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Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center Inc.

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Preparing for the Worst

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Many babies go through their entire childhood without ever experiencing an emergency or life-threatening emergency. Despite this comforting fact, caregivers should not count on good fortune to ensure safety for children in their care. Instead, a solid emergency plan should be developed for handling worst-case scenarios, should they ever come to pass. CPR and first aid skills are valuable skills for any caregiver to know. Such skills are best learned from a trained instructor in an interactive, hands-on learning setting rather than from a book or website. Text-only learning does not offer opportunities for practice or for asking clarifying questions. With this perspective in mind, anyone who will be caring for babies and children, such as parents, grandparents, babysitters, or older siblings should take a CPR and first aid course, and repeat that training yearly. The Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer regular training opportunities in communities around the world.

Beyond being equipped with the proper skills in an emergency, caregivers should make sure they have the proper first aid tools ready in their home to manage likely accidents. Every household and car should contain at least one or more First Aid kits containing, at a minimum, the following supplies:

  • First aid and CPR refresher manual
  • Non-latex gloves
  • Sterile adhesive bandages
  • Sterile gauze pads and rolls
  • Adhesive tape
  • Absorbent cotton
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Tweezers
  • Calamine lotion
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Ice bags (empty, to place ice into for cold packs)
  • Acetaminophen (e.g., generic Tylenol)
  • Electrolyte solution

A working cell phone with emergency telephone numbers (including doctors' numbers, poison control, and emergency operator access) programmed into memory is a good addition to such a first aid kit. Having quick access to professional medical advice and emergency operators (who can send ambulances or paramedics to your location) can make a great deal of difference when seconds count.

If any children in the home have any life-threatening allergies or medical conditions, such as asthma, or vulnerability to bee or wasp stings, make sure that necessary emergency medication is also on hand in easily accessible locations through the house, in the car, and while in the community (e.g. at homes of frequently visited family and friends). Children with medical conditions or life-threatening allergies should also wear a medical bracelet or necklace designed to help notify emergency rescue responders about these conditions.

It is advisable to have syrup of ipecac or activated charcoal in the kit as well in case of any ingestion poisonings. However, never give a child these remedies to induce vomiting unless directed to do so by a doctor or poison control specialist! Whether or not to induce vomiting depends on the nature of poisons that have been ingested. Some poisons can cause more damage coming back up than just staying within the stomach.

Caregivers can utilize poison control specialists, which will automatically connect you to your local poison control center. You can find a list of international poison control centers here.† Your local number, as well as other emergency contact numbers, such as caregivers' work and cellular phone numbers, pediatrician, dentist, and any other important health and medical insurance information should be posted beside the phones or in prominent places in the major living areas. Numbers may also be programmed into telephones that support that feature. With ready access to emergency numbers, caregivers don't have to worry about finding or remembering an important name and phone number during an emergency. Day care providers, baby-sitters and and other family members can also make use of these emergency contacts as needed.

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