Tag Archives: seizures

First Aid for babies and toddlers

Unless your workplace offers it, it’s surprisingly difficult to organise First Aid training.

It’s something I’d always intended to do, but time flies in and suddenly you’re phoning an ambulance and fully aware of your ignorance.

The British Red Cross was my first Google, though I was also aware of St John’s ambulance. There was a centre near me, but it was going to cost £45. If I could get 15 people together and find a suitable venue I could bring that down to £25 each. So I did.

Luckily the Wee Man’s school was happy to host and other p1 parents were happy to come and so there we all were, grinning at having a child-free Saturday morning, and feeling rather smug to boot.

Our trainer, Steve, was excellent. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect – perhaps some lying on gym mats performing CPR? But no. It was all very professional and informative. Plus there were adult and baby dummies, so no embarrassing close encounters.

Steve took some time at the beginning to find out what we wanted from the course, which was enlightening. Most people said their main priority was to learn how to not panic. When it’s your own child, it’s your worst nightmare to have to give first aid. I’m not a panicker, but I am someone who will hesitate in case I do the wrong thing, so my main priority was to feel confident in my skills, so I don’t waste time second-guessing myself. Others were more specific – “how do you treat a burn?”,  “what do you do when your child is choking?” and “what if someone has a seizure in a swimming pool?”

The biggest chunk of the course was concerning what to do when someone is unresponsive but breathing and then unresponsive and not breathing.

From memory, here’s what I learned.

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Roll them onto their side and tilt their chin up or, if they’re under 12 months, hold them like a rugby ball, on their side, tipped slightly downwards
  • Call an ambulance

If they’re not breathing

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Tilt their chin up pinch the nose, administer 5 breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions using the heel of one hand (or two if they’re larger) directly in line with the armpits
  • Administer two breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions
  • After one minute call an ambulance

In the case of a baby, we have to create a seal over the nose and mouth and breathe into them.

I think focusing on these key skills before our coffee break was a good way to do it. We practised on the dummies and talked about using your body weight instead of arm muscles for compressions – it can be quite tiring. We also received a handy wee mouth guard in a packet to stick in our wallets, in case we ever had to do this to a stranger.

I found it quite sobering practising these life saving skills on a little baby doll.

We chatted about it over carrot cake and brownies. Everyone has a story about a child’s head needing glued, or a burn or broken bone – we all just wanted to feel like we could handle whatever our kids threw at us. Other tricks we learned included:

  • hold a burn under cold running water for 10 minutes then wrap it in cling film
  • if a child is choking give them five hard smacks on the back, between the shoulder blades, with the heel of your hand, then two Heimlich manoevres, which are copywritten, so I think the Red Cross call them chest thrusts. With a baby, hold them down your leg and support their chin while you smack their back
  • If a child won’t let you use ice or cold water, cuddles, kisses and reassurance are just as good. It’s important to keep them calm.
  • If a child has a temperature, strip them down and open a window. Cold cloths on foreheads are for comfort only
  • if a child has a seizure, put something soft under their head, clear the area of any obstacles and don’t interfere while the seizure is ongoing. Afterwards, lay them on their side with their chin tilted up. Call an ambulance or for help if necessary.

I mean, this is for reference, I’d really recommend doing a course for yourself. We all agreed we felt more confident afterwards, especially as our children have more playdates now and more independence from their parents, so we need to feel confident looking after kids that aren’t our own. Steve’s mantra “Doing something is always better than doing nothing” has stuck with me. I just hope I don’t need to use most of my new skills any time soon.

Hey you know what we didn’t cover? What to do when your child slams a car door on their thumb.

Which the wee man did, precisely 24 hrs later, in a car showroom. I was distracted by his brother, who had locked himself inside another car.

Of course he was too upset for cold water or ice – so it was kisses, cuddles and McDonalds.

Some things you don’t need a course for.



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Finding strength

“Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune” is one of my favourite quotes. I first read it sitting on the toilet – Mum had framed Desiderata and hung it on the wall. I was a child when I read it and it was for my child that I repeated it.

The wee man hasn’t been well. I told the health visitor about the little body spasms he’d been having and she said she was “99.9% sure it was nothing to worry about”. The GP said the same thing ten minutes later, after examining him. She suggested a referral to Yorkhill Children’s Hospital “to be on the safe side” and I was happy enough. When the spasms became more frequent that afternoon I decided I wasn’t waiting for the referral and took him straight in.

What followed was one of the most stressful events of my life, and yet I have surprised myself with how well I’ve coped. I got a fright when the doctor told me we’d have to spend the night (we had tickets for Take That and I honestly thought we’d make it) but I believed they were playing it safe. I functioned on two hours sleep as the nurses checked him and the neurologist examined him and the doctor attached the probes for the EEG scan. I listened carefully as the neurologist returned and explained the wee man was having epileptic seizures and would need an MRI scan. I cried and held my wee family and then resolved to think positive. I resisted the ‘what ifs’ and ignored the worst case scenarios and held my husband’s hand.

The next day we waited in a beautiful, miniature garden sandwiched between the main building and the MRI department as the wee man had his brain scanned. Three hours later, the news was positive. The scan was clear. We could rule out a lot of horrible possibilities. More tests were done on his various fluids and they all came back clear. We learned a new word – carbamazepine – and have been giving the wee man a millilitre every 12 hours.

We were discharged with encouraging news: the most likely outcome will be that the wee man will grow out of it. He has remained a complete star throughout the whole experience, smiling at all the nurses and feeding and sleeping as normal. I guess I’ve drawn my strength from him. It just didn’t matter that I was tired and worried and upset – I had to be his mummy. If we can get through the last four days, we can get through anything – and I draw incredible strength from that.


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