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Summer First Aid for Kids: Treat Sunburn, Jellyfish Stings, Head Injuries and More!
  • Tons of fun in the sun and freedom from school define summer for a child. But when you’re spending time outdoors on vacation, it’s crucial for parents to know what to do in case of an emergency, including basic first aid for kids.

    Keep your kiddos happy and safe with these crucial first aid steps for injuries — including life-threatening ones — common in the summertime.

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    Jellyfish stings

    Jellyfish are interesting to look at behind aquarium glass, but when swimming in Philippine beaches, they can be seriously deadly creatures. The box jellyfish, in particular, known to be found in abundance in our tropical country, is infamous in its ability to kill.

    “Their venom is considered to be among the most deadly in the world,” according to the National Geographic. “Human victims have been known to go into shock and drown, or die of heart failure before even reaching [the] shore.”

    It is always best to take precautions. When on vacation, bring a first aid kit (containing medicine, antiseptic, vinegar, an instant ice pack, among others) with you.

    What to do in case of a jellyfish sting

    1. Liberally wash the area with vinegar as soon as possible for at least 30 seconds.
    2. Remove any visible tentacles on the person’s skin.
    3. Pay close attention to the person’s breathing and be ready to perform CPR if necessary.

    Important to note: A person could die within minutes of being stung by a jellyfish. Prompt action is crucial and can be life-saving. If the victim survives the first 5 to 10 minutes, the survival rate increases, according to Discover.

    Above are as per recommendations from Red Cross, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association

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    Should a child drown accidentally, immediate resuscitation can mean the difference between life and death. “Everyone, including parents, caregivers and older children, should learn CPR and safe rescue techniques to respond to a drowning incident,” says HealthyChildren, a parent resource site from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

    What to do in case your kid drowns

    1. Call an ambulance. Dial 911 for the Philippine national emergency hotline.
    2. Get ready to perform CPR. Lay the child down on a flat surface and tilt his chin up. This will open the airway.
    3. When giving CPR to a child: Pinch the nose closed and allow the mouth to fall open. Give two puffs of air. When giving CPR to an infant: Seal your mouth over the baby's nose and mouth. Give two puffs of air. The breath you give should seem like a puff of a cigarette, says Edward Cuenca, a first-aid instructor at the American Safety and Health Institute.
    4. Give 30 chest compressions at the rate of two per second. BabyCenter advises, “Count out loud: 'One and two and three and...,' pushing down as you say the number and coming up as you say 'and.' (The song 'Staying Alive' has the rhythm you're shooting for.)”
    5. Repeat from Step 3 until help arrives. 

    Above are as per recommendations from Red Cross, BabyCenter, and St. John Ambulance

    The first aid for kids instructions above does not replace a first aid course which provides hands-on training, such as the one by the Philippine Red Cross on Basic Life Support Child and Infant class. Contact them at 790-2366.

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    Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

    Heat exhaustion happens when the body struggles to keep cool, becomes very hot, and starts to lose water. When the body is no longer able to cool itself, the illness progresses to a heat stroke. Note, heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. Babies, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable.

    General symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke

    • weakness
    • muscle cramps
    • nausea and/or vomiting
    • irritability
    • headache

    Symptoms of heat exhaustion

    • increased sweating
    • cool, clammy skin
    • elevated temperature (but not above 40°C)

    Symptoms of heat stroke

    • no sweating
    • hot, dry skin
    • rapid breathing
    • loss of consciousness
    • seizure
    • elevated temperature of 40°C or higher

    What to do in case of heat exhaustion or heat stroke

    1. Bring your child to a cooler place such as a shady area or indoors where it's air-conditioned (including inside a car).
    2. Undress your child and tell him to lie down.
    3. Cool the skin with whatever means you can; spraying cold water, using a washcloth and applying cold packs. Target areas such as the armpits, wrists, ankles, and groin.
    4. If the child is conscious “encourage your child to drink cool fluids containing salt and sugar, such as sports drinks,” says KidsHealth. Do not give fluids to a child suffering from a heat stroke. 

    Above are as per recommendations from KidsHealth, a parent resource site from The Nemours Foundation

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    Deep cuts and head bumps

    Sugat and bukol are part of exploring and playing. Not all playground injuries can be brushed off, however. It’s always best to be prepared. 


    How to treat a deep cut

    1. For a bleeding wound, apply “direct pressure with clean gauze or cloth over the site for five or ten minutes,” says HealthyChildren. “The most common mistake is interrupting the pressure too early in order to peek at the wound."
    2. Wash the area with running soap and water no matter how deep or shallow it is, says pediatrician Dr. Empress Carlos. “Even if the wound is very deep, you should wash it to remove any foreign or contaminated objects that might have gotten inside the wound.”
    3. Apply antibacterial ointment to protect the wound from infection. Cover with dry gauze or bandage. 
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    When a wound is a medical emergency

    A wound that won’t stop bleeding after applying pressure, warrants a trip to the emergency room. Also, consider how the child acquired the wound. An animal scratch can cause rabies, which can be fatal. A wound contaminated with dirt or feces, or caused by a puncture from a nail or needle can cause tetanus.

    What to do when a child bumps his head or falls from a height

    1. Check the head for bruising or bumps, the abdomen for any sign of swelling, and if the child's arms and legs can move symmetrically and are not limited by pain.
    2. For bruises and swelling, pediatrician Dr. Faith Buenaventura-Alcazaren advises a cold compress on the area. “Elevate the injured area then let it stay for 10 minutes then reapply every now and then to decrease the swelling and pain,” she says. Ice cold water in an airtight bag, rather than ice, can be more tolerable for children, she adds. 

    When a head bump is a medical emergency

    Serious symptoms can show up right after the incident. However, a parent should also continue to check for warning signs even hours and days after a head bump.  Red flags include a headache that does not go away, repeated vomiting, increased confusion, slurred speech, inability to wake up, weakness or numbness, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

    “Even what seems to be a mild bump to the head can be serious,” says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Remember, children's developing brains are more vulnerable to mild traumatic brain injury. Concussions, especially in children, are an emergency situation and need immediate medical attention.

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    According to the CDC, severe sunburn, especially during childhood, can raise the risk of skin cancer later in life. Skin that’s damaged by the sun can also be very painful. Remember to always apply sunscreen on your child before sun exposure and follow up with treatment when sunburn does occur.

    What to do in case of a sunburn

    1. Apply a cool compress with wet or cold towels on the infected area or give your child a cool bath.
    2. “Use products that contain aloe vera. This is widely available in lotions and gels, and can be very soothing to sunburned skin,” says pediatrician Dr. Claire McCarthy in an article for Harvard Health. Check the label for petroleum, benzocaine, and lidocaine. These can irritate the child's sunburn even more.
    3. Make sure your child stays hydrated. “Burned skin doesn’t keep fluid inside as well, so anyone with a burn needs to drink more than usual,” explains Dr. McCarthy.
    4. If the child is in pain, ask a doctor about child-safe painkillers such as ibuprofen, adds the pediatrician. 

    Even if you take all the necessary precautions to ensure that your child is safe, accidents and injuries can happen any time. Reading up on how to do first aid for kids will help give you the presence of mind when faced with an emergency. Good luck!

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