Home Accidents And Common Injuries In Children
Children are prone to falls and minor accidents during childhood. But, are you equipped to handle your child’s injury in the right way? Find out how to deal with these common injuries.
By Amrita Gracias • 23 min read
Let’s face it – childhood is synonymous with falls, cuts, scrapes and bruises. And these are bound to happen just about everywhere – at home, in school, at the playground, while walking on the road or even when riding a bicycle. As parents, we are often the first to respond to these accidents – be it a minor or a more serious one. But do we act in the appropriate way? Are we aware of the right first aid routines to be followed for various kinds of injuries? When should we take our child to the doctor? What injuries require medical attention? And do we realise that inappropriate remedies or carelessness can actually aggravate the wound or injury?
Here are some of the most common accidents or injuries that our children are bound to encounter in their growing years. Let us understand each kind of injury and learn the right way of attending to it.
Types of home accidents and common injuries
Most burn accidents usually occur when children accidentally drop scalding hot liquid onto themselves, touch a hot iron or experience a minor electrical shock. Burns can prove disastrous in children owing to their sensitive skin. It is important to provide timely help to prevent any permanent injury or scarring to the skin.
What to do: The first thing to do is to cool the burn. Hold the area under cool running water for about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not use ice on a burn as this doesn’t really help and might even delay the healing process. Avoid rubbing the area as well as it increases the chances of blisters forming. If any part of clothing is covering the burnt area, cool the cloth with some water and then gently peel of the clothing. If there is no oozing, cover the affected area with a sterile piece of gauze. Do not rub any ointments, lotions as this could worsen the burnt skin. Home remedies such as applying butter or powder on the burnt area also causes more damage to the skin. If there is oozing, it’s best to seek medical attention to make sure no infection develops.
Tip: Make sure you teach your child the ‘stop, drop and roll’ method to be prepared in case his clothes ever catch fire.
2. Scratches and minor cuts
Scratches and cuts usually occur when children bump into or fall on sharp edges or when they are careless while using sharp objects like knives or scissors. Although they are usually minor injuries, there is always a chance of infection setting in since the skin gets broken. They do however heal easily, but it’s best to provide timely first-aid to augment the healing process.
What to do: Firstly, stop the bleeding by applying pressure using cotton or a clean piece of cloth. Once the bleeding stops, wash the wound with clean water to remove any sand or dirt that might be stuck to the skin around the wound. Dry the area with a clean soft cloth. You can apply an antiseptic ointment and then cover it with a bandage. Be sure to change the bandage once or twice a day.
Tip: Instruct your child never to pull off the scab that forms over the wound as this can cause it to bleed again and slow down the healing process.
Bleeding occurs when the skin is cut or scraped as the blood vessels in and around the area are damaged. Although bleeding helps clean the wound, excess bleeding can cause the person to go into shock. Sometimes, a fall might cause a deep wound or gash that might bleed persistently. In these circumstances, it’s advisable to seek medical attention right away. However, it is important that you try and arrest the bleeding as much as possible.
What to do: Apply pressure with a thick bandage or cloth so that the blood doesn’t soak through. In case it does, simply place another layer on top. If possible, raise the injured body part as this can help slow the bleeding. If the wound is deep or if the edges are widely split, then it is most likely that stitches are required.
Tip: Make sure your child is up to date on his vaccinations so you don’t have to worry if he has been injured by anything rusty. Else, he will have to take a tetanus shot.
4. Ligament tear
A ligament tear, also called a sprain, is a stretch or tear in the ligament (tissue that connects to bones) that happens when your child falls and twists a part of his body. This injury is known to mostly occur in the knee or ankle, when it changes direction or twists while running, or when they twist on landing after jumping. Immediate symptoms include pain and swelling of the area.
What to do: An ice pack or cold compress can help ease the pain and reduce swelling. You can then wrap an elastic bandage around the injured area once your child is able to move around. It is also better to keep the limb at an elevated position. Often, ligament tears aren’t as serious and heal fast. You can give your child an anti-inflammatory drug to help minimise the swelling and relieve the pain. She will be able to walk once the swelling goes down. It is however advisable to take an X-ray to rule out any damage or injury to the bones.
