Dad’s Guide to Coping with Illness and Injury

By Sharon Perkins, Stefan Korn, Scott Lancaster, Eric Mooij

Having a sick or injured baby or child is no fun. As well as feeling pretty darn terrible, your child may have trouble understanding what’s wrong with him, not be able to communicate well with you about what’s wrong, and be scared of the treatments he’s receiving.

Spotting injury

When your child is constantly getting bumps and bruises, it can be hard to tell when something is going on that can’t just be fixed with a bandage and a hug. So how do you figure it out? And what do you do if it’s more serious than you first thought?

First of all, stay calm. Reach for the first-aid kit:

  • Broken bones: Your child will let you know he’s broken something because he’ll be in a lot of pain — much more than usual. You may even be able to see how the limb is broken. The area may swell or bruise immediately. Keep your child as still as possible and support the broken limb. Weight on the limb will make it more painful. Get to the emergency department of your local hospital as soon as you can. If your child can’t move, or you think he shouldn’t be moved, such as in the case of a spine or neck fracture, call an ambulance.
  • Burns and scalds: Run cold water on a simple, small burn for 20 minutes. If your child has scalded himself with hot liquid, take his wet clothes off as the heat in the liquid will continue to burn his skin. If material is sticking to the skin, don’t try to take it off. If the burn is serious and you see redness and blistering, get someone to call an ambulance while you take care of your child. After you’ve finished pouring cold water over the area, cover it with a clean cloth or tea towel and see your doctor. Your child will probably be very cold from the cold water, so make sure he’s dressed warmly.
  • Concussion: A bump to the head can result in more than just a lump and bruise. Concussion is a temporary loss of brain function, from the brain banging against the skull. Your child may have hit his head so hard he lost consciousness, or he may have a headache, seem disoriented, and vomit repeatedly. Being irritable and sensitive to light can also be a sign of concussion. Take your child to the hospital immediately.

If you’re in doubt about anything to do with your child’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so visit your pediatrician. For any of the following injuries, get yourself to the hospital quickly:

  • Anaphylactic shock from food or a bee sting, where the face or mouth swells and your child has trouble breathing.
  • Bite from a snake, spider, or another animal.
  • Car accident.
  • Convulsions, also called seizures, especially those that last five minutes or more. Some children under age 5 have febrile seizures whenever they run a fever; if this happens regularly, follow your pediatrician’s instructions on whether or not your child needs hospital care every time.
  • Eye injuries.
  • Electric shocks.
  • Swallowing of poisons, toxic material, or prescription medicines that were not prescribed for your child.

Having emergency phone numbers on hand

In the United States, 911 is the emergency number in every state.

The number for Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222.

Putting together a first-aid kit

Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit to deal with injuries.

If you haven’t done so, consider taking an infant and child first-aid and CPR course. It can literally save the life of your child or the lives of others. If you haven’t done a general CPR course for a while, getting a refresher by attending an infant and baby CPR course may also be a good idea.

Diagnosing a serious illness

All some children have to deal with healthwise are colds, the odd ear infection, or a tummy bug. But some unfortunate children have to cope with much worse. As an involved dad you’ll probably spot the first signs of a serious illness, because you know your child inside out and can tell when something’s not right.

It takes a doctor’s diagnosis to confirm when your child has a chronic illness, such as asthma, diabetes, a genetic disorder, or a disease such as cancer. Seeing your little child being admitted to a hospital is stressful and heartbreaking, but fortunately lots of support is available.

Your child may be very frightened or blame herself for the chaos her illness is causing in your lives. Try to be as open and honest with her as you can about her health and how you feel, and be available to answer any questions she puts to you.

The following organizations can help you in the event of your child being diagnosed with a serious illness. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it — think of the good it might do your child: