A few years ago, I read about a boy from a wealthy home who at the age of seven years died at home after choking on a piece of potato. Accidents do not take into account social status or age. Accidents are accidents. The dictionary defines it as; “An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” Thousands of people worldwide die annually because of accidents.
Because of their unexpected and unintentional nature, we cannot stop accidents from happening. We can however minimize the chances by identifying ways in which we can prevent them. Examples include; building safely, by minimizing stairs and uneven surfaces, using floor tiles that are not extremely smooth and therefore slippery, lining bathing spaces with rough tiles and if they are bathtubs, getting materials that are non-slip, putting away sharp utensils and tools, fires should be out of reach of children and children should be taught safe practices like avoiding dangerous games.
Most cultures prohibit talking and singing while eating because these actions require deep intake of air and open the voice box which is the passage way to the lungs so, the risk of food going the wrong way (choking) is higher when swallowing and speech are attempted simultaneously.
The second thing is that despite not knowing when accidents will happen, we can be proactive and prepare for the eventuality. This we can do through learning first aid and having first aid tools easily accessible wherever people gather in for example; homes, places of worship, workplaces and schools. First aid reduces the damage caused by accidents. That is why when we were all being taught in primary school we were told that “First aid saves life”.
In this article, I will focus on first aid in the home.
For starters, do you have a first aid box in your house? Where is it placed? For most people, the answer is, “we do not have one because first aid boxes are expensive.” Others have them in the kitchen drawer or bathroom cupboard where even the 3-year-old child can read the contents meaning the first aid box itself is literally an accident waiting to happen. If you spend a few hours in the waiting area of any health facility next time, observe how often children are brought in for having accidentally swallowed a whole packet of medicine.
Then there are those whose first aid box is locked up so securely that they are the only ones who can reach or open it, meaning that when they are away or they themselves are the victim of the accident, then there is nothing that can be done. There is another group that has never needed to use the contents of the box, thankfully so, the items in it are as old as when they were first placed in. They contain painkillers that expired in 2015 and eye drops that were manufactured in 2009.
What your first aid kit should have?
The first aid kit should be well organized and placed in a spot that is far enough for children not to reach easily, but close enough to allow the user to quickly grab what they need. It can be bought ready-packed or you can create your own. Ideally, a first aid kit should not contain any medications. You can have two separate kits: an emergency mediation kit and a first aid kit.
To create a first aid kit yourself, get any container with a lid that fits and place the following items in it: cleaning antiseptic, alcohol swabs, cotton wool, plasters of different sizes, bandages, a pair of scissors tough enough to cut through cloth, non-sterile gloves, burn gel for applying to burns after cooling the burns with cold water, if possible, a mouth shield for performing mouth to mouth resuscitation.
A key aspect of first aid is for the family members to know what numbers to call and where to go in the event of an emergency. Ensure that there is a laminated paper in the first aid or medication kit with details of; phone numbers to call in the event of an emergency, any medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell disease, asthma, allergies and any other important medical information.
Children must know both parents’ phone numbers, house helps too. There should be a charged phone kept in one spot at home where everyone can instinctively run. The phone should preferably have only emergency numbers to make it easy to dial. Likewise, families should be aware of potential emergencies existing among their members, including allergies and conditions like asthma attacks, sickle cells crises, convulsions/seizures and ensure that the required medication is stacked and not expired and that there is always a family member who is conversant in its administration.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a life-saving emergency procedure that involves applying external chest compression to make the heart pump is a very important skill for family members to know. Also, in the event of choking, what is done is a Heimlich maneuver; where a sudden strong pressure is applied on the abdomen, between the navel and the ribcage. This forces whatever object is causing the choking to come out.
Dr. Miriam O. Laker-Oketta
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