Tip: The most common and effective treatment for a ligament tear is RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
A fracture is a broken bone resulting from a fall and can range from a thin crack to a fully broken bone. However small, a fracture requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include shooting pain, swelling, bruising, visible deformity of the area and extreme difficulty to move the injured limb or area.
What to do: First arrest any bleeding, if any. Then, remove the clothing from the area and apply an ice pack or cold compress. Do not try and move the limb; leave it in the position as is. Do not attempt to push, pull or realign any bone that might be sticking out. If the fracture has occurred in the neck or back, try and keep the child as still as possible. Keep him in a comfortable position until you get to a hospital or till medical help arrives.
Tip: Although, most often, broken bones aren’t life-threatening, immediate medical attention is advised.
6. Insect bites
Common insect bites include bites and stings from ants, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, certain types of flies and even bed bugs, which can occur either indoors or outdoors. These insects feed by biting into the skin to reach into a blood vessel. While some insects take a quick feed and leave, others can continue to stay on the body till they fall off when they are swollen with blood. Insect bites cause itching as the injected saliva of the insect reacts with the body. This is usually followed by redness and swelling, and a small raised reddish bump appears on the skin. Sometimes, the skin around the area swells up as well. These symptoms can last from about two hours to even two days.
What to do: A cold compress or ice can bring down the swelling. Over-the-counter lotions that contain pramoxine will also relieve any pain or itchiness. Do seek medical help if your child develops a fever, a rash or any other unusual symptoms.
Tip:Only use an antihistamine medication when necessary but remember that it causes drowsiness.
7. Eye injury
Minor eye injuries are common in children with dust, dirt or even soap causing irritation to the eye. This results in redness in and around the eye, a burning sensation, watering and mild blurriness in vision. Major injuries include being hit in the eye with a hard object, a chemical entering the eye, or something embedded in the eye that causes bleeding.
What to do: Make your child bend over a basin such that her eye faces downwards. Pull down the lower lid gently and pour some lukewarm water over the eye. Repeat this for about two to five minutes. Check to see if the particle, if any, has been dislodged from the eye. If your child has suffered a more serious injury and is in severe pain, seek medical help without delay.
Tip: Keep your child calm. Getting the right treatment in time can help prevent any blindness that the injury might cause.
8. Head injury
A head injury can either be external involving the scalp or internal involving the skull and blood vessels within the skull or brain. It is common for children to bump their heads while playing, running or jumping. This can cause a minor bruise, bump or cut on the head. The bump is a result of blood from the veins leaking into and under the scalp. It should disappear in a day or two, but sometimes can last longer.
What to do: First stop any bleeding and apply an ice pack on the bump, which will help reduce the swelling and pain. Monitor your child closely, checking for normalcy. If he has lost consciousness, (even for a short time), is dazed, has any abnormality in the way he walks or talks, shows signs of concussion (temporary loss of normal brain function due to injury), starts vomiting, develops a headache, has blurry vision, has memory loss or abnormal breathing, get medical help as soon as you can.
Tip: Since the scalp has plenty of blood vessels, even a small cut can bleed more that you would expect. It is also better to consult a doctor if your child has had a fall from over three feet.
9. Food poisoning
Food poisoning is caused by bacteria found in contaminated food or water. These bacteria, when in our bodies, release toxins that cause severe infection. Symptoms can occur soon after consuming the contaminated food or water and usually include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and headache resulting in dehydration and weakness.
What to do: Make sure that your child has plenty of fluids so that he stays hydrated – water and electrolyte solutions are the best options. Avoid milk-based or caffeinated beverages. It is advised to consult a doctor who can prescribe the necessary medication, or antibiotics if need be. Once the diarrhoea and vomiting have stopped, he can have bland food for a few days before resuming his regular diet.
Tip: While medication will manage the infection, hydration is extremely crucial.
