First aid is an important skill for any parent to have because anything can happen – that’s the difficulty.

Training in what to do in emergency situations, therefore, is important,” says Tony Lawlor, national director of units with the Irish Red Cross.

Highlighting the two different categories of events that may happen, he mentions events related to underlying medical conditions (like asthma) and events related to accidents, which will involve trauma or injury (cuts, bruises or fractures).

“Asthma is one of the underlying conditions that affects many children, and summer may bring issues of (grass pollen) allergens which can trigger attacks,” Tony explains. “Asthma attacks can usually be dealt with by medication the child will have with them, but some attacks may be serious and require immediate medical assistance.”

Most summer injuries related to children are minor, such as cuts, grazes, rashes or sunburn, he says, but in what situations should a parent call an ambulance straight away?

Think loss of consciousness, compromised breathing, contact with chemicals, anaphylactic shock, severe asthma attack or severe bleeding due to a deep cut.

An ambulance should also be called if there has been contact with pesticides or chemicals, or if a child has a very severe asthma attack

“Call 999 if your child loses consciousness, if the child is not responding, talking or communicating,” he states.

“This could be from a fall or after a blow to the head – either in a farm or home context. Also, anything that involves compromise of breathing or circulation – this could also relate to a drowning incident.”

He stresses the importance here of farm safety awareness for parents and for the proactive fencing off of ponds, barrels, slurry tanks, streams and watercourses.

“An ambulance should also be called if there has been contact with pesticides or chemicals, or if a child has a very severe asthma attack,” he says.

Anaphylactic shock

Ringing 999 is also essential in the case of a severe allergic reactions.

“If the person has a known predisposition to an allergen (eg a nut or insect bite allergy) and has developed (or is likely to develop) anaphylactic shock, immediate medical assistance (an epinephrine injection) is necessary in this situation, so don’t delay in seeking help. Use an EpiPen if your child suffers a severe allergic reaction and has been prescribed this, as time is of the essence here.”

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include, but aren’t limited to, flushed skin or a severe skin rash, a racing heart, vomiting, difficulty swallowing or breathing, confusion and tingling limbs. Severe bleeding also necessitates calling 999.

“If it is a deep cut that has affected an artery and there is spurting bleeding that chimes with the heartbeat,” he says, “you need an ambulance immediately.”


If a child has a fall resulting in a suspected fracture, should you take them to hospital yourself or wait for an ambulance? How do you make that decision?

“It depends on the nature and location of the fracture,” Tony says.

If there is a fracture to the leg or hip, moving the child would also be an issue

“The main concern would be around moving someone with suspected head, neck or back injuries. You don’t want to move them because if bones are broken they will be sharp and could pinch or cut the spinal cord partially – or completely – which could lead to paralysis, so it is not advisable to move a patient in this situation.

“If there is a fracture to the leg or hip, moving the child would also be an issue,” he continues.

“If the fracture is a rib, or in the wrist or forearm, you could decide to drive the child to hospital yourself – provided, of course, that they are conscious.”


If it is a minor cut, clean and dress them yourself. For more major cuts, if the bleeding isn’t stopping, put a sterile dressing over the wound, press and hold firmly. If a limb is bleeding, elevate the arm or leg to slow or stop the bleed. Some dressings have a bandage sewn on to them, which is useful in this situation. Be aware of potential cutting hazards on the farm.


Slap the child between the shoulder blades to dislodge the object (eg food/marble). If this doesn’t work, perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. This involves holding the person from behind, making a fist with one hand and placing it above the person’s navel then grabbing that fist with your other hand and pushing it inward and upward at the same time. Do these abdominal thrusts five times. Continue until the object is expelled and the person can breathe or cough on their own. See the Red Cross app for a video of this.


Douse the burn with copious amounts of water for five to 10 minutes so the burn will not continue to cause damage and to reduce pain and swelling. Apply a sterile dressing afterwards and seek medical assessment if more than 10% of body surface is affected. This is because of the shock potential of the burn.

Water-based dressings are also now available in pharmacies. They are impregnated with a gel that holds water and doesn’t stick to the burn and are very good for minor burns that occur in kitchen or barbecue situations.

Sun damage

Prevention is better than cure. Apply plenty of sunscreen and wear long sleeves and hats. If sunburn occurs, use after-sun cream or calamine lotion to soothe it. Cold sponging for 10 minutes is also good, but if there is any possibility that the child has been out in the sun for a long time they should receive a medical assessment and sips of water should given.

Most sunburn is localised and relatively manageable. Get them out of the sun and covered up so that they don’t continue to burn.


This is rare but potentially very serious and the child can deteriorate with it quite quickly. Look out for:

  • High temperature.
  • fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe headache often with neck stiffness.
  • Dislike of bright light.
  • Usually – but not always – a skin rash that looks like bruising and that doesn’t disappear when you roll a drinking glass over it.
  • Call 999 immediately.
  • First-aid kits

    First-aid kits should be easily accessible in the home and car at all times in order to cope with everyday emergencies, but what are the kit essentials?

    While first-aid kits come in various sizes depending on need/situation, they should contain these basic items:

  • Plasters (various sizes).
  • Gauze dressings (various sizes).
  • Sterile eye dressings.
  • Triangular bandage to make a sling (wrist or hand injury).
  • Crepe rolled bandages.
  • Safety pins.
  • Disposable gloves.
  • Tweezers (for tick removal).
  • Cleansing wipes.
  • Sticky tape.
  • Digital thermometer.
  • Insect bite spray.
  • Antiseptic cream.
  • Antihistamine cream.
  • Paracetamol (infant paracetamol for children).
  • Distilled water for cleaning wounds.
  • Eye wash, eye bath and eye pad.
  • Download the app

    Keeping a basic first-aid manual or instruction booklet with your first-aid kit is also a good idea or, even better, if you have a smart phone, download the Red Cross app free from Apple App and Google Play Store [First Aid IFRC].

    The app features easy-to-follow tips for more than 20 common first-aid scenarios, including how to treat burns, breaks, strains and sprains and what to if a child is choking.

    Having the First Aid App on your phone means you can instantly access the information you need to respond correctly to the situation.