Sarah Hunstead is North Shore Mum of two, senior paediatric emergency nurse and also the author of ‘A life. A finger. A pea up a nose’. Here, she outlines the most common injuries for children in winter, how you can avoid them and how you should treat them.
It is time to unpack those winter woolies – the cooler weather has now arrived. Along with snotty noses, grotty coughs and digging out the gumboots, hats and winter jackets, it is also time to brush up on those essential First Aid skills.
First Aid is something we all think about in the summer months – bites, stings, water safety. However winter also has its own set of mishaps, and you need to know what to do to help your most precious little ones.
One of the more common accidents to involve babies and children in the winter months are burns. Young children often don’t understand the consequence of touching a heater, and an open fire does look quite inviting to little fingers!
We are very conscious on keeping the kids, particularly babies, warm at night in their rooms, however it is not a good idea to leave heaters on. Depending on the type of heaters used, carbon monoxide poisonings a big risk, as well as soft furnishings catching on fire from a radiant heat source such as an oil or bar heater. If their room is very chilly, warm the room up before they go to bed, them turn off (or even better, move the heater out of the room) when the kids go to bed.
I remember the story of a particularly industrious four-year-old who got up in the night and switched the heater in her room on because she liked the pretty lights. She woke her parents up a few hours later telling them she made ‘summer in my room’! All was well, but it could have been a disaster.
It is also tempting to leave a heater on for young babies, however SIDS and Kids WA recommend that it is very important to keep the baby’s face and head uncovered and no loose bedding that can potentially cover their face. Click here for a guide on babies and room temperature from SIDS and KiDS.
Invest in child safe heaters (many have a safety switch that turns the heater off if it falls over), and know what to do if your child burns themselves. Scalds from hot soup, tea and coffee are also very common.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS BURNED
- Remove the clothing including nappy (unless stuck to the skin)
- Put the burned areas under cold running tap water for a MINIMUM of 20 minutes to stop the burning process
- Keep unburned areas warm
- Seek urgent medical help or call ambulance 000
- Give analgesia for a minor burn such as paracetamol
- Do not apply creams or lotions to the burn
Always seek medical attention for a burn in a child as we do not want them to scar. Burns are also very painful, so give them some analgesia medication.
It always seems that the kids are sporting a dripping nose from the second winter hits. Luckily a cold or three helps to build up their immune system. If your child is unwell and you are concerned, always seek medical help. If they are running around and perfectly happy, drinking well with good wet nappies, chances are they are okay. If they appear unwell, not drinking as much, less wet nappies, and are miserable or lethargic, always seek medical help. Trust your instincts.
One of the simplest ways to combat the snotty noses is simply to wash hands with soap and water. We pass on many germs by coughing or sneezing in our hands, then touching other people or things, passing on the viruses and germs! Teach your kids to ‘catch their sneezes’and coughs in their elbow, and wash their hands with soap and water before and after eating, going to the toilet, and more frequently if they have a cold.
Enjoy the winter months, get your friends and family together to refresh the long forgotten emergency knowledge and stay safe!