By Lisa Capra, MD
A child's safety is always the top priority for moms and dads alike, but for new parents, this can be an especially frightening topic. Aside from simply purchasing a medical kit, what first-aid skills do expecting, or new, parents need to know?
The first step to first aid is figuring out what exactly your child is experiencing. Although you shouldn't trust all online sources, one reputable site is the American Academy of Pediatrics. It has plenty of up-to-date material online, and it's separated by age group as your child's health -- and related first-aid issues -- will change throughout their life. AAP also offers a great app you can download. Both sources provide step-by-step guidance to dealing with various symptoms, illnesses, and injuries, while also advising when to take your child to the doctor or emergency room.
Once you understand the situation, there are some basic first-aid skills to possess that will always help. Knowing how to perform CPR is incredibly important; consider taking a first aid and CPR training course to make sure you are prepared. Courses like this can hone your first-aid skills and teach you everything from dealing with burns and bug bites to CPR.
Healthychildren.org is a great website with information on a variety of topics. Its first-aid guide is available in English and Spanish, and is also offered in an audio format. If you can't make it to a first-aid class, this is a reasonable substitution.
In a situation that calls for immediate first aid, you might not have time to sit down and surf the internet for answers. Posters and tip sheets that cover basic first-aid skills, including CPR, choking, and common injuries, can be purchased. Even if you feel prepared, other caregivers in your home, such as older children or babysitters, might find these reference sheets helpful.
When faced with an emergency, you should always call 911. Additionally, it is always a good idea for you and fellow caregivers in the home to have easy access to a list of emergency contacts. This should not only include your primary care physician, but also poison control and the nearest emergency room. Add the number of an emergency contact who could take care of any other children you have or could accompany you to the hospital.
Most injuries occur at home, so ensure that windows are securely fastened, medication is stored in a child-proof manner, and fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are up to date. The same advice goes for grandparents' houses or any other home your child may frequent. The key is to be proactive and do what you can to prevent injuries before they happen. Educate yourself about safe-sleep practices, breastfeeding practices, window safety, and weapon storage, to name a few. As your child grows, you will have to continually re-evaluate your child-proofing. While certain basics, such as fire alarms or pool fencing, are always relevant, you will want to re-evaluate your environment for new dangers as your child develops new skills, such as walking or climbing.
As a new parent, or any parent, this can all feel overwhelming. This is simply a guide. Your pediatrician will be talking to you about all of this along the way, and taking steps to educate yourself in the meantime means you are already taking the right steps.
Lisa Capra, MD, is assistant division chief, Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, at Floating Hospital for Children; director, Hospitalist Program, at MetroWest Medical Center; and an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.