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Baby emergencies: Are you equipped to deal with them?

Falls, burns or bruises. It's easy for babies to get into trouble, but are you prepared to deal with them? Know how to handle baby emergencies before you head out to the doctor

baby emergencies Curious babies often fall prey to electric shocks, one of the common baby emergencies

Dipali Joshi (name changed) closes her eyes as she recalls a horrifying incident that happened to her child a month ago. “It was a busy morning and I was in the middle of making breakfast. My 10-month-old daughter was playing nearby. I swear I don't know when she crawled on to the stool, reached out to the cup of hot tea and it just fell on her. She began to scream. I picked her up at once, but I didn't know what to do,” tells the Bengaluru-based stay-at-home mum. 

"It was like my brain just froze. Fortunately, my husband grabbed her and washed her with cold water. A few trips to the hospital and my little one was completely fine. But I cannot forget that incident for the rest of my life,” she adds.

Baby accidents and injuries do not figure on a parent's list of treasured moments. But the fact is that they happen, really quickly, even in a baby-proofed house monitored by a cautious parent. What is important is how these baby emergencies are handled so that they cause the least amount of damage.

“Accidents with children can happen often, but there are times the injury may require immediate medical attention, specially if a baby is involved,” says Dr Kusum Shenoi, general practitioner, Dr Shenoi’s Clinic, Navi Mumbai. So whether it’s a fall, a scrape an electric shock or a burn, read on to know how to deal with baby emergencies. So that next time they occur, you are well-equipped to do the needful.

Tips to deal with baby emergencies

In case of falls

Falls are common occurrences when babies begin to explore their surroundings. A baby who’s trying his feet with walking may tumble often and such falls are common. But if your baby has fallen from a height, on a sharp surface or has cut himself and is bleeding, it could be something serious. When a baby falls you must:

  • First calm the baby and reassure him. 
  • Assess the site of the injury minutely for any bumps, cuts or bruises.
  • Observe if your baby is conscious and responsive.
  • If there is a bump, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the area with medium pressure before contacting the doctor.
  • If there is a cut, stem the bleeding using a clean cloth or a tissue with pressure until the bleeding stops. Then cover it with a sterile dressing.
  • If your child falls on the mouth and cuts his gums or tongue, rinse out your child's mouth as much as possible. "Stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a clean cloth or gauze or some ice wrapped in a cloth,” informs Dr Shenoi.
  • If your child begins to vomit, does not respond, refuses to move his limbs or is bleeding profusely, rush him to the hospital immediately. 

What you shouldn’t do

  • Do not try to feed the baby water or food immediately after the fall in an attempt to calm him down.
  • Babies’ bones are soft and do not fracture easily. However, if you suspect a fracture, do not forcibly try to move your child’s limbs. “If possible, tie the affected area in a splint to minimise movement and rush to your doctor,” says Dr Shenoi.

Burns and scalds

Hot bath water, a functional clothes iron or say, hot drinks—curious babies seem to find their way to reach out to all the above. Burns are said to to be the most common baby emergencies. As they have sensitive skin, little ones are easily susceptible to burns or scalds. Although minor burns over a small surface do not require a trip to the emergency room, any burn needs immediate attention before the heat does deeper damage. If your child burns or scalds himself you must:

  • Run the affected area under cold water for a good ten minutes.
  • Gently dab an ice pack wrapped in a thick cloth to the affected area at intervals. Do not apply ice directly.
  • Cover the wound with a clean cloth to lower the chances of an infection and rush to the doctor.

What you shouldn’t do

  • Don’t apply any creams, honey, milk or oil to the affected area. It will retain the heat instead of taking it away.
  • If your child’s clothing is stuck to the the area of the burn, avoid trying to pull it off. 
  • Try not to stick a piece of cotton or fluffy cloth to the wound as it may stick to the wound.

Cuts and grazes

A cut with some bleeding caused due to a sharp object usually does not call for a baby emergency except when the bleeding is profuse. A deep cut may require stitches and that too at the earliest. If your baby cuts himself:

  • Stem the bleeding with gentle pressure and a clean washcloth or a tissue. Run some cold water on the site if required. Apply antiseptic ointment if you have access to some. Immediately rush to the doctor if the bleeding does not stop even after 10 minutes.
  • If the baby refuses to hold the injury still under running water, try dipping the area in a tub of cold water.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • If a sharp object is embedded in your child’s body, do not take it out yourself.
  • Do not blow air onto injury site as this may infect it.

Poisoning

You find your baby sitting quietly near the cleaning cabinet with his hands and mouth over the bottle of cleaning phenyl. Oops! Emergency alert! If you suspect that your baby had ingested something poisonous:

  • Rush your baby to the doctor as soon as possible.
  • Take along the bottle of whatever your child has swallowed for medical experts to assess its contents.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Do not feed your baby water and then try to forcibly make him vomit.

Choking

It's a little one's birth right to mouth everything found on the floor. If bad luck has it, the baby may swallow it and if it blocks the airway, there are chances of choking. If you suddenly see your baby gasping for breath and if he’s unable cry or cough, he’s probably choking on something. Sometimes babies could even choke on a large piece of food.If you find your child choking;

  • Hold him face down on your arm or thigh and cradle his jaw with your fingers. Using the heel of your arm, give firm blows between his shoulder blades to dislocate the object blocking his airway.
  • Once the object has been removed, carefully turn him over and offer CPR, or visit the doctor. 
  • If the object is small and has been swallowed, inform the doctor.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Avoid removing the object using your fingers or forcing your baby vomit or cough. 

Bites

Bites rarely come under baby emergencies, but bites from animals such as a dog or an allergic reaction to insect bites do. In such cases:

  • Rush the child to the hospital immediately. Severe allergic reactions require interventions before they spiral out of control. 
  • If it is an animal bite, wash the area with cool water after you stem the bleeding. Cover the site with a sterile gauze before visiting the doctor. 

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Do not forcibly rub the bitten area or self-medicate your child.

Electric shocks

Open electric sockets and electric wires seem to draw a baby’s attention more than his toys. Tiny fingers can easily slip into open sockets and hence encounter shocks. Major electric shocks are rare, but they happen and are scary. If you witness a baby experience an electric shock:

  • Switch off all sources of power supply.
  • Separate your child from the source of current with an object that does not conduct electricity, such as a wooden stick or rolled up newspapers.
  • Assess your baby and check for breathing. Provide CPR at once and call for help.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Do not touch your baby with bare or wet hands as you may get electrocuted too.

Although baby emergencies do not happen so often, as a parent, it’s better to be informed and prepared to tackle unexpected harmful situations. If you find your baby in the middle of an emergency, the most important thing is to not panic. “Most baby emergencies can be acted upon if the parents try to remain calm. When one panics, clear action gets delayed,” says Dr Shenoi. Here are other important points to note:

  • Keep the doctor’s and hospital’s contact numbers handy.
  • Baby proof your home to minimise chances of accidents.
  • Keep your child in a safe area to play such as a play pen.

We know it’s not easy to keep a baby away from getting into trouble. So the next time, to avoid getting your heart in your mouth, keep calm and you will be prepared to tackle those baby emergencies like a pro.

Here's a video on how to perform baby CPR

Have you encountered any baby emergencies? Please share in the Comment box below.

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