Quick—what’s the best thing to do for a burn? You (and your sitter) never have to wonder again, thanks to this first-response guide to the most common kid calamities.
What to do first: Assuming your child is conscious and responsive (if not, call 911), apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables for 20 minutes to reduce any swelling.
What to do next: Watch him carefully. Get medical help if there’s a change in his pupils (one is larger than the other, or they don’t react to light); he’s vomiting often or won’t eat; or he feels dizzy, has a worsening headache, or seems unlike himself. Otherwise, for the next 24 hours, check him every few hours to see if he’s still feeling well.
What not to do: He can sleep, but wake him every four hours to check in. And don’t let him play sports. Even if he’s feeling better, he needs to sit out the day.
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What’s Your Body Trying to Tell You?
Cut or Scrape
What to do first: If there’s active bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean cloth. The bleeding should stop in 5 to 10 minutes. If it doesn’t, see a doctor.
What to do next: If there’s a small foreign object in the cut (like a piece of glass), it’s OK to remove it with tweezers sterilized in alcohol. Clean the wound with soap and warm water, pat it dry, and apply an antibiotic ointment. Cover it with a sterile bandage, and change the bandage daily.
What not to do: Don’t swab the wound with an antiseptic, such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. It isn’t necessary and will sting, compounding the trauma.
What to do first: If your child is vomiting or seems unusually pale or sweaty, get medical help. Otherwise have her tilt her head slightly forward. Pinch her nostrils and hold firmly for 10 minutes.
What to do next: If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, repeat for 10 minutes. If the blood is still coming after that, get medical help.
What not to do: Don’t have your child lie down or tilt her head back, as she could swallow blood. And don’t put dry tissues in her nose; removing them could reopen scabs. Instead, you can insert gauze wetted with decongestant nose drops to shrink blood vessels.
What to do first: Run cool water over the area for several minutes, then pat dry with a clean towel.
What to do next: To ease the initial pain, apply a cold compress (not an ice cube, which can cause a cold burn on top of a heat burn). Then cover the burn with a sterile bandage. You can also give your child some pediatric ibuprofen. If the burn has blistered or oozes, or if redness or pain persists for more than a few hours, seek medical help.
What not to do: Don’t apply Neosporin or any other greasy ointment; it can trap heat and make the burn worse. And don’t apply butter; this old-school “remedy” can introduce bacteria and cause an infection.
Squashed Finger or Toe
What to do first: If the digit is deformed, the nail is coming up, or there’s blood under the nail, see a doctor. Apply an ice pack or run under cold water to ease swelling. If the wound is bleeding, clean it with soap and water and put on a bandage.
What to do next: Over the next 72 hours, watch for increased pain, swelling, redness, drainage, or fever. These symptoms can signal infection; see your doctor.
What not to do: Don’t attempt to straighten a fractured finger or toe on your own. That’s definitely a job for a doctor.
Managing a Freak-Out
Relate. Reassure your child that her injury is the kind of thing that happens to everybody. Tell her that it has even happened to you (if that’s true).
Distract. Have her close her eyes and think of something happy—like kittens. Ask her to describe them. Are they fluffy? Stripy? Fluffy and stripy?