Child Safety Scotland

First Aid

First Aid

Babies and children may find themselves in a situation where first aid is required. Having the skills and knowledge to cope with some of the most common accidents is very beneficial and it is advisable to go on a recognised first aid course. Details of courses and further first aid information can be found through Scotland's health information service NHS inform.

First aid information on burns and scalds, falls, poisoning, choking and suffocation can be found below along with information on back blows, chest thrusts and abdominal thrusts.

If you are concerned about a child’s injuries, please contact NHS24 by dialing 111, attend A&E or dial 999.


Burns and Scalds

Burns and scalds are one of the most common injuries needing treated at accident and emergency departments.

  • Stop the burning process as soon as possible.
  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area of skin, but do not attempt to remove anything that is stuck to the burnt skin because this could cause more damage. If the person has been scalded remove the wet clothing and if the person has been burned remove the clothing if it is not stuck to the wound.
  • Cool the burn with cool running water for 20 minutes, as soon as possible after the burn happens, ideally within 1 hour of the burn or scald happening. Never use ice, iced water, any creams, toothpaste or greasy substances, such as butter or oils. Never put the injured person in a cold bath.
  • Cover the burn with cling film in a layer over the burn. A clean plastic bag can be used for burn or scalds on hands or feet. Never put cling film or a bag on or over someone's face or head.
  • Make sure that the person keeps warm, using a blanket or layers of clothing (avoiding the injured area). This is to prevent hypothermia occurring, when a person's body temperature drops below 35°C (95°F). This is a risk if you are cooling a large burned or scalded area, particularly in children and the elderly.
  • The pain from a burn or scald can be treated with painkillers. Always check the manufacturer's instructions when using over-the-counter medication.
  • Organise medical assistance, contact NHS24, attend A & E or dial 999, if necessary.


Falls (cuts, bruises etc)

Falls are the number one cause of accidents to children under 15 years of age and some essential first aid advice includes:

  • Most cuts and bruises usually require to be cleaned and then will heal on their own. If there is any concern, it is always best to arrange medical assistance and have the injury checked.
  • If a cut is gaping open or won't stop bleeding then organise medical assistance.
  • If someone has suffered a fall and or is unconscious, has difficulty breathing, or is bleeding severely dial 999.



Poisons can be swallowed, absorbed through the skin, inhaled, splashed into the eyes or injected. They can include common household substances such as bleach, household cleaning products or liquitabs, medicines or pills, plants and fungi (wild mushrooms). Being poisoned can be life threatening.

  • If you suspect someone has swallowed or come into contact with something poisonous then organise medical assistance immediately. Contact NHS24, attend A & E or dial 999, if necessary
  • Assist them if they are being sick, but do not encourage them to be sick
  • Do not give them anything to eat or drink
  • In order to assist medical staff it is useful to take the item that has been swallowed in its own packaging to hospital with you
  • It is also useful to know when the substance was taken (how long ago)
  • How it was taken (for example, swallowed)
  • How much was taken (if you know)


Choking and suffocation

Babies and children can easily choke on food and small objects. Items can include older children's small toys and certain foods. The foods that can be identified as posing a greater risk include: peanuts, nuts and seeds, sweets, popcorn, grapes and cherries, hard fruits and hard vegetables especially peas, celery and carrots, hot dogs / sausage, burgers, chunks of cheese and meat balls. Foods like hot dogs or sausages, meat balls and hard fruits and vegetables should be cut into small pieces as they can pose a greater choking risk. Encourage children to sit whilst eating and ensure that they are supervised.

Children can also swallow, inhale or choke on items. Take care with plastic bags or nappy sacks to ensure that children never play with them or gain access to them. Ensure no small objects are left within children's reach. Take care with balloons, marbles, small pliable balls, coins, small batteries and safety pins.

  • For small children with a severe obstruction who are distressed, and unable to cough, or breathe, lay them face down along your forearm, with their head low. Give up to five back blows, with the heel of your hand. Check the child's mouth, using one finger to remove any obvious obstructions but do not poke about blindly if the object can't be seen.


Back blows for children under one year

  • Support the child in a head-downwards position. Gravity can help dislodge the object. It's easiest to do this if you sit or kneel and support the child on your lap
  • Don't compress or squeeze the soft tissues under the jaw as this will make the obstruction worse
  • Give up to five sharp back blows with the heel of one hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.

Back blows for children over one year

  • Back blows are more effective if the child is positioned head down
  • Put a small child across your lap as you would a baby
  • If this isn't possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give the back blows from behind.

If back blows don't relieve the choking and your child is still conscious, give chest thrusts (see below) to infants under one year or abdominal thrusts (see below) to children over one year. This will create an artificial cough, increasing pressure in the chest and helping to dislodge the object.

Chest thrusts for children under one year

  • Support the baby on your arm, which is placed down (or across) your thigh as you sit or kneel
  • Find the breastbone, and place two fingers in the middle
  • Give five sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

Abdominal thrusts for children over one year

  • Stand or kneel behind your child. Place your arms under the child's arms and around their upper abdomen
  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and ribs
  • Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards
  • Repeat up to five times
  • Make sure you don't apply pressure to the lower ribcage as this may cause damage.

Following chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows

  • If the object is still not dislodged and your child is still conscious, continue the sequence of back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts
  • Call out or send for help if you're still on your own
  • Don't leave the child.

Even if the object is expelled, get medical help. Part of the object might have been left behind or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

Unconscious child with choking

  • If a choking child is, or becomes, unconscious, put them on a firm, flat surface
  • Call out loudly or send for help if you're on your own
  • Don't leave the child at any stage
  • Open the child's mouth. If the object is clearly visible and you can grasp it easily, then remove it
  • Start CPR (see How to resuscitate a child).

Don't poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers to try to get the object out. This can push the object further in, making it harder to remove and causing more injury to the child.

  • Look out for signs of shock: if the person is pale, cold and clammy, has a weak pulse and rapid shallow breathing, they are probably in shock.

First aid skills can be a life saver so please keep your knowledge up to date and visit this page regularly to refresh your knowledge and to check for updates.