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Parents' Peril

Think Local

What would you do in a medical emergency? Your child has swallowed part of a toy that has been lying on the floor and appears to be choking.

It's a horrific scenario but not one which is out of the question. Could you save their life when the ambulance and paramedics may be 15 minutes away?

Research shows that while most people are willing to help out in a first aid emergency, more than two thirds of people just don't know what to do. The Australian Red Cross says accidents account for at least 250 child deaths each year, many of which could be prevented if someone administered first aid.

For North Shore parents Sascha and Steve Garner, being prepared for emergencies after the birth of their son Sandy 12 months ago was never "not an option", Ms Garner says.

“We had both discussed the fact that we needed to do a Red Cross first aid course even though we have doctors in our immediate family," she tells North Shore Living.

"I'm so pleased we both have that knowledge - we felt it was really important. You never know what will happen with small children - I was especially concerned about Sandy swallowing objects or having allergic reactions."

Every year in Australia, approximately 58,000 children aged between 0 and 14 years are hospitalised due to accidental injuries. A 2009 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare finds the most common causes of childhood injuries include road accidents, poisoning, burns, falls and assaults.

For motor accidents alone, 15 per cent of deaths could be prevented each year if basic first aid was administered at the scene before paramedics arrive.

In an emergency, 90 per cent of lives are saved by people nearby, so it is very often the actions of parents and carers who make a difference before ambulance or paramedics arrive," says Anthony Cameron, who is a qualified paramedic and Australian Red Cross curriculum director.

"Witnessing an accident can be shocking - especially when children are involved - and parents can go into a state of shock if they have not dealt appropriately with the injury.
They are likely to go into panic mode and feel helpless.”

Another recommendation is to have a first aid kit in your cupboard. “As a lay person, people need to realise there is so much they can do and it's important to do it in the first few minutes. The course delivers information and essential key messages and is tailored to cater for all ages, backgrounds and skills - they really are an essential life lesson." he says.

Travelling in the city, we are usually close to doctors, hospitals and chemists. But outside of the city, being able to administer first aid quickly is essential for bites, accidents, cuts, sprains or other more serious injuries.

Everyone should also know the recovery position and what are the signs and symptoms of a head Injury.

Mr Cameron says at least one member of the family should know how to administer CPR. “One common mistake is not to administer it at all for fear of using the incorrect method. Any effort is better than no effort at all.” he reveals.

“Learning these techniques is not brain surgery, but it is so critical and you can save a life and you don't want to limit who learns the strategies. If you love your children, it's vital to know these protocols.”

Mr Cameron says, as a paramedic, he has had to administer life-saving responses many times, including to members of his own family.

"I've had to use my skills with my daughter who was choking and my nephew who had a severe allergic response," he confirms.

Sascha and Steve Garner say that having the knowledge has given them "peace of mind" and they are surprised at how many people don't actually do this important training yet say they want to.

"It's not just for our family, but we can use the skills to help someone else," Mrs Garner says. "The ultimate test is when you are out in that situation - it can be a very daunting and highly emotional experience."

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