Crisis at Christmas!

Accidents do happen, even at the best of times. Check out our practical advice and stop a crisis turning into a catastrophe


Christmas is supposed to be a truly magical time for kids. And most of the time, it is. But the very things that make it such fun – a house bursting with family and friends, yummy food and exciting new presents – are also the reasons why so many accidents happen during the festive season. Here’s hoping you have a wonderful holiday – and you won’t need our guide on what to do if a Christmas catastrophe hits!

Don’t Put butter, fat or any kind of cream on a burn – it’s an old wives’ tale and will just make the burn worse.


What to do Remove clothes, then run any burn or scald, no matter how bad, under cold running water for at least 10 minutes. Cover the burn with something non-sticky, such as a non-fluffy dressing or cling film. If a burn is small and doesn’t need hospital treatment, it’s fine to put a plaster over it while it heals.

Get help If your child is under 18 months, or the blister is larger than the palm of her hand.

Don’t Put butter, fat or any kind of cream on a burn – it’s an old wives’ tale and will just make the burn worse.


What to do Check your child’s breathing. If she is breathing, check for burns. You can treat electrical burns in the same way as any other burn (see above). However, if your child is not breathing, start CPR (see Choking below) and call an ambulance straight away. Always check to make sure there’s not more than one burn, as electrical burns can have an entry and an exit point.

Get help If it’s an electrical burn, even if it’s just ringing NHS Direct. Also, get children to hospital if you are concerned in any way about their breathing.

Don’t Grab hold of your child without making sure that the source of power is off or disabled – the last thing you need is for you to get a shock as well.


What to do Keep calm. If you panic, your child will panic too, and her system will start absorbing the substance more quickly. Call an ambulance immediately. If your child is sick, keep a sample of the vomit. If you know what your child has taken, bring the container to hospital. If you think your child has drunk something corrosive – which burns the airway, so it could swell and close – offer small sips of cold water or cold milk to cool the airway down. Don’t let them drink a lot, as this means that the substance will be diluted in your child’s stomach and will be absorbed faster.

Get help Call an ambulance immediately if there is any chance at all that your child has eaten or drunk something dangerous.

Don’t Stick your fingers down your child’s throat to try and make her sick.This affects a child’s airway, making the heart rate rise. Then her system will start absorbing the substance more quickly. It also doesn’t guarantee that everything will come up! And if your child has drunk a corrosive substance, it will burn her on the way down and the way back up.


What to do Try encouraging children who are old enough to walk to have a good cough. If that doesn’t work, get your child to lean forward. Support her chest and then, using the flat of your hand, hit between the shoulder blades firmly, up to five times.

If that doesn’t work, stand behind your child. Place a clenched fist in between her tummy button and the end of the breastbone. Pull in and upwards, sharply, again up to five times. If that doesn’t work, revert to the back-slaps and keep alternating between the two.

For babies, lie your baby face down along your forearm, supporting the head and neck. Do five back-blows: adjust how hard you do them with babies, but make sure it’s still a firm blow on the back. If that doesn’t work, turn your child over, supporting the head and back, and put two fingers in the centre of her chest. Push down sharply to a third of the depth of the chest, again up to five times. Then alternate between the two.

Get help If neither method is working. Call an ambulance immediately. If children or babies become unconscious, perform CPR. Lie your child on a flat surface. Put the heel of your hand in the centre of the chest, (or two fingers in the centre of the chest for babies), pushing down for about a third of the chest depth. Press down 30 times, at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, and make sure the ambulance is on its way.

Don’t Try to remove the blockage in your child’s mouth with your fingers – you risk pushing it further in.

Don’t Panic. Children pick up on parents’ fears so it’s important that you stay as calm as possible.


What to do Nuts are everywhere at Christmas, so if your child is allergic but you didn’t know it, this could well be the first time you confront the problem. Look out for swelling of the face, and your child looking very pale. If you know she is allergic, then administer her medication. If she is having difficulty breathing, keep her sitting upright, but if she starts to look very pale, lie her down and raise her legs. This will help the child if she is going into shock.

Get help In all cases call an ambulance, in particular if you notice any swelling around the face or neck, or difficulty breathing. This is especially important if this is your child’s first allergic reaction.

Don’t Panic. Children pick up on parents’ fears so it’s important that you stay as calm as possible.


What to do If it’s just a bump on the head and there’s no other sign of injury, keep an eye on them. Get an icepack wrapped in a towel and apply it to the affected area for a good 10 minutes to reduce the swelling. For strains or sprains, use the RICE procedure – rest, ice (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel is ideal), comfortable support such as a bandage, and elevation, to keep blood flow away from the injury. A good idea is to get your child to put her injured ankle up on a chair.

Get help If your child can’t bear weight on the limb, her wrist is immobile, or she is in a lot of pain. In these instances, take them straight to hospital. If children have a more serious head injury, they may be knocked out, nauseous or start to act strangely and must be checked by a medic as soon as possible.

Don’t Try to keep them up all night to make sure they haven’t got concussion. It’s fine to feel sleepy at night.


NHS 111 can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You speak to a fully trained adviser on the phone and you can ask for a translator if you need one.

Depending on the situation you’ll:

  • find out what local service can help you.
  • be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP.
  • get a face-to-face appointment if you need one.
  • be told how to get any medicine you need.
  • get self-care advice.


Here are a few sensible precautions to take:

  • Older relatives might be less up-to-speed on safety and the dangers posed by medication left within a child’s reach. If you are sharing Christmas with an older relative who is on medication, talk to them beforehand to make sure tablets are kept well out of reach. It’s not just special medicines – everyday painkillers are actually the biggest poisoners of small children.
  • Kitchens are a real danger zone. Try to keep small children out of the kitchen altogether when you’re cooking a big meal. It might be worth putting a safety gate across the door.
  • Decorations and candles can be a dangerous mix. Young children will be drawn to the flame and might knock candles over. If you must have candles, make sure they are blown out before you go to bed and are positioned away from children’s’ reach.
  • Make sure that you have working smoke alarms. In the case of fire, a smoke alarm will give you those few minutes you need to get out safely.
  • Hot drinks are the biggest cause of burns and scalds in children. Remind everyone in the house to put tea, coffee and mulled wine well out of reach.


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