First Aid for Parents

Do you have the skills to help your injured child?

First Aid for Parents

Photo: Gerri Photography


Your young son and daughter are kicking a soccer ball back and forth in the yard as you garden. Suddenly, the ball sails over the fence and lands on the roadway. The gate opens, and your son runs out to retrieve the ball. He fails to see the approaching car – or hear your warning cry. Tires screech, and there is a sickening ‘THUD.’ You race out to the street, gasping in horror as your son lies unconscious.

In this situation, would you know what to do?

Every child experiences scrapes and bruises; it’s part of growing up. But a parent’s worst nightmare is seeing a child seriously hurt or injured. Unfortunately in Canada, these cases are all too common. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among Canadian children and youth between the ages of one and 19 years. Injuries are also the third leading cause of hospitalizations among all children and youth.

First aid trainer Marga Koetje is a big believer in parents and caregivers being trained in basic First Aid/CPR to deal with accidents, large or small. “I really think everyone should have First Aid training. It can make a huge difference,” says the Cobourg-area mother of two. Koetje is certified in First Aid/CPR training through the Canadian Red Cross.

Koetje took her training 13 years ago. With a very young son at home and living where she did in a small community 20 minutes from the nearest hospital, Koetje wanted peace of mind in the event of an emergency. “As a parent, that was my reason for taking it. I needed to know how to provide care and treatment to my children if no one else was there to help immediately,” she says.

Koetje’s training came in handy when her son was cut around his eye, and she was able to confidently bandage the wound before taking him to the hospital ER. Another time, one of her children sprained a leg and Koetje, unsure of how bad it was, took no chances by “immobilizing” the limb. This prevented the leg from being moved, reducing the risk of further injury until Koetje could take her child for medical treatment. Koetje has also found First Aid valuable when she assisted a person hurt in a car rollover on Highway 401. “When you are in any of those situations, the knowledge kicks in,” she says.

First Aid training covers many topics, including emergency scene management, CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), cuts, burns, shock, unconsciousness and fainting, choking, cardiovascular emergencies, bone and joint injuries, wound care, poison, bites and stings, rescue carries and more. In the opening scenario in which a child is struck by a car, First Aid could help a parent take control of the collision scene and tend to any immediate injuries. Koetje elaborates: “(First Aid) means knowing what you can do to prevent these injuries or mishaps from getting worse until medical help arrives.”

While parents may have some anxiety about learning or using First Aid skills, Koetje says not being able to assist your child if she is hurt or injured can be even more devastating. First Aid training is not difficult, and helps people remain calm and confident in the midst of an emergency, she adds.

First aid training left mom Stacy Hyatt feeling empowered. “There is no doubt in my mind that after taking First Aid, I feel more confident as a parent knowing that I have the skills to help my child in an emergency.” And those skills were put to the test when Hyatt’s four-month-old son, Jake, fell down the stairs at home. Hyatt was able to stay calm, as she used her training to check for signs of concussion and head trauma before taking Jake to the hospital. Thankfully, her son was fine.

Once trained in First Aid, parents can also assist others in need, and liability concerns should not deter them from helping out. In Canada (outside of Quebec), people have no legal duty to help others in need. But in order to encourage those with First Aid training to assist others, the government recognizes ‘Good Samaritan’ principles to protect people who choose to help someone in need. These principles involve getting consent to help, using reasonable skill and care, not being negligent and never abandoning the person in your care.

When considering First Aid, Koetje says a good place parents can start is by having an up-to-date, properly stocked First Aid kit at home (see sidebar). From there, they should explore what First Aid training is available in their community and what works best for their situation.

If you have older children, consider taking First Aid training together as a family. And if you are new parents or planning to start a family, First Aid training is also an ideal fit.

“Making the effort is a very small price to pay if you can save someone’s life,” Koetje notes. “You never know, that someone could be your child.”


What a First Aid Kit Should Contain

A First Aid kit should be readily available at home in a safe and accessible place. Used or outdated items should be replaced regularly. The First Aid kit should contain:
▸ Emergency telephone numbers for EMS/911, your local poison control centre and your personal doctors
▸ Home, cell and office phone numbers for family members, friends or neighbours who can help
▸ Sterile gauze pads (dressings) in small and large squares to place over wounds
▸ Adhesive tape
▸ Roller and triangular bandages to hold dressings in place or to make an arm sling
▸ Adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
▸ Scissors
▸ Tweezers
▸ Safety pins
▸ Instant ice packs
▸ Disposable non-latex gloves, such as surgical or examination gloves
▸ Flashlight, with extra batteries in a separate bag
▸ Antiseptic wipes or soap
▸ Pencil and pad
▸ Emergency blanket
▸ Eye patches
▸ Thermometer
▸ Barrier devices, such as a pocket mask or face shield
▸ Coins for pay phone
▸ First Aid Manual
Source: Canadian Red Cross

Where to Go for First Aid Training

Different types of First Aid and CPR training are available, usually lasting one or two days, and ranging in cost from $45 to $170. Certification in First Aid lasts three years, after which you need to be recertified. Some organizations also recommend people renew their CPR certification on an annual basis. To see what is best for you, check with First Aid providers in your community:
• Canadian Red Cross: 905-885-9696, 1-866-491-9696;
• St. John Ambulance: 905-372-0564;

Author: Bill Eekhof

Bill Eekhof is a freelance writer who lives in Peterborough with his wife and son.

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