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Learn how to handle your kids’ injuries

Come summertime, kids love to be outdoors. But if you’ve got young and especially adventurous kids, you’re bound to encounter an injury or two.

With all that running and jumping comes the possibility of cuts, scrapes, bites, and broken bones. “There are more injuries during the summertime as children are outdoors more playing with friends and enjoying the summer sun,” says Elisa Song, MD, a holistic pediatrician. “Riding bikes and scooters, climbing trees, running around at the park, playing on play structures, exploring nature and just being kids.”

There are some injuries you can handle at home if you know some basic first aid for kids, but others will need medical attention (sometimes urgently). Here’s how to know what to do in each situation.

Types of pediatric injuries

When kids get on their bikes, scooters or lace-up their sneakers for a game of tag, any number of accidents can happen. Preventing injuries is key: Have them wear helmets and teach them about traffic safety. But even then, kids will still receive injuries. It’s important to know how to handle each kind.

Head injuries

These can run the gamut from bumps and bruises to concussions and skull fractures. If your child is experiencing any of the following, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Has vomited more than once
  • Is irritable or fussy
  • Seems confused, slow to speak or act, or has trouble doing basic tasks
  • Is suffering a bad headache or weakness in an arm or leg
  • Is experiencing a seizure

If it’s just a scrape, an ice pack, Children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen), or resting may help to alleviate discomfort.

RELATED: What’s the best pain reliever or fever reducer for kids?

Facial and body injuries

Things like split lips, cuts, scrapes, bug bites and stings, burns, and nosebleeds can often be treated at home with supplies you likely have in your medicine cabinet or first-aid kit. Kids with nosebleeds should pinch the soft part of their noses above the nostrils, and lean forward while sitting for at least five minutes while breathing through the mouth. 

You should call your doctor or visit an emergency room or urgent care if your child:

  • experiences heavy bleeding that doesn’t stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure (for a nosebleed or cut);
  • has suffered an injury to the eye or eyelid;
  • or has a large, open wound.

The same applies if the wound is caused by an animal or human bite, is the result of a dirty or rusty object, or is infected with dirt, stones, or gravel. It is important to wash wounds with soap and water and irrigate liberally with water. (Keeping your child’s vaccines up to date will help prevent infections.) Some wounds are especially painful, which could be a sign of an underlying fracture, or an infection. If this is the case, seek medical attention.

Broken bones and fractures 

While broken bones and fractures clearly require immediate medical attention, it can be difficult for parents to tell if their child is suffering from an injury to the bone. It’s likely if there is pain, swelling, deformity, warmth, bruising, or redness at the site of the injury, and difficulty using or moving the injured area. If you can check any of these boxes, it’s wise to see a doctor or get emergency medical care.


If your child is semi-conscious or unconscious and does not have a back or neck injury, you want to use the recovery position to make sure they don’t breathe in fluids drained from the nose and throat while waiting for emergency medical help.

What to keep in your first-aid kit for kids

If you’re used to stocking Band-Aids and bacitracin in your medical cabinet, the thought of putting together a proper first-aid kit can be daunting. It doesn’t have to be if you heed the advice of the Red Cross, which recommends the following for a family of four:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets 
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin
  • 1 emergency blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair non-latex gloves
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets
  • 1 3-inch gauze bandage
  • 1 4-inch wide roller bandage
  • 5 3 in. x 3 in. sterile gauze pads
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • An emergency first-aid guide

“A first-aid kit is important to have,” says Karen Berger, Pharm.D., a pharmacist at Plymouth Park Pharmacy and a member of the SingleCare Medical Review Board. “If you want to make up a small kit to keep in the car/on the go, I would recommend at the minimum a selection of various sizes of bandaids, tweezers, a tube or packets of bacitracin, antiseptic wipes, and instant cold compress. Be sure to check expiration dates periodically and replace items as needed.”  

Some parents may want to learn CPR or become certified in first-aid. To find courses, check with the American Heart Association to find a class near you

When to seek emergency care

Sometimes even the most well-stocked first-aid kit can’t compare to seeking care from a medical professional, be it the emergency room, 911, an urgent care center, or your pediatrician. Which you choose for help will depend on the type of situation your child is experiencing.

Visit the emergency room if your child has a deep wound or heavy bleeding, a serious burn, a broken bone pushing through the skin, a high fever with a headache or stiff neck, has a change in mental status, difficulty breathing, or a severe allergic reaction. 

Call 911 if your child is choking, has a head injury and is unconscious, has an injury to the neck or spine, is not breathing and has turned blue, or is suffering from uncontrollable bleeding or a seizure lasting more than five minutes.

Go to urgent care centers or the pediatrician’s office for issues such as upset stomachs, coughs, colds and sore throats, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, bladder and urinary tract infections, earaches, sinus pain, bumps, sprains and strains, and minor cuts and scrapes.

Practice the 4 C’s of pediatric first aid

Sometimes a situation or accident arises that requires you to act fast. Applying the 4 C’s of Pediatric First Aid from AAP can help. They are:

  1. Check. Look at your surroundings to make sure you and your child are safe. Find out who might have been involved and what has happened. Monitor your child’s breathing, appearance, and circulation for a life-threatening problem. 
  2. Call. For serious or life-threatening injuries, call 911. For less-serious problems, your call might be to your pediatrician, or if your child’s friend is injured, a call to his or her parent might be necessary.
  3. Care. If the injury is mild, you might need to give first aid. If it’s serious, EMS may give you care instructions over the phone until help arrives.
  4. Complete. Talk with the injured child to make sure his or her concerns are addressed. You may also talk to parents or children who witnessed the accident to find out what happened. At this time you may also fill out documentation or an incident report form.

Teaching your children first aid

As children become more independent, you may not always be there if an accident occurs. This is why it’s important not only for you to know how to administer first aid, but for kids to have the essentials as well. These include knowing how and when to call 911, how to stop bleeding with a T-shirt or cloth, how to cool a burn, and how to treat and soothe a bee sting. Older kids may opt to take a CPR course.

Even the most careful kids suffer accidents when exploring the outdoors or playing inside. Having a good understanding of the ins and outs of first aid means they can play with confidence knowing you have the skills to keep them safe.