Watching your child suffer a serious accident is one of the most frightening things you can go through. It's important, however, to remain calm and to take the appropriate steps to assess the situation and respond the way your child needs you to.
The following are six steps to take if your child has been in a serious accident:
1) Immediately assess their state of health. Although your first impulse might be to grab your child, hug them or carry them in the aftermath of an accident, it's not always safe; for instance, if they've suffered an injury to the head or spine or a broken bone, moving them around or cushioning their heads may worsen their condition. Do your best at this point to assess the severity and nature of their injuries; check if they're awake, responsive and breathing. The only circumstances that warrant moving the child is if they're in immediate danger (for instance, they're lying face down in water) or require CPR (ideally, you'll have training in CPR and basic first aid). If you have to turn them over or carry them somewhere, try not to make any jarring motions or move them more than is necessary.
2) Ask them to move their limbs. Have them try to wiggle their fingers and toes, and move their arms and legs if they can. If they can't, or if the movements are weak or otherwise different than usual, they need medical attention ASAP.
3) Check their mental awareness. Ask them different questions, like what day it is, where they are, what their name is, what they did prior to the accident (e.g. swimming, playing on jungle gym), and other facts they may know. Look for signs of confusion, disorientation, or memory loss. Also stay alert to other changes that may indicate a brain injury. Is their speech slurred? Do they feel sleepy or appear unfocused? Are the pupils of their eyes dilated to different degrees? Have they experienced loss of consciousness? (Keep in mind that not all brain injuries are marked by lack of consciousness; someone can suffer a concussion, for instance, while remaining conscious the whole time.) If they're experiencing any symptoms, they need to receive medical attention immediately.
4) Look for other signs of injury. Headaches, nausea, or vomiting can all indicate brain injury. Maybe they feel pain in one of their limbs or in their ribs, which could indicate a sprain or a broken bone. The site of their injury may be disturbingly red and swollen. Ask them if they're experiencing pain, loss of feeling, or any other unusual symptoms.
5) Check for bleeding. If they're bleeding from anywhere, try to assess the depth of the wound. Usually, the bleeding should stop if you apply pressure to the wound, clean it, and then apply a bandage. If the bleeding doesn't stop or if blood is spurting out, then you need to get medical help. Your child will also need medical attention if the wound looks fairly deep, for instance if the cut looks like it may require stitches, or if bone is showing.
6) Keep an eye on them. In the aftermath of what looks like a serious accident, your child could seem fine. They may get up on their own and brush away your concerns. Even if they seem completely fine, keep an eye on them for a while after. If they suddenly complain of a pain or another symptom, or you notice they're behaving strangely or are suddenly drowsy or unfocused, get them medical attention immediately.
Don't hesitate to reach out to your child's pediatrician or another medical professional to ask about your child's well-being after an accident, even if they seem fine. Furthermore, if you need assistance coping with medical costs or suspect that someone's negligence contributed to the accident, contact us. Your child's safety and well-being are paramount, and in the aftermath of an accident they should be able to receive the best care possible.