As a trauma surgeon, I treat people with life-threatening injuries daily. And nothing is more heart-wrenching than trying to save the life of a child whose injuries could have been prevented or at least less severe if someone had been able to provide proper first aid care.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2008 Childhood Injury Report, injuries are among the most under-recognized public health problems facing the nation today. The report shows that more than 9 million children are treated every year at emergency rooms for nonfatal, unintentional injuries. Unintentional injuries are also the leading cause of death for children in the United States, making it crucial for parents to understand how to administer first aid to their child should a minor or severe accident occur.

The majority of nonfatal injuries in children younger than age 16 are caused by falls, animal bites or insect stings, cuts, overexertion and being struck by or against an object (not including car accidents).

Injury prevention is in the forefront of every parent or caregiver’s mind. However, no matter how well you baby proof your house or how many times you demand your children wear helmets, accidents will happen. Therefore, it is essential that every parent is able to understand how to provide accurate and effective first aid attention.

Another childhood injury that many parents fear is choking. Although not usually fatal, choking is common among young children and can be extremely frightening for the child suffering from the injury and the parents. The CDC reveals that about 60 percent of nonfatal choking episodes treated in emergency departments are associated with food items. Coins are involved in about 18 percent of all choking-related emergency room visits for children ages 1 to 4 years.

The good news is that there are simple first aid techniques that parents can learn to give them the confidence and competence to treat many of these common injuries at home or before help arrives.

I believe first aid training should be mandatory for all caregivers and training courses should offer ongoing refresher classes. Current retention studies show that if first aid skills are not used regularly after training, people tend to forget crucial knowledge and lose confidence in applying first aid care.

All families should have a stocked first aid kit in their home. This way, when injuries happen, they have the supplies and instructions to care for their children before professional help arrives.

Parents also should sign up for a CPR training or refresher course. Visit to find a class in your area. It is the responsibility of every caregiver to be able to respond quickly and accurately when a child has been injured. Simple techniques, and especially the know-how to administer CPR, may mean the difference between life and death.

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