Christmas first aid for your toddler

Hyper children, loads of sugar and breakable decorations can be a recipe for an accident or two. Here's what to do if your child gets hurt


According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), mishaps at home could mean more than 80,000 people dashing to Accident & Emergency during the 12 days of Christmas. Here’s what to do if it happens to your child…


Tumbles and falls 

“Wrapping paper left on the floor can be dangerous as it’s slippery and can slide from underneath your child’s feet,” says Clive James, training development manager at St John Ambulance. “If your child does fall over and hurt herself, don’t panic, as kids are quite robust. Give her a cuddle to calm her down and then monitor her. Generally speaking, a tumble is not going to hurt too much, but if your child has banged her head and is quiet for a long period of time, a trip to the hospital may be necessary,” he adds. 

Bangs to the head

When is a bang to the head dangerous? “Most head injuries affect the scalp only,” says Emma Hammett, a qualified nurse who runs first aid courses for parents. “If your child seems OK, apply a cold pack to the injured area for 10 minutes and give Calpol or Calprofen. Your child can go to sleep, but check her often. If she won’t wake up, call an ambulance immediately. Likewise, if the child is unconscious, won’t stop crying, vomits more than once, has breathing trouble or if you’re at all unsure, seek medical help quickly.”

Trouble with tree decorations

Baubles are so pretty that toddlers often can’t resist putting one in their mouth. “Luckily, most decorations aren’t made of glass these days, so if one shatters 
in your child’s mouth, give him water and help him rinse out his mouth thoroughly,” says Clive. “Any nicks or wounds on the lips or hands should be washed, then pressure applied to them with a clean cloth. If you suspect glass has been swallowed, seek medical advice.”

Little cuts

Christmas means scissors left lying around as you frantically wrap presents – which can easily fall into the wrong hands. And let’s not forget the dreaded paper cuts from opening all those cards and licking down envelopes. “Run minor cuts under water, then dry,” says Clive. “For larger cuts, put direct pressure onto the wound with a towel, get the patient to sit, and elevate the injured hand above the heart to get the bleeding under control, then apply a dressing. Deep cuts may need a trip to casualty for a stitch or some glue.”


So much activity at Christmas happens in the kitchen, and an oven that’s accessible to small hands can give nasty burns. 
“Get the hand under cold running water immediately,” says Emma. “Keep it there for as long as possible to reverse the burn damage. Remember to cool the burn, not the child, keep him warm to prevent clinical shock, and phone for medical advice. If the burn is bigger than a 50-pence piece and blistered, call an ambulance while you cool the burn.”

Sickness from over-eating

There are so many sweets, treats and chocolates on offer at Christmas, a toddler may soon fall prey to Christmas sickness. “Keep him calm and encourage him to re-hydrate with frequent sips of water,” says Clive. “If the sickness has spread through the family and you suspect it’s a result of something else giving you food poisoning, it’s time to contact the GP. If he puts too-hot food into his mouth before you can catch him, rinse it out immediately. Clive says: “Use iced water to get rid of the heat. When he’s calmed down, an ice lolly is a good option. Do check his breathing carefully, though. If he’s swallowed something hot, the burn can swell at the back of the throat. If there are any difficulties in breathing, call an ambulance instantly.”

Choking on small things

Small Lego bits, tiny cracker toys, peas… Whether your child’s choking on a sprout or sweet, it’s one of the most frightening experiences for a parent. If the blockage is easy to see and easy to remove, carefully try to remove it, but never put your fingers down your child’s throat, says Emma, as you could push the obstruction further down.

If the airway is only partly blocked, your child will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. In situations like this, where the choking is mild, see if your child is able to clear the blockage themselves, by continuing to cough to try to clear the blockage. 

If the obstruction is severe and your child is struggling to breathe (and your child is over 1 years old), give up to five back blows (between the shoulder blades), using the heel of your hand. Carefully check her mouth and, if possible, remove any obstruction after every blow.

If this does not clear the obstruction, perform abdominal thrusts by following the steps below. This technique should not be used on babies under one year old, pregnant women or people who are obese:

  • Stand behind your child
  • Place your arms around her waist and bend her well forward.
  • Clench one fist and place it just above her belly button and below the breastbone.
  • Place your other hand on top, then pull sharply inwards and upwards.
  • Repeat this up to five times until the object stuck in her throat comes out of her mouth.

The aim is to get the obstruction out with each chest thrust rather than necessarily doing all five. If the obstruction does not clear after three cycles of back blows and chest thrusts, dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance and continue until help arrives.

It’s advisable to attend a first-aid course to learn how to perform all these techniques.

Things up noses

All sorts of small items can find their way into your toddler’s nose. “If you can see the offending item, try to get your child to blow it out,” says Clive. “I’d advise against prodding as you could push the item further into the orifice. I’m afraid a trip to hospital may be necessary here.” 

Mistletoe and wine

Both of these are best kept away from your little one. But what if your child has wandered downstairs early in the morning and finds a half-filled glass you absent-mindedly left in the living room the night before? “Children will normally spit out alcohol as it won’t taste nice, but if they seem to be suffering the effects then you should seek medical advice,” says Clive. “Mistletoe berries are poisonous, so again, seek medical advice. In both cases you should never induce vomiting as you’ll be hampering your child’s airways.”


Mum’s story

“When she was 2, Elexia helped me decorate the Christmas tree. I went to make a coffee and came back to the living room to find her finishing off the tree by draping toilet paper over it. I let out a gasp that made her jump and she pulled the tree down onto her. I was scared she’d be crushed and that the baubles would smash and cut her face! But she emerged with just a bump to the head. I bathed it with a cold compress and kept an eye on her all day but she was fine.”
Ellen Moss, 21, from Derby, mum to Elexia, 3, and Lucas-Francis, 5 months

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