Basic Medical Skills Every Parent Should Know

May 15, 2014

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Kids will be kids, which means they will get hurt. Every parent knows how to kiss the boo-boos, pull out the splinters, and hold tissues to a nosebleed, but here’s just a little more depth. Here are some basic basics, not much detail, feel free to ask questions if you want to know more!

Allergic Reactions

If you think your child is having an allergic reaction to something, keep a super close eye on him! Reactions can range from slight itching to being unable to breath. It can last for hours after exposure and the reaction can be different each time. If it’s just itching or little hives, give some benadryl and keep an eye on it for at least 8 hours. You can use cool cloths and anti-itch cream to help too. It’s ok to let the kiddo sleep, but keep him nearby. If there is any face swelling, especially the tongue, or any signs of trouble breathing at all (tight coughing, wheezing, blue finger tips), head to an ER immediately or call 911. If you have an Epipen at home, use it. Yes, it hurts, but it’s totally worth it to decrease the swelling and help the breathing. Don’t be shy about using it, that’s what it’s for and it’s better safe than sorry. If you do use your Epipen, go see the doctor. Whether it’s calling to make a same-day appointment, going to urgent care, or a visit to the ER, do it. A) you need a new Epipen. B) the effects of the Epipen will wear off and kiddo might need more medication. C) your doctor needs to know you used the pen to help you keep tabs on things.

Finally, figure out what the reaction was to. What’s new in the house? Or the school? Or the car or school bus? It could be food, pets, other people (and what they touched then touched your kid, in cases of severe allergies), or anything else. If it’s new, the doctor will help you determine what it is and then you can avoid it. If it’s a known allergy, don’t beat yourself up, it happens. Help your kiddo understand what happened and move forward.

Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration in kids, so the most important thing is keep your kiddo hydrated. For nausea and vomiting, stick with small sips or water or gatorade. If the child can’t keep anything down or starts to look badly dehydrated (no tears, dry tongue, not peeing) go to the doctor and get nausea medication. Otherwise, stick with small sips and lots of rest.

Sick BabyCheck out some Mayo Clinic info on the stomach flu.

BRAT diet
An easy diet on the tummy for nausea or diarrhea, the BRAT diet is bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Avoid hard-on-the-tummy foods like greasy or spicy foods, milk products, and alcohol or caffeine.

Dehydration

With hot summer weather, dehydration is not uncommon. Whether in children or adults, dehydration can become severe and eventually require hospitalization. The need is to catch it before it gets that bad. Keep water handy at all times, even it it’s warm and tastes bad, it still hydrates. Encourage kids to drink water throughout the day. Signs of dehydration are tiredness, dark smelly urine, less saliva and tears, dry lips, nausea, and dizziness. As it gets worse, you see even less urine, dry mouth, fast heart rate, fast breathing, fever and eventually passing out (you don’t want it to get that bad). So, even if you are feeling a bit nauseated, fluids are incredibly important. Slow sips of water or other liquids like Gatorade is most important. Things like coffee and soda don’t count, the caffeine will make you pee more out. And, remember, you don’t only lose fluids by sweating and peeing, you lose it just by breathing and existing. If you or baby can’t keep fluids down (you puke it all back up), take smaller sips. Still can’t? Visit your doc for some anti-nausea meds or IV rehydration.

Andrew Hospital a

Yet another good Mayo Clinic resource for more info!

Basic Wound Care

Kids get cuts and scrapes. When I was little, our cuts were cleaned with peroxide and bandaged. Peroxide is no longer highly recommended (it can actually delay healing) but here is what to do:
- Clean the wound: wash it under running water, use a little soap and get it clean.
- If it’s bleeding, hold firm pressure for at least 5-8 minutes. If it won’t stop bleeding after 10 full minutes of continuous pressure (no peeking), go to the doctor. If it looks deep and might need stitches, go to the doctor.

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- Bacitracin or triple antibiotics type creams: keep the wound damp and help it heal. Some people are allergic to one of the antibiotics in triple antibiotic creams, but bacitracin is also anti-microbial and a great option.
- Clean bandage: gauze and wrap or bandaid, either way keep it clean and covered as it begins to heal.
- Prevent infection: Keep it clean to prevent infection, meaning avoid getting it dirty by doing things like playing in the mud or going swimming. If it starts to look red, angry and pussy, head to your doctor’s office because it might be infected.

Basic care for Broken Bones

If you think something is broken, go to the doctor. But, until you get there, a splint is the way to go. When a kid broke his arm on the way to a concert with the youth group, we used a piece of cardboard and an ACE wrap to support the bone, and a t-shirt to be a sling.
Use whatever you have available. Something straight and solid to support the bones and keep things basically aligned, and an ace wrap or t-shirt or something decently stretchy to wrap it to the broken part, help with the swelling, and hold it in place. Wrap it in a position of comfort, use a sling for arms or wrists to hold them above the heart level, and head to the doctor.

R.I.C.E.

For sprains, strains or breaks, RICE is the way to go.
Rest: take it easy, let the muscles and bones heal.
Ice: for the first 48 hours, ice helps easy the pain and swelling.
Compression: wrap with an ACE wrap to help with swelling and provide more support
Elevation: get the hurt part above the heart. This will help ease the pain, pounding pressure, and decrease the swelling.Wrapped Up

I consider the Mayo Clinic a good reference for about anything medical, including RICE.

Head Injuries

When baby falls and hits his head, you don’t need to immediately rush to the ER. Pick him up, calm him down and keep an eye on him. Definitely try to avoid him hitting his head again for a few weeks. Signs that you do need to head to the doctor:
Unusual sleepiness (you aren’t going to know this at bedtime or naptime, but if he’s normally happy and playing at 11 in the morning and he’s not, it’s a red flag)
Vomiting
Not acting (talking, walking, smiling, or being) like himself
Headaches or dizziness that don’t get better
Here’s another good Mayo Clinic resource on concussions!

When to go to the Doctor

Not everything warrants a trip to the ER. Some things you can just stay home, some things mean you should call and make an appointment with your doctor and some things do call for immediate attention. It’s hard to separate your emotions and realize that a cough and fever for two hours isn’t an emergency, because it’s your kid and it’s scary, but try to step back.

For immediate attention:
- Not breathing (call 911)
- Bleeding won’t stop or a cut is really deep and you think it might need stitches
- Broken bones
- If the nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, pain, sores, etc don’t go away after a few days of home-treatment
- Child isn’t peeing, mouth and tongue are dry, or the eyes don’t swell with tears when they cry.
- Super-sleepy, not acting normally (and it’s not a normal sleep time)
- Basically, if you think it warrants being admitted to the hospital or needs drugs or treatments that you can’t get at Walmart, then it’s time to get checked out. Try your normal doctor first and if they can’t see you, hit the urgent care or ER.
- If in doubt, you can always call your doctor or local ER and ask their advice!

Obviously, this is not a conclusive list and not everyone fits “normal” guidelines, if your child has ongoing medical conditions, the rules are different. If you are past your comfort or knowledge level, don’t be afraid to call on a doctor for help. But don’t freak out at the small stuff, you can handle it!

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Comments

  1. Rachel C says:

    Great post! These things are so important to learn about ahead of time because in a stressful moment it can be hard to think straight.
    The worst accident we’ve had was when my son fell off his bike and knocked his 2 front teeth loose!

  2. RICHARD HICKS says:

    I love these tips. Parent or not, it is valuable information for anyone.

  3. Katharina says:

    Excellent post! This is so important for people to know… the more medical and first aid knowledge we get, the less stressful it is when we have to deal with those issues.

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