Essential First Aid Skills for Childcare Workers
If you work with children—or if you have children at home—knowing how to care for them in case of a sudden injury or illness is important. If you run a daycare center or teach in a classroom, you may be required to maintain first aid skills if your organization is accredited by the National Association for Education for Young Children.
First Aid Skills You Should Know
Every year, over 12,000 kids die from injuries such as burns, falls, poisonings, drownings, and incidents with road traffic—all very preventable. There is a lot of overlap between CPR and first aid skills for adults and children, but there are a few key skills you should focus on and techniques you should know as a childcare provider. Here’s an overview.
The Heimlich maneuver
Sure, adults sometimes choke on food as well. But young children are constantly putting things in their mouths that they shouldn’t. In addition, children’s tongues are larger in proportion to their mouths, and their airways are narrower than adults’. Because of these factors, children generally face greater chances of choking than adults do in day-to-day life.
CPR for children
It’s rare for kids to need CPR, but it can happen—especially if the child has a heart problem or another chronic illness, or for children in drowning situations. If you are working with kids in an aquatic environment—you’re a lifeguard, for example—or you work with kids with special needs that might make them more vulnerable to cardiac arrest, it’s a good idea to know CPR for children.
CPR for kids is slightly different than CPR for adults, however. While the American Heart Association encourages hands-only CPR for adults, studies show that kids do better with rescue breaths in addition to CPR. Because their chests are shallower, they also require shallower compressions than adults do. There are training programs available that focus on CPR for children, or include it as a component—and it’s definitely worth taking and may be required, depending on where you work.
While adults can also burn themselves, children have no hesitation grabbing a hot pot off a stove or touching something hot in the kitchen. Burns are an extremely common injury in children, and if you’re taking care of kids, it’s best to know basic first aid for burns so you can help an injured child until the ambulance shows up.
Basic first aid for wounds
Sometimes children play rough—and sometimes they can get injuries that are more than just scrapes. Basic first aid for children involves knowing how to compress a wound to keep it from bleeding, ice a swelling, treat eye wounds and deal with splinters to keep the child stable while waiting for emergency responders.
Allergies are becoming more and more common lately; some children are severely or even fatally allergic to bee stings, peanuts and other forms of nuts, or other common things in the environment. Be sure to ask parents if any students in your care have allergies, and know the signs of an allergic reaction and how to treat anaphylaxis, or life-threatening allergic reactions.
Treating broken bones and sprains
Along with breaking the skin, kids can easily break bones in a nasty fall, a traffic-related injury, or other traumatic events. It’s important to know what to do to keep a child stable and treat shock while the ambulance arrives.
Lots of kids have asthma, and it’s not unusual for kids to have an asthmatic episode—especially after strenuous physical activity or particular stress. Knowing the signs of an attack and how to treat one can make a big difference in helping a child with asthma.
Prevention and Safety
A big part of keeping kids safe while in your care is knowing how to prevent injuries in the first place. Here’s an overview of some of the basic precautions you should take, and ways you can make sure your location or home is a secure place for children.
Know how to prepare for a day out. Kids can get heat stroke and dehydrated on hot days. Be sure you have lots of sunscreen and water bottles to prevent nasty sunburns and sunsickness.
Know how to call 911
You’d think it would be simple—but it isn’t always. If you call 911 from a cell phone, emergency responders may not be able to get your location straight from your phone—and telling them where you are can waste valuable time in an emergency situation. Also, if you’re in a classroom, you might have to dial a certain numeral or code in order to get an outside line, or navigate through a switchboard—another step that takes valuable time, especially if you are not familiar with the system.
Block stairs and heights for younger kids
Kids love to climb, but falls are not uncommon and can be fatal. Be sure there is nowhere in your classroom or home where a child could potentially climb and fall—up to a landing, for example, or to a second floor. For young children, put baby gates in front of stairs.
Cover electrical outlets
Kids do suffer from electric shock when playing with outlets. Keep your outlets covered or blocked by furniture, and be sure there are no appliances plugged in near a full sink or bathtub that a child could inadvertently knock into the water.
Fence in yards near a road
Busy roadways are serious hazards for children. It’s important to fence in your yard to keep kids out of the roads, especially if the children have access to a yard that’s next to a roadway.
This is by no means an exhaustive list
There are a wide range of other first aid requirements most childcare providers need to know, such as how to treat poisonings, nosebleeds, seizures and convulsions, drownings, head injuries, injuries to the mouth and teeth, hypothermia and heatstroke, and others—and many other preventive measures you can take around the home or classroom to create a safe environment. A good first aid program for children should expose you to all of these challenges—and help you develop the skills you need to keep the children in your care safe.