First aid

Your ability to help in an emergency could determine your children’s survival. If you know basic first aid, you can make a big difference. Children and teenagers can also make a difference if they have the skills to help.

Such First Aid training can help them to help others, and to keep them focused in an emergency. For information on training in basic first aid in your area, contact Red Cross or St Johns Ambulance. Ask also for their useful first aid guides. The first rule in an emergency with your child is to stay calm.

This will help keep the child calm and will help you assess whether emergency services are needed. If you are unsure, ring 111 anyway. Remember that if you are calling from a payphone or cell phone, the call is free. Make a quick assessment of the child, so you can advise the ambulance service. For example:

  • Is the child awake?
  • Can the child talk to you?
  • Is the child breathing?
  • Is the child bleeding severely?

First Aid Techniques

  • Head-tilt, chin-lift: Place one hand on the forehead and the fingers of the other hand on the bony part of the chin. Tilt the head back using the hand on the forehead, and at the same time lift the jaw upwards with the fingers of the other hand.
  • Jaw thrust: Place one hand on either side of the head. Place your fingers in the angles of the jaw and lift the jaw forward without tilting the head back.
  • Finger sweep: Used with abdominal thrusts to clear a foreign body airway obstruction in an unconscious casualty. Open the mouth by grasping the lower jaw and tongue between thumb and fingers and lifting the jaw. Insert the index finger of the other hand along the inside of the cheek, and deeply into the throat. Use a hooking action to dislodge any foreign object.

Obstructed airway cycle – adult: The complete actions for dealing with choking in an unconscious adult are as follows:

First Aid: obstructed airway cycle adult

Obstructed airway cycle – infant: The actions for dealing with choking in an unconscious infant are as follows:

First Aid: obstructed airway cycle infant


Recovery position

The recovery position is designed for unconscious casualties (but do not use if you suspect the casualty has neck or spinal injuries). It helps to maintain an open airway and allows vomit and other fluid to drain freely from the mouth. To move a casualty lying on their back into the recovery position, follow these steps:

  • Kneel beside the casualty.
  • With the casualty lying on their back, extend the arm nearest to you above the casualty’s head.
  • Bring their other arm across the chest to place the palm on the opposite shoulder.
  • Take the farthest away from you and cross it over the other leg at the ankle.
  • Roll the casualty towards you by placing your hand on their hip and your other hand on their shoulder.
  • The casualty will now be lying on their side, resting on your thighs.
  • Tilt the head to ensure the airway is open.
  • Bend the top leg at a right angle.

The casualty will now lie in a stable unsupported position.


It is recommended that CPR be learned and practised under trained supervision.

  1. Position the casualty lying on their back. Ensure they are on a firm surface.
  2. Kneel to one side of the casualty.
  3. Locate the notch where the ribs meet the breastbone.
  4. Place the middle finger of one hand in the notch and the index finger next to the middle finger.
  5. Place the heel of the other hand next to the two fingers.
  6. Place the other hand on top so the heels of both hands are over the same point on the breastbone.
  7. Interlock the fingers to keep them off the chest.
  8. With your elbows straight and locked, and your shoulders over the casualtyís chest, press straight down using the weight of your body to compress the breastbone 4-5cm (the depth of an adult’s thumb). Use a smooth uninterrupted rhythm allowing equal time for compression and relaxation.
  9. Give 15 compressions at a rate of 80-100 compressions a minute.
  10. Give two slow, full breaths.
  11. Reposition hands and administer a further 15 compressions/two breaths.
  12. Continue the ratio of 15 compressions/two breaths.
  13. After completing four cycles of chest compressions and breaths, administer two further breaths and then check the pulse in the neck.

pulse present pulse absent

Basic life support

A New Zealand Red Cross booklet, ‘Essential First Aid’, provides valuable advice on basic life support. It says different methods of basic life support should be used for infants (under 1 year of age) and children (1-8 years), and people aged over 8 (including adults). Among other helpful tips, the booklet suggests the following First Aid procedures and techniques.

Basic life support – over 8s and adults:

  • Ensure a safe environment.
  • Assess response. If no response, get help.
  • Send someone to call an ambulance.
  • If you are alone and telephone is immediately available, use it to call an ambulance (111).
  • Open the airway using head-tilt, chin-lift method.
  • Use jaw thrust technique (as mentioned under techniques) if spinal injuries are suspected.
  • Remove foreign material or vomit if it is visible in the mouth.
  • Look, listen and feel for breathing. This check should take three to five seconds.
  • If breathing is present and adequate, place the person in the recovery position and monitor airways, breathing and circulation.
  • If breathing is absent or inadequate, continue with basic life support:
  • Pinch the nostrils to prevent air escaping.
  • Give two slow, full breaths into the mouth, watching the chest fall after each breath as the casualty exhales.
  • If the chest does not rise, reposition the casualty’s head and try again.
  • If the chest still does not rise, the airway may be obstructed.
  • Use the steps of the obstructed airway cycle (picture above) to clear the obstruction.
  • Check the carotid pulse in the casualty’s neck.
  • Place three fingers on the adam’s apple and slide them towards you into the groove at the side of the neck between the windpipe and the muscles.
  • Press gently to feel for a pulse. This check should take up to 10 seconds.
  • If the pulse is present, continue rescue breathing at a rate of one breath every five seconds.
  • Every time you take a breath, the casualty will need a breath also.
  • If the casualty has no pulse, continue rescue breathing and begin chest compressions.
  • This combined technique is known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Basic life support – children and infants.

Some adaptations should be made to basic life support techniques when dealing with children and infants. These are outlined in the following chart. When you are alone and the child or infant is not breathing, perform basic life support for one minute before dialling 111 for an ambulance, if a telephone is immediately available.

life support

How to get help

Help is usually just a phone call away. Many services are listed in the Personal Help section at the front of your telephone book. Others are listed under Community Services or Welfare Organisations in the Yellow Pages. Several agencies have national freephone telephone numbers so parents can receive free advice. IN EMERGENCIES, FOR POLICE, FIRE OR AMBULANCE – DIAL 111.