Family health

First-aid basics for parents

From what to put in your first-aid kit to treatments you can take care of at home, here's what you need to know when your little one says "Ouch!"

By Corinna Vangerwen

Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

How to deal with common injuries at home If you have a well-stocked first-aid kit, the most common owies—scrapes and cuts, bumps and bruises, and burns and slivers—can be treated at home. We asked Lib Mendonca, a national program development officer for St. John Ambulance in Ottawa, for a quick-reference treatment guide. Print it and keep it in your first-aid kit for easy access.

Scrapes and cuts Wash your hands with soap and water, then stem the bleeding with a sterile bandage. Once bleeding has stopped, clean the cut with water only. You can wash with soap around the scraped area, as long as you don’t get any in the cut. Apply antibiotic cream to the wound and then cover with a dressing

Bumps and bruises Ice the area to reduce pain and prevent the under-skin bleeding that causes bruising. Apply ice for up to 20 minutes (any longer can cause tissue damage) and then leave it off for at least 15 minutes before reapplying; repeat for up to 48 hours. If your kid bumped her head, watch closely for signs of concussion: lack of consciousness, inability to remember what happened, talking or acting funny, showing signs of shock (vomiting or cold and clammy skin), disorientation or seeing stars. “If they show any sign of concussion, they must get medical attention,” stresses Mendonca.

Burns Cool the area with cold water—not ice. For small, superficial burns, apply antibiotic cream and an adhesive bandage. If the burn is larger than the palm of your kid’s hand, produces blisters or severe swelling, or seems to go through the skin into the layer of fat and muscle below, head to the ER.

Slivers Clean the area with water or rubbing alcohol. Next, use sterile tweezers to grip the sliver as close to the skin as possible, then pull out in a straight line at the same angle of entry. Go to the doc if some of the sliver is left under the skin, if there’s more tissue damage than a small puncture wound or if an infection develops.

Before parenthood, scrounging up a Band-Aid to treat a fresh cut was often a fruitless endeavour. But now, with little lives dependent upon you, being prepared for mishaps is a must. To tackle boo-boos head-on, you need a well-stocked first-aid kit and the know-how to use it. Here’s what should go in it.

14 First-aid kit essentials

Polysporin (antibiotic cream)

$11, well.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: well.ca

First-aid manual

$17, chapters.indigo.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: chapters.indigo.ca

Antiseptic wipes

$7, staples.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: staples.ca

Fine-tipped tweezers

$11, amazon.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: amazon.ca

Sterile gauze pads (also called dressings) for larger wounds

$5, well.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: well.ca

Elastic bandages

$7, walmart.ca 

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: walmart.ca

Painkillers (children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen)

$10, well.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: well.ca

Thermometer

$9, amazon.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: amazon.ca

Shears

$15, amazon.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: amazon.ca

Flashlight

$10, walmart.ca 

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: walmart.ca

Band-Aids (characters optional but magically healing)

$4, walmart.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: walmart.ca

Benadryl (children’s antihistamine)

$9, well.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: well.ca

Hydrocortisone cream

$5, well.ca 

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: well.ca

Instant cold pack (activates when you bend it)

$3, well.ca

First-aid basics for parentsPhoto: well.ca

A version of this article appeared in our Summer 2016 issue with the headline, "First-aid essentials," p. 34. 

Read more: Summer first aid guide: How to treat minor injuries First-Aid checklist Baby CPR: This video could save your kid’s life

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