First Aid for Under-fives

 23 Feb 2024

Us parents are on the frontline when it comes to childhood injuries, and it’s important to know what to do when misadventure strikes. Fortunately, St John Ambulance Australia is here to help. 


FEBRUARY 23, 2024

Bumps and scrapes are very common as your little one throws themselves into life, and although a kiss makes lots of things better, some injuries can’t be cured with love alone.  

As a parent, you’ll need a well-stocked first aid kit to call upon (complete with kid-friendly Bandaids!); and also a good measure of first aid know-how.  

You can get this by doing some proper first aid training (like a short course in first aid for infants and children); and whether your under-five encounters a minor or major health issue, St John Ambulance Australia can definitely help.  

They have a whole range of First Aid Fact Sheets you can access quickly, and because some childhood injuries are more common than others, we’ve asked St John to share some first aid tips you may well need.  

Here’s what to do if your under-five (or another little person) runs into trouble with wild things, the pavement, or perhaps a cherry tomato.  

First aid advice for bites and stings  

We love to see early learners out there exploring nature, but sometimes nature can be nasty, and if a child gets bitten by a tick or stung by a bee, wasp, ant, centipede, spider or scorpion, they won’t feel too nice! 

To treat these kinds of bites and stings, St John Ambulance Australia says you should: 

1. Apply a cold pack (or a bag of frozen veggies wrapped in a tea towel) to the bitten or stung area for 15 minutes and reapply if pain continues.  

2. Change the cold pack when necessary to maintain the same level of coldness.  

3. Seek medical aid if the pain worsens. 

If a bee is to blame for the sting, then you need to scrape the sting out with your credit card or pick it out with tweezers, and then follow the three steps above.  

First aid advice for abrasions, cuts and small bleeding wounds 

Scrapes, grazes and cuts can easily happen, especially when things like scooters, bikes and running races are involved, and St John Ambulance Australia recommends that you do the following if a child tears their skin in a not-too-serious way: 

1. Calmly reassure the child.

2. Check that you have the required first aid equipment: gloves, saline or clean water, sterile gauze (or a non-fluffy material), soft and dry dressings (such as Bandaids or non-adherent dressings and a bandage to hold the dressing in place) and a garbage bin.

3. Wash your hands, put on the gloves and set up the equipment.

4. Soak the sterile gauze with saline or water.

5. Clean the wound thoroughly, swabbing the wound from inner to outer edge and throwing away each piece of gauze after one swab. This action will gradually remove any gravel or dirt, and it’s important NOT to dab at the wound.

6. Apply a soft, dry dressing and fix it in position.

7. Dispose of the used material and gloves, and wash your hands. 

If the child is unlucky enough to have a severely bleeding wound, then the experts recommend that you download this St John First Aid Fact Sheet for Severe Bleeding, and follow the instructions (quickly!).   

First aid advice for choking 

Choking is a real risk for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, because they learn a lot about the world by touching and feeling, and this often means that they put things in their mouth.  

St John Ambulance Australia explains that under-fives have small airways that can easily get blocked, and says the most common causes of choking in children are:  

  • eating too quickly  
  • not chewing food well enough, and  
  • swallowing small objects. 

If you see that a child is choking on something, you need to dislodge the object and clear the child’s airway as soon as possible. 

St John Ambulance Australia explains that, ‘For children over one year of age, first aid for choking is the same as for older children and adults: five back blows between the shoulder blades, followed by five chest thrusts.’  

What this means in practice is that you should: 

1. Calmly reassure the child and ask them to cough, as this might remove the object.

2. If coughing doesn’t work, immediately call Triple Zero (000), ask for an ambulance, and stay on the line.

3. Bend the child well forward and give up to five sharp back blows between the shoulder blades. After each blow, look in the child’s mouth to see if any foreign material has been dislodged. If necessary, pick it out with your fingers. It’s important NOT to do a blind finger sweep, as this might send any foreign material back down the wrong way!

4. If the blockage isn’t cleared by the five back blows, St John says you should give up to five chest thrusts with the heel of your hand at the sternum (which is the centre of the chest, in the CPR position). Again, check after each thrust to see if the blockage has been removed.

5. Continue alternating five back blows with five chest thrusts until the ambulance arrives.

6. If the child becomes blue, limp or unconscious, start CPR (30 chest compressions followed by two breaths). 

We sincerely hope that you never have to call an ambulance for a child (or a grown-up), but don’t feel unsure or embarrassed about doing this.  

St John Ambulance Australia says, ‘When involved in the same kind of accident as adults, infants and young children may suffer quite different injuries, because of their different size, anatomy and physiology. However, the basic principles of first aid care – airway, breathing and circulation – remain the same, regardless of the age of the patient.  

‘St John Ambulance Australia recommends calling an ambulance immediately for infants (under one year of age) who have been involved in an emergency incident.’ 

If a child is involved, they recommend that you, ‘Call an ambulance if you consider the situation is an emergency. An emergency is when you believe a severe injury or illness is threatening your child’s health. Examples are: not breathing, severe bleeding and suspected head trauma.’ 

Hearing about these kinds of medical mishaps may tempt you to wrap your under-five in cotton wool. 

However, keep in mind that young children learn by playing actively, experimenting freely and taking age-appropriate risks – with your supervision, of course. 

If an injury happens while they’re doing this, it is really important that you have the supplies and knowledge to respond well, but to some degree, bumps and scrapes do go hand-in-hand with childhood. 

So, be alert, but not alarmed, get some first aid training, and keep those kisses and kid-friendly Bandaids ready! 


© St John Ambulance Australia Ltd. St John first aid protocols are for the Australian market only. All care has been taken in preparing the information but St John takes no responsibility for its use by other parties or individuals. St John encourages first aid training as this information is not a substitute for first aid training. For more information on St John first aid training and kits visit or call 1300 ST JOHN (785 646).