Basic first aid brush-up

First aid courses can be invaluable when it comes to dealing with family emergencies. Here we provide a few reminders for what to do if a child stops breathing, chokes, has an anaphylactic reaction or consumes something which could be poisonous. 

A sound knowledge of first aid is crucial and it’s a good idea to complete a first aid course and encourage any family members who care for your children, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, to do the same.

If an emergency does occur and you’re unsure of what to do, always call triple zero (000) as soon as possible and ask for an ambulance. 
In the meantime, a few basic first aid handy hints from St John Ambulance Australia might assist with certain situations, before help arrives.


As careful as we are, children like to put all sorts of things in their mouths. If your child is choking, encourage them to cough up the object. If this is unsuccessful, bend them over and give five blows to their back, between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. If this fails, place the child on their back lying down in the CPR position and follow with five chest thrusts. Check to see if the object is gone after each back blow or chest thrust. 

If an infant under one year is choking, immediately call triple zero (000) for an ambulance (do not hang up) and place child on your forearm, head down supported by your hand. Follow with back blows and chest thrusts, checking after each, to see if the object has been removed. If the child loses consciousness, start CPR.

Severe allergic (anaphylactic) reaction

If a child is having trouble breathing and talking, their tongue and throat is swelling or they’re dizzy, pale and floppy, they might be having a severe allergic or anaphylactic reaction. Most parents will be aware of their child’s anaphylaxis and have an action plan. 

Reassure your child, help them to sit or lie comfortably and assist them with their action plan – using an auto injector (eg. Epipen or AnaPen). If your child hasn’t previously experienced anaphylaxis, call triple zero (000) immediately and monitor your child’s breathing.


All poisonous substances should be secured and out of reach of inquisitive children. However, if you suspect your child has swallowed a poison, call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26. 

Signs of poisoning vary depending on the substance, but may include abdominal pain, drowsiness, burning pains from mouth to stomach, blurred vision, chest tightness, collapse and odours on the breath. 
Do not induce vomiting unless advised by the Poison Information Centre, or give your child anything to eat or drink. Wash the child’s mouth and face with water.
Visit the St Johns Ambulance Australia website for more first aid facts and information.
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