5 First Aid Tips to Teach Kids

“No. No. No.” Parents of young children say it a lot.

Safety starts with the first no, such as when a child reaches for the stove or climbs up on furniture; but there’s no reason to stop there. Kids have an incredible capacity to learn. Teach them how to react when emergencies happen.


1. Calling 911 – It’s one of the simplest and most important lessons you'll ever share! As soon as kids can recognize the numbers, they can learn to call 911. If the kids are carrying cell phones, they need to know that calling with the cell is different than calling from the house phone. Always refer to the emergency number as "nine-one-one" not "nine-eleven" because in an emergency, a child may not know how to dial the number correctly because of trying to find the "11" button on the phone. Teach a child what to say when an emergency operator asks: Why help is needed?

* The Reason: “My mom fell down and she can’t move her leg” or “The house next door is on fire.”

* Child’s full name.

* Address or location: “We are upstairs in our house” or “We are by the tennis courts in the park.” If you live in an apartment building, make sure your child knows the apartment number and floor.

Make sure kids know that dialing 911 is no joke and whenever an unnecessary 911 call is made, it delays a response to someone who needs help. Most areas now have enhanced 911, which enables a call to be traced; so if someone dials 911 as a prank, emergency personnel could be dispatched directly to that location. Not only could this mean life or death for someone having a real emergency on the other side of town, it also means that it's very likely the prank caller will be caught.

Kids need to know the specifics about what constitutes an emergency. Ask them questions like, "What would you do if we had a fire in our house?" or "What would you do if you saw someone trying to break in?" to make sure they know what to do. Role playing is an especially good tool for this and will give your kids confidence.


2. Using a first aid kit – Go over the location and contents of a home first aid kit with your kids. Explain each item and purpose. Have your children handle the items and use them in a demonstration, creating imaginary scenarios that might incorporate the supplies stored in the kit.   

You can purchase a first aid kit at your local drugstore or make one of your own using a lightweight container with handles that has plenty of room in it, such as one used for storing art supplies.


3. Controlling bleeding – Teach your children to apply direct pressure to a wound by covering it with a gauze pad, paper towel, clean cloth or article of clothing (depending on the size of the cut). Tell them to cover the wound and apply continuous direct pressure until the bleeding stops or help arrives.

If the wound is on someone else, have that person cover the wound or bandage with his own hand first. If the bleeding still won’t stop have your child place his hand over the other person’s hand to help tem apply pressure. If possible, have your child use a glove or clean plastic bag to cover his hand first. If blood soaks through the dressing he’s applied, have him add another layer of dressing to it without removing what is already in place. This allows the blood to stick together and form a clot. If he can, teach him that it’s always best to wash his hands before and after helping someone.

Sometimes kids hurt themselves by falling onto something that sticks into them, such as a piece of broken glass or a stick. Tell your child not to pull out anything that is stuck in a wound. Have her call for help and stop bleeding in the meantime by

* pressing on the area around the object but not on it;

* putting a pad of clean material around the object and bandaging it to support the object in place; and

* elevating the injured part and keeping it still.


4. Broken bones – Tell children that bones can be broken or cracked, and that “fractured” means the same thing. Tell them bones are living things that have a blood supply and nerves. When bones are broken, they leak out blood into the surrounding tissue and cause pain. Large bones can leak out a lot of blood and cause a lot of swelling around the injury. Remind your child that broken bones are painful, and it’s probably best if she doesn’t touch the injured area.

If your child is with someone who breaks a bone, she can help by

* Calling for help from an adult or sending someone to call for help.

* Asking where it hurts and telling the person to keep the injured part still. Your child can help make the person comfortable by finding something soft to rest the injured part on.

* Talking to the person to help keep him calm, and letting him know what is going on so he don’t feel scared.

* Making sure the person doesn’t eat or drink anything because she may need an operation to put the bone back into the right place, and eating or drinking might mean the operation will need to be delayed.

* If she can, staying with the person until help arrives.


5. “Stop, Drop and Roll” – is used when clothing catches fire. Children need to know when to do it. Have them

* Stop where they are.

* Drop to the ground and cover their faces with their hands.

* Roll over and over and back and forth until the flames are out.

* Get help from a grown-up who will cool the burn and get medical help.


Arming your child with the knowledge of how and when to perform basic first aid measures boosts confidence and will help them know what to do in a medical emergency affecting them or someone else.


Paul Guarino is a trauma educator for Boston Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Program; 617-355-7332.
Education Health & Wellness Hot Topics Household Safety Safety