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What Doctors Wish Parents Knew

Basic first aid and other vital information you need to save your child in an emergency - and spare you a lot of panic. Take two dollops of wrong assumptions about child safety. Add a big dose of panic when an accident happens. Throw in misconceptions about healthcare. What do you get? A recipe for disaster in basic first aid. 

The most common preschool mishaps are falls, choking, cuts and burns, fits and seizures, and poisoning. Most accidents happen at home when you least expect it, but what's important is to stay calm. Consultant paediatrician, Dr Adeline, says, "Most parents panic. Add a lack of knowledge in first aid, and mistakes are made. In turn, these mistakes create more health problems."

Dr Adeline relates two such incidents. "One three-year-old boy scalded himself by tugging on a tablecloth, and pulling down a cup of boiling water. His mother panicked and put medicated oil on the burn. This caused even more pain to the child," says Dr Adeline. Doctors later had their work cut out, trying to "relieve the pain and wash away the medicated oil", adds Dr Adeline.

It turns out that applying medicated oil (or any kind of oil), is a bad idea as it seals in the burn's heat, while camphor, an ingredient often used in medicated oils, will further irritate raw scalded skin. In another case, a six-year-old boy caught his foreskin in his zipper but was too shy to see a doctor. To calm him, his flustered parents agreed, and merely cut the zipper out of his pants.

Adds Dr Adeline, "Luckily, two days later the child's grandma brought him to the A & E department. By that time the wound had become infected and the foreskin became necrosed and died."
It could have been worse, but as Dr Adeline points out, "Some parents give in to children when they should make the final decision about health and safety." So to help you stay calm when panic strikes, here's the right (and wrong) way to react to mini emergencies at home:


Remove your child from the danger spot. Run only cool tap water over the burn. Calm him, and remove any wet clothing. Apply a light, dry, clean cloth dressing over the wound and bring the child to a doctor.
"Don't apply any medicine, sugar, toothpaste, ash or powder on the wound. And do not run icy cold water or ice onto the scalded areas," says Dr Adeline, as this can cause further tissue damage.


Check that the child is breathing. Lift her chin and tilt her head backwards. Call for ambulance or rush her to the nearest hospital or clinic. Or, if you know how, apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR (see box, below right). Says Dr Adeline, "Many parents automatically dig into a child's mouth, or force-feed them food and drink, or slap the child's back." These can all force the object further down, blocking the airway.


Make sure there is no loss of consciousness. Observe your child for vomiting and visual disturbance. If he gets a headache that gets worse or doesn't go away, see a doctor.

Fits And Seizures

Put the child on his side and remove any surrounding hard objects. Turn his face towards the floor so any mucus or vomit can drain from his mouth. Most fits in children are caused by a quick increase in body temperature (febrile fits). These are generally harmless and don't cause brain damage. They usually stop in a few minutes. Most parents will rush a child to the hospital's A&E when it happens for the first time. On the way there, "Do not pry open a child's mouth to put a spoon or foreign object in," says Dr Adeline, "This may choke him or obstruct breathing. This can be life-threatening."


If the child is conscious, identify the poison and when it was taken. Immediately take the child, poison and packaging to the doctor. If your child is unconscious, call for an ambulance and apply CPR while waiting. Or rush him to the nearest hospital. Says Dr Adeline, "Whatever he may have swallowed, don't make him vomit it out." Let the experts handle it.

Healthcare Oops!

Avoid These Common Child Healthcare Mistakes

Avoid Bathing

Not bathing a child when he has a fever or chicken pox is a common folk-wisdom from the past. In fact, skin hygiene is important as bacterial infection can occur. A quick shower in warm water with normal body soap will do.

Wrong Medication

Using wrong medication, like an old one that's expired. While he may have a fever again, the cause my be different the cause may be different this time, so see a doctor.

Sharing Medication

Giving an older child's medicine (cough mixture, anti-diarrhoea or anti-vomiting drugs) to younger children is dangerous.


Parents may give more medication in an effort to cure the child quickly. This causes more harm than good.

Doctor Hopping

Anxious parents may get the same drugs with different brand names and end up overdosing junior.

Letting Him Sit On Your Lap In The Car

This can be fatal because when the car suddenly stops, you (and your child) will still be going at the same speed until either one of you hits a dashboard or windscreen. Even at 30 mph, it's like hitting the ground from the top of a three-storey building! Be firm about the child seat rule, even if your toddler screams as you strap her in. Even a difficult child will obey if you perservere for two weeks, say more mums.


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