Safety First

As any parent will tell you, living with children means constantly worrying about their health and safety. And while the odds are good that you’ll never encounter a true emergency with your charges, proper preparation can mean the difference between life and death if an emergency does arise. Here are the basics of what you need to know to be equipped to handle an emergency.

Preparing in Advance

One of the most important things you can do to provide a safe and secure environment to your charges is to take a CPR and first aid class. The Red Cross and many organizations offer these classes at low cost, and teach basic skills like CPR, what to do when a child is choking and what to do if a child has an emergency reaction. These basic skills can keep your charge alive while you wait for help to come.

Perhaps equally important, talk to your employers about your charge’s health on your first day of work. Find out about any allergies, medications or medical conditions so that you can be prepared to deal with them. Make sure you know who is authorized to pick children up from school and that you have the phone numbers for both parents as well as a nearby emergency contact such as a grandparent or neighbor.

Minor Injuries

Scraped knees, cuts and other minor injuries are usually not considered emergencies, but left untreated, they can lead to infection and other problems. Rinse out any wounds and then apply an antibiotic ointment. Make sure to tell the parents about the injury so that they can watch for signs of infection and monitor healing.

Serious Injuries

Multiple bee stings, a cut that won’t stop bleeding and any blow to the head constitutes a serious injury. If a child is unconscious, confused or bleeding profusely, call 911 and follow the instructions given to you by the operator. Then call both parents and stay with the child until help arrives. You may also want to write down an account of exactly what happened; this can help doctors know of any additional risks and administer proper medical care.


If a child begins to choke and is still coughing, do not intervene. Coughing indicates that the child is still breathing and is the most effective way to dislodge the offending item. If a child is not coughing, call 911 immediately and follow the directions provided to you. If you are not trained in CPR, attempting to intervene can actually result in more injuries, and the 911 operator will be able to tell you how to properly administer first aid depending on your specific situation.


Poisoning is one of the leading causes of death of very young children, and requires rapid intervention. If you suspect your child has ingested a dangerous chemical, don’t waste time trying to figure out if she actually did ingest it. Call the local poison control center or 911 immediately. Do not induce vomiting unless you are told to do so, and make sure you call the parents as soon as you get off the phone with the 911 operator or poison control center.

Missing Children

It’s almost unheard of for children to be kidnapped from their own homes, but any time you cannot find a child – whether it’s because she didn’t get off the school bus or because she went missing from the yard – it’s an emergency. If your charge was supposed to be dropped off by someone else, call that person and then the child’s parents immediately. If you cannot find a child, don’t waste time worrying about getting in trouble for losing the child. Call 911 and the child’s parents. The sooner the search for a missing child begins, the more likely you are to find the child.


It’s an unfortunate reality that we live in an increasingly violent society. One in four girls will be raped before the age of 21, and bullying is increasingly prevalent. If your charge is assaulted by anyone, your primary goal should be to attend to the child’s psychological needs. If the child has serious injuries, call 911 or take him to an emergency room. If your charge has been raped, this can be an especially difficult situation. Make sure you don’t do anything that could make your charge feel like it was her fault. Provide a warm, supportive listening ear and plan to continue to provide love and support to your charge for several months after the assault.

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