A drowning accident can occur when your child has difficulty breathing while under water. As she is unable to keep her mouth and nose above water, her body is tilted forward, under the water, causing her to aspirate water until her oxygen content is too low or the carbon dioxide content is too high.
What to do: Immediately take the child out of the water and lie her flat on the back, on a hard surface. It’s best that you call for emergency help right away. Open her airway by gently tilting her head backwards with one hand and raising her chin with the other. Place your ear over her mouth and nose to check for signs of breathing. If she isn’t breathing, quickly start rescue breathing or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (placing your mouth against the child’s and blowing air into it). Pinch her nose and placing your mouth over hers, blow in full breaths (for about 1 to 2 seconds). Check if her chest rises and falls before repeating another time. If the chest rises, check for a pulse by placing two fingers on the side of her neck. Continue with the rescue breathing till she can breathe comfortably on her own. If she isn’t breathing, then begin chest compressions. Use the heel of your palm to apply five quick compressions at the middle of the breastbone. After five compressions, again pinch the child’s nose, place your mouth over hers and give her a full breath. Continue this cycle till professional help takes over.
Tip: Don’t stop the first aid procedures; research has shown that most drowning accidents turn fatal because proper first aid is not carried out at all or for long enough.
11. Bicycle / Road accidents
A minor road accident can occur when your child gets knocked down while crossing the road or if he runs into traffic. Falling off a bicycle is another common occurrence among children.
What to do: Firstly, check your child for any visible injuries and bleeding. Then, check if he is breathing. Once you have ascertained that he is breathing normally, try to control bleeding from any open wounds by applying pressure with a piece of cloth. Do also check if he can move; that is, there are no injuries to the neck or spine. If either is hurt, do not attempt to move him. Call for an ambulance and let trained professionals do the needful. Do also check his mobility to assess if he might have gotten a fracture. If he has only minor injuries like scrapes and bruises, you can move him. Once the bleeding has stopped, wash the wounds, making sure there are no particles of sand, dirt or gravel are stuck to the skin. You can then proceed to apply an antiseptic ointment and close the wound with a sterile bandage.
Tip: If the injury is serious, it is advised against giving water, any other fluids or food in case he needs a surgical procedure later.
12. Dog / Animal bites
Most often dog and animal bites are not life-threatening. Often a child is bitten by an animal that he is familiar with, although strays are also known to attack in some instances. An animal usually bites when it is provoked, teased or sometimes if the child is just showing affection and is too close to it.
What to do: Immediately wash the area of the bite with soap and water to make sure all the animal’s saliva is washed off. Arrest the bleeding, if any, by applying pressure with a clean cloth or gauze. Then, apply an antiseptic or antibiotic cream on the bite mark and close it with a sterile gauze or bandage. It is always advisable for a doctor to check the bite to rule out any possible signs of infection. Mostly a course of medication is prescribed. In some cases, a course of injections is required to prevent the spread of rabies. Monitor your child to check if the wound is deep, skin is broken, the bite area swells, turns red or becomes more painful and if he develops a fever. Bites on the face, head, neck or any joint are usually more serious.
Tip: Make sure to let the doctor know if the animal was wild, a stray or a pet that hasn’t had its vaccination shots.
Choking occurs when the air passage to the lungs is blocked by an obstruction (caused mainly by a foreign body) lodged in the throat or windpipe thereby blocking airflow and hindering normal breathing. Symptoms include gasping for breath, inability to talk and turning blue in the face.
What to do: The object causing the obstruction needs to be dislodged. However, do not attempt to reach into the mouth or throat using your hand. This could push the object further down and worsen the situation. Instead stand or kneel behind the child, wrap your arms around her, making a fist with one hand (keep thumb in). Holding it with the other hand, place the fist below the child’s chest and above her navel. Then, press the abdomen while giving it a push upwards. This should help move the object upwards and out eventually. If your child is able breathe event though he is coughing, just tap him gently on the back. He should be okay after a bout of coughing.
Tip: Get yourself familiar with the Heimlich manoeuvre so that you are prepared in the event of a choking incident.
