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You may be under the impression that there’s a minimum age requirement before you can start teaching your children about first aid. In reality, the Red Cross organization recommends familiarising your children with basic first aid fundamentals as early as the age of 5. Even then, you can empower them with the skills necessary to take care of their own minor injuries and teach them to become more risk-aware.

The first step, of course, is to acquire a certain competency in first aid yourself. If you don’t know how to get a first aid certificate, start looking online for any recognised training organisations in your area and sign up for classes. You can also attend non-accredited training programs that focus on childcare or family health and safety. Once you’ve acquired the skills, you can then teach the following basics to your own children:

Calling for emergency services

The easiest but also most important first aid skill you can teach your child is how to call for emergency services. This can aid them especially in situations where their primary caregiver is unable to do so for any reason. First, tell your child to go ahead and call for help if they feel scared or sense that something is wrong. Reassure them that it’s okay for them to make the call if there is no adult around to ask whether or not they should. In fact, encourage them to call emergency services anyway especially if there is no adult available to make that assessment for them.

If a child has learned how to read numbers or operate a smartphone to play games, then they are ready to learn how to call emergency services. If they do not yet know how to do either of those things but are able to speak, you can program your smartphone or smart home devices to respond to a voice command from your child to call emergency services when necessary. In Australia, the number to call is 000 or triple-zero.

Basic wound care

Active children will benefit a lot from learning how to clean their own scraped knees and skinned elbows. Aside from giving them a sense of independence, the knowledge can help minimize the risk of these wounds and abrasions becoming infected.

The next time your child comes home complaining of a minor scratch, turn the treatment into a teachable moment. Explain every step of the process, from cleaning and disinfecting to applying a dry bandage or dressing. You can also teach your child how to treat a bleeding wound with pressure or elevation. Tell them that any deep wounds should be reported to an adult right away.

Interventions for sprains and strains

Plain old roughhousing between children can cause soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains. Just as with wound care, you can turn treatment into teachable moments by pointing out the physical signs of trauma or damage next time they come home with one such injury.

Familiarise them on the appearance of bruises and swelling, and teach them how to look for signs of pain in others. Next, teach them how to administer immediate intervention for soft tissue injuries, summarised by the acronym RICE: resting the injured limb, putting ice on the affected area, compressing or applying pressure with a bandage, and elevating the affected limb to reduce swelling.

Interventions for insect bites and stings

Your child may be subjected to insect bites or stings while playing outdoors. In this case, the best intervention is prevention. Do everything in your power to protect your child from insect-borne diseases by making sure that he or she is covered up before heading outside or applying an insect-repelling product on any exposed areas. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to tell them what to do in the event that they do get bitten or stung.

For insects that leave a stinger, advise your children to swipe the barb off with a finger and immediately report the sting to an adult. To reduce itching from mosquito bites, slip a bottle of calamine lotion into your child’s school or play bag and teach them how to apply it on the affected areas.

Advise your children that before they leap into action to help others, they should ensure their own personal safety first and foremost, and that reporting any injuries or accidents to an adult can be much more helpful in many situations. Overall, though, teaching your kids basic first aid can give them a sense of independence, so don’t be afraid to start while they’re young.

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