Common Medical Emergencies in Children: Sensible Advice to Help You Stay Calm and Act Fast

Snake bite. Rip tide. Jellyfish sting. Drowning. We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but medical emergencies such as the aforementioned happen to someone’s kid every day. They might happen to your children or the children you are tasked with caring for. As parents and caregivers, we want all kids to be as safe as they possibly can be. Sometimes, however, despite best efforts, something horrible happens. If you read and heed the following good advice, you’ll be better able to remain calm and handle any sort of common medical emergency.

Trouble in and around water

Water-related incidents are among the most common medical emergencies that might befall a child, according to Parents magazine. If you were swimming at the beach with your kid and the two of you were suddenly caught in a riptide, would you know what to do? It might feel natural to try to swim straight back to shore, but that would be the wrong way to handle the crisis. If you feel a riptide pulling you out to sea, swim parallel to shore, not against the current. Most rips are only about 20 to 40 feet wide. Once you’ve managed to find your way across the current, you and your child can swim back to the beach.

If you turn your back for a moment and your child winds up at the bottom of a swimming pool, what do you do? Your natural urge would be to jump in and save them, but that’s not the best course of action. Yell at anyone to call 911 and then enter the water with an object that floats. A raft or foamy noodle will do. A frightened kid can drag even the strongest swimmer underwater. A floatation device makes it much easier to offer rescue.

Animal related medical emergencies

If your little one encounters a jellyfish, remove any visible tentacles then pour copious amounts of vinegar over the wound. The American Red Cross recommends keeping a jug of white vinegar in your beach first aid kit because vinegar counteracts the stinging cells that cause jellyfish bite pain. Watch your kid closely — if they show signs of allergic reaction, take them to the nearest walk in clinic without delay. If there’s not one nearby, dial 911 for emergency medical rescue.

What if a child in your care is bitten by a snake? Unless you are 100 percent sure that the snake that delivered the bite is not venomous, do not delay medical treatment. In many parts of the world, rattlesnakes, cobras, coral snakes and other highly dangerous reptiles are prevalent. Call a poison control center or get in a car and hurry to the nearest urgent care clinic, fire station or emergency room where life saving antivenin may be administered.

Bee stings are more common than snake bites and can be just as dangerous, especially to kids with allergies. If your kid is stung, don’t pull the stinger out with tweezers or your fingernails. Instead, scrape the stinger away with the edge of a credit card. This will prevent any more venom from being pulled into the wound by the still-living stinger. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the sting site as often as needed to relieve pain and itching. If your child has difficulty breathing or develops a rash, visit your local ER without hesitation.

Be prepared for any sort of medical emergency

Remember that beach first aid kid we told you about? It’s a good idea to put together a first aid kit for your home, pool area and car, as well. For a family of four, the Red Cross recommends building a kit that contains things like bandages, compresses and cloth tape. Individually wrapped antiseptic wipes and a tube of antibiotic ointment should also be part of a family first aid kit. Non-latex gloves, instant-cold packs, aspirin and an antihistamine such as Benadryl are other items to include in your emergency kit. Add a couple of elastic Ace style bandages, scissors, tweezers and a large fabric square that may be folded and used as a sling if necessary. Include a laminated CPR guide in your kit.

Take a first aid class and get certified in CPR and rescue breathing. The more you understand about how to handle a medical emergency, the likelier you are to remain calm and organized no matter what sort of kiddie crisis occurs.

Charlie Kerr is training to be a nurse and already has experience and knowledge in first aid with children due to her roles as babysitter and sister to younger kids and babies.