Passed-out children who are positioned on their side have lower odds of needing to stay in the hospital, according to a new study from Europe.
"This is just a simple part of the first aid and resuscitation techniques that anyone can be taught," said Dr. Elizabeth Murray, who was not involved with the new study but is an expert in pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital in New York.
The so-called recovery position has the patient being put on their side, with the mouth facing downward to allow fluid to drain. The study researchers say this position should be used on unconscious children who are breathing normally with already cleared airways.
But do parents know this? To find out, the researchers looked at data on 553 infants and children up to age 18 who were brought to 11 pediatric emergency rooms across Europe for loss of consciousness in 2014.
As reported in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, the average age was about three years. The average time spent unconscious was about two minutes, although about a third of the group had lost consciousness for more than 20 minutes.
About one in five patients had an existing condition like epilepsy. And about half of the patients had previously lost consciousness.
About 26 percent of parents had put their children into the recovery position, with about 70 percent of those parents reporting they'd learned that technique from doctors or first aid classes.
Those who were put into the recovery position were ultimately 72 percent less likely to be admitted to the hospital than those who weren't put in the position.
More than half the parents had tried other techniques. Some of those techniques could be potentially dangerous, including shaking and slapping their children. Parents reported learning those potentially dangerous techniques from family members or the media.
"You can understand why a family member would do anything to make it stop," said Murray. "Just like fever or other medical conditions, there are remedies or potentially folklore that can be passed down."
Kids whose parents used a potentially dangerous technique to try to restore consciousness had twice the odds of being admitted to the hospital, according to the researchers, who were led by Dr. Sebastien Julliand of Paris Diderot University in France.
People who don't know what to do when a child loses consciousness should call the emergency operator, Murray told Reuters Health. In the U.S., that number is 911.
"It's really important to remember that the majority of dispatchers in our 911 system can give advice over the phone," she said.