetes, teach them as soon as you think they can understand about the epi-pen or insulin and how they could help if you or a sibling were to get into trouble.

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation): “It is never too late to learn lifesaving techniques such as CPR, and training your young ones could help save a loved one,” says Dr Bhat. “Speak to them about how CPR can help someone and when to use it. You can use different props such as a balloon to make the training fun. Acting out potential emergency scenarios and challenging kids to problem-solve their way through them will make sure they can carry out the training when the time comes. Most of the studies suggests that children above 14 yrs can be taught effective CPR and generate enough force to do cardiac massage on an adult in an emergency situation.”