Here’s why parents and caregivers MUST have basic first aid skills

A few weeks ago, news of a baby who had allegedly been killed by a househelp in Bungoma hit the headlines, leaving many people to wonder what could have gone wrong.

A postmortem carried out on the body of baby Christian Gabriel who was only eight months old revealed that the baby died from choking.

The police launched a manhunt for the househelp to be able to get an account of the circumstances that led to the baby’s death.

The case of baby Gabriel brings up the question of how many such incidents take place in our homes while babies are under the care of either their parents or caregivers. Are the parents or caregivers well equipped with basic first aid skills in case an accident-sometimes a life-threatening one- occurs? If the baby chokes, would one know what to do in order to save the baby’s life?

It is such cases that bring out the importance of equipping your nanny or housegirl with basic first aid skills that would help her better handle an emergency situation in the home or while looking after your child.

Alice Kibagendi is the founder of the Amara Initiative, a company she started after undergoing a harrowing experience.

Alice lost her six-month-old daughter Amara in March 2012. Amara choked while being fed by her nanny.

When baby Amara choked, Alice was at work. The more she replayed her daughter’s last moments the more she questioned herself, wondering if she herself would have been able to save Amara had she been present.

It is this turn of events that made her enrol for a basic first aid course.

In June 2012, she set up the Amara Initiative and has been conducting basic first aid training courses to equip parents with young children and their nannies with basic first aid skills. The training curriculum includes choking, accidents around the house such as poisoning, cuts, bites, stings, falls and instances of children drowning in buckets of water.

“My experience in conducting and championing for first aid classes and skills have led me to believe that prevention is the best cure, hence before we talk about basic first aid, we should increase safety tactics in the home and safety information for ourselves and all caregivers,” says Alice.

“Learning basic first aid skills should be a necessity for all caregivers and not a reaction to an alarming situation. Basic first aid skills/knowledge, therefore, should be general knowledge for all as accidents happen when least expected,” she adds.

Alice further says that the myths around basic first aid need to be demystified.

“There are certain beliefs that have become generally accepted e.g. making someone who has ingested poison to vomit or give them milk or raw eggs, or putting a spoon in the mouth of someone who is having a seizure. It should be made clear what is supposed to happen in such cases,” she explains.

Another first aid training course for parents and caregivers is set to be conducted on the 28th of this month in Nairobi.

Here is a list of some first aid tips that every parent or caregiver should know, which cover the most common accidents in children.


Babies and little children are prone to choking, and this is one of the most important things parents need to learn to tackle at home. An effective way to handle chocking in infants below a year is the back thrust. Hold the child face down along your forearm, using your knee for support. Ensure the head has solid support and is lower than the bottom. Give a few sharp strikes to the back, between the shoulder blades – this will release the obstruction and clear out the airway.

Breathing trouble

A child who isn’t breathing will need mouth to mouth resuscitation, also known as CPR. CPR is necessary only if the child is not breathing; if she is able to breathe, take her to the doctor without further delay. Make the child lie on their back and place the heel of your palm on their chest. Keep it in the middle along the line of the nipples and do a chest compression by pressing down a little. Be careful, as excessive force can break the ribs. Let the chest rise before pushing down again. Do about 30 compressions at a stretch and check for breathing. Continue till help arrives.


Nosebleeds are extremely common among children under ten and can be caused by a number of things. The solution is simple enough – let the child sit upright in a chair with head tilted slightly forward. Use a clean cloth or handkerchief to pinch the top of the nose and hold for 10 minutes. The nosebleed should stop by now, but if it doesn’t, you’d better visit a doctor. If the child feels dizzy, or the bleed is after a fall, take her to the emergency right away.


Burns can be of different grades, and while minor household burns may seem trivial, it is always best to give burns medical attention after administering first aid. The main thing to do is to keep the burnt area under cool running water that is not too forceful, for at least 15 minutes. After the burn settles down, gently dry the area and apply a burn ointment. Leave any clothing that’s stuck to the skin as it is, and if the burn is on a sensitive area like the face, or due to an electric shock, rush the child to the hospital.


The big challenge in treating a sprain is probably determining whether it is indeed a sprain or a more serious injury, like a fracture. A fracture will usually have extreme pain, and the child will be unable to move the affected part at all.A sprain will usually result in pain or light swelling, along with some difficulty in movement.

In such cases, try resting for a while, and if the pain persists, place a cold compress on the affected area for 15-20 minutes. Keep the area raised for a while and if the pain doesn’t subside, it’s safer to consult the doctor.

Deep Cuts

Small cuts keep happening all the time and don’t need much treatment other than washing with clean water and soap. However, deeper cuts that bleed need more care. Wash the wound carefully with water, dry it and cover it with sterile gauze. Raise the injured part above the heart and apply consistent pressure for at least 5 minutes. If the bleeding stops, wrap around with a sterile bandage and stick with sterile tape. If the blood soaks through, apply another layer of gauze and apply pressure again. If the bleeding is continuous, then it requires professional medical treatment. Continue to apply pressure till the doctor gets a chance to see the injury.


In order to identify if a child is having a seizure, it is important to know what a seizure looks like. While there are many symptoms, it usually involves the following – twitching or involuntary movements of the hands and legs, spasms, temporary loss of consciousness, involuntary passing of urine or stools. An episode may last for a few minutes and can be scary to watch.

If you notice any of these, first place the child on a flat floor, turning her to her side. Loosen all clothing and take off any jewellery like necklaces or tight rings. If the child vomits, make sure she is on her side and use a clean cloth or your finger to keep her mouth clear. Once the seizure is over and the child is stable, take her to the doctor and describe the symptoms in detail. However, if the episode lasts over 5 minutes, results in the child not being able to breathe or is unconscious for too long, don’t wait for the episode to end to see the doctor.

Foreign Objects in Nose or Ear

For young children or babies, do not try to put your finger in to take the object out – you’ll only end up pushing it in further. For teenagers or older kids, you can use a pair of tweezers. Or you can try closing the unblocked nostril and ask the child to blow through the other nose – this should often dislodge objects that are not too tightly wedged. If none of these seems possible or if the child is too young to follow instructions, don’t try anything – take her to the emergency right away.

If the object is lodged in the ear and if you can see it clearly from the outside, use a pair of tweezers to just pick it out. If an insect has flown into the ear, add a little baby oil to float the insect out. In any other case, it’s safer to go to the doctor.






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