Learn how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre by watching the video below:
Tips for parents
Assess the damage: Assess the situation and check for any major injuries. While most cuts and wounds tend to bleed, don’t lose calm at the sight of blood. Sometimes, even minor injuries can bleed more than you would think. Always check for major injuries, your child’s mobility and most importantly if he’s breathing.
Stay calm: Your child is going to look to you for comfort in the event of an injury. Remain calm instead of panicking. Your anxiety and fear will only worsen the situation and your child will most likely get more agitated.
Calm the child: Children often become scared and get shaken up after an accident or injury. Calm him by talking in a soothing tone. Assure him that he will be okay and that you are going to help him.
Seek medical help: If you feel your child requires medical attention, then don’t hesitate to get it – either take her to the nearest doctor / hospital or call for emergency services. If the injuries are minor, but you would nonetheless prefer professional guidance, call your paediatrician for advice.
Ask for help: There’s no harm in asking for help. Ask whoever you can – neighbours, relatives or even bystanders if the case may be. You can perhaps assist in a way that’s helpful – getting the first aid supplies to clean or dress the wound or simply offering your child the comfort that he needs at the moment.
Act accordingly: It’s possible that your child has had a small tumble but has gotten right back up. He might have a bruise or a small gash, but if it isn’t troubling him, then don’t make a big deal of it. If he wants to continue with his game, play or activity, then let him do so. An unnecessary anxious reaction will only lead him to react in a similar manner every time he gets hurt, however minor it may be.
Prepare a first-aid kit: Your child is going to have her fair share of falls, scraped knees and bruised elbows in her growing years. So, best be prepared. Do keep a well-stocked first aid kit to deal with these situations. Supplies like cotton, sterile gauze, band-aids, bandages, antiseptic liquid and antiseptic ointment are sure to come in handy and help you be well prepared to carry out first-aid.
Dr Kavita Gohil shares some enlightening information and tips that we can follow when a child gets hurt.
- It is always important to check where the injury has happened – indoors or outdoors, whether the child was supervised or unsupervised and if any crucial time has been lost. This information can matter greatly in assessing the injury and proceeding with aid accordingly.
- First, make sure child is comfortable. Find out how he got hurt (for instance, if the cause was a blunt or sharp object, rusted or not). This gives information on what kind of management the child will require.
- Make sure cuts and bruises are cleaned thoroughly with water. Avoid home remedies like applying turmeric powder on the wound as it becomes difficult to assess the wound, and cleaning it also becomes a messy affair.
- Apply pressure on a wound to control the bleeding even if it is minor. If it’s not too deep, just apply an antibiotic or antiseptic ointment and leave it at that.
- If it is a deeper wound, once the bleeding is under control, and you are sure that the child is not injured anywhere else, go to a hospital set-up so that a medical professional can confirm if stitches are needed. If bleeding is persistent, get to a hospital immediately as it becomes difficult to manage the wound anywhere else.
- For burns, avoid applying anything immediately as it can be uncomfortable for the child and it also becomes difficult to assess the extent of the injury. Cooling the burn minimises the damage of the burn and it doesn’t leave much of an impact on the skin. Leave it open so that it is easy to check for blister formation.
- In case of a bump, make sure body movements are normal and that there is no pain or discomfort when touching that part. Else, the child needs to be assessed for a serious or internal injury.
- Sometimes the height from which the child has fallen might not be significant but symptoms like frequent vomiting or bleeding from the ear, nose our mouth can indicate a more serious injury. Make sure the child is comfortable and get immediate medical attention.
- In cases of blunt trauma, if the child has fainted or is dazed, and if there has been some time for recovery, then the child must be checked by a doctor who can check the reason and detect the trigger points – did the injury cause the reaction.
Children are almost always prone to accidents, no matter how protective you are of them. So the best way to deal with these unfortunate situations is to be prepared for them. We hope that you are ready and well equipped now to deal with these moments in the correct way!
With exclusive inputs from Dr Kavita Gohil, paediatrician and neonatologist.
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