Safety at home

With their boundless energy, children are prone to getting hurt indoors. Here's what you can do to treat common injuries. By ANDREA KEE

 Our Experts

Dr Lynette Wee Wei Yi, paediatric senior resident from KK Women's and Children's Hospital Dr Ratna Sridjaja, paediatrician from Gleneagles Hospital


Deep cuts tend to bleed a lot, so first compress the wound with a clean towel to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding stops, wash the cut under running water for 5-10 minutes to get rid of dirt.

Apply an antiseptic gel or cream and leave the wound to heal.

"Observe the child to make sure the wound is healing, and see a doctor if there are any signs of infection such as increased swelling, redness, pus discharge or fever," says Dr Lynette Wee, a paediatric senior resident from KK Women's and Children's Hospital. If it's a huge open wound, compress it, but still seek emergency care immediately, says Dr Ratna Sridjaja, a paediatrician from Gleneagles Hospital.

"Any open wound may mean the need for a tetanus booster even when the child is currently immunised."


Wash the wound under cool (not cold) running water for 10 minutes. Dr Ratna says you shouldn't apply ice, butter, grease, medicine or ointment to the burn - just put a gauze bandage lightly over it.

Burns and scalds are extremely painful, says Dr Wee, so it is a good idea to give your child painkillers.

You should also look for signs of infection like increased redness or swelling.

"If it's a large area or it involves the face, eyes, groin area, palms and soles of the feet, see a doctor immediately," she adds. For fast-acting relief for shallow burns and scalds, you can use Aluminaid (from $2.95 at Guardian and Unity outlets).

This burn dressing conducts heat away from first- and second-degree burns, thus relieving pain and preventing the heat from damaging deeper tissue layers. It comes in a range of sizes for use on the hands, torso, arms and legs.


Nosebleeds can be scary, so help your child calm down first.

A common misconception is that your little one needs to lean backwards to stop the bleeding.

"Instead, encourage your child to lean forward and put constant pressure on the soft part of the nose bridge for at least 10-15 minutes," says Dr Wee.

"This is so that the blood can drip out instead of going into the oral cavity or being swallowed, which may scare him if he vomits it up." You can also place an ice pack on the nose to help reduce the amount of blood.

Avoid cleaning the nasal passage as you may remove the already-formed clot and cause the bleeding to recur.


If a milk tooth gets chipped or broken, remove the chip to prevent the child from choking on it. Apply clean gauze to control any bleeding and call the paediatric or family dentist. You can give acetaminophen to alleviate the pain, says Dr Ratna.

It's a good idea to take your child to a dentist to make sure that the chipped tooth is not the result of it being weakened by dental cavities. If a permanent tooth is chipped or broken, store the pieces in milk and immediately seek medical attention.

The dentist may be able to fit the pieces back in place. If the entire tooth has been knocked out, handle the tooth by its chewing end - not the root - and rinse it gently in cold running water or milk. "Place the tooth in clean water or milk and bring it along with your child to emergency care," says Dr Ratna.

"Stop the bleeding using gauze or a cotton ball in the tooth socket and have your child bite down," she adds.


Head bumps are common, and they tend to bruise and swell a lot. To reduce the swelling, apply ice or a cold pack for 20 minutes every three to four hours.

"If you use ice, wrap it in a washcloth or sock - ice applied directly to bare skin can cause injury to the skin," Dr Ratna cautions.

For the next 24 hours after a head injury, observe for signs of concussion: persistent vomiting, drowsiness, difficulty being awakened, behavioural change or seizures. Seek medical attention immediately if these signs appear.


Kids bump into things all the time, and the bruises can be spectacular! Ice the bruise for 15-20 minutes; give acetaminophen for the pain. Dr Wee says you should check to make sure your child is still able to move the bruised joints or limbs as usual.

"If there are any limitations to joint movement, I would suspect a deeper injury," she explains.


Cuts on the upper labial frenulum (the piece of tissue connecting the upper lip to the gum) are very common and usually heal without needing stitches.

"It will bleed afresh, however, every time you pull the lip out to look at the site of the injury," says Dr Ratna.

If the cut is small, compressing it will stop the bleeding. You may give your child painkillers like acetaminophen if the cut is painful. Dr Wee emphasises the importance of keeping your child hydrated while waiting for the cut to heal. If the cut is deep, see a doctor as your child may need stitches to stop the bleeding.


Get your child to rest the affected limb and put an ice pack on it.

"Apply an ice pack for no more than 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day," says Dr Ratna. Use a compression bandage to help reduce swelling.

You should also put two pillows under the injured limb and elevate it, says Dr Wee.

You can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the pain and to reduce swelling. If the sprain doesn't get better after five to seven days, or if your child feels numbness in the injured area, see a doctor.


Give your child antihistamines for itch control and make sure he uses insect repellent outdoors, even at the playground. If your child can't stop scratching the bite, Dr Wee says applying a moisturiser can give extra skin protection so it does not injure as easily when scratched.


Do not give anything by mouth or induce vomiting, warns Dr Ratna.

Take your child to the emergency department right away, along with the suspected drug or substance (different ones have different effects).

According to Dr Wee, stomach pumping, chest X-rays or even blood tests may be required, and if the dose has exceeded the safe levels, your child may have to be admitted to the hospital for further observation. SH

In your home first aid kit Here's what you need, says Dr Ratna.

• Sterile gauze pads of different sizes

• Adhesive tape

• Adhesive bandages in several sizes

• Elastic bandages

• Antiseptic wipes

• Antibiotic ointment

• Antiseptic solution (like betadine)

• Hydrocortisone cream (1 per cent)

• Acetaminophen and ibuprofen

• Disposable instant cold packs

• Calamine lotion

• Alcohol wipes or ethyl alcohol

• Thermometer


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