Key health skills teachers can brush up on before term 2 starts


Whether out on the playground or in the classroom, accidents can happen. Maybe a knee gets a grass burn when playing footy on the field, or a student has an allergic reaction to an unexpected treat.

No matter how attentive you are as a teacher, a few first aid skills will come in handy. But there is a lot to learn about first aid – from providing CPR, to crucial psychological support, or undertaking anaphylaxis training – but the best place to start is knowing the basic treatment for the most common injuries to crop up at school. These are your cuts and bruises, fractures, nosebleeds, allergic reactions, and asthma attacks. 

So if there is a tumble or tussle on the playground, here’s how to deal with them, with our key health skills for teachers to brush up on before the start of Term 2.

Choking First Aid

When it’s recess time, kids are all too happy to scarf down their snacks so they can run out on the playground. But besides a bout of heartburn, this runs the risk of having them choke on a bite. If a child looks like they’re choking, through an inability to speak, breathe, or a panicked expression – tell them to cough or step in to perform the Heimlich Maneuver. 

To do this, first perform five strong blows with your palm to their back, in between their shoulder blades. If this does not dislodge the item from their throat, perform five sharp inward and upward thrusts below their ribcage – this causes the diaphragm to press up into the thoracic cavity and put pressure on the lungs, hopefully pushing the object out of the throat.

If necessary, call 000 for emergency services help. 

Allergic Reaction First Aid

The other major risk at lunchtime is an allergic reaction, whether the allergy is known or not. In all Australian schools, it’s mandatory for teachers to have anaphylaxis training, to ensure they know how to respond correctly in even the most severe cases. Allergic reactions cause redness and swelling. If this was caused by something a student has eaten, their airways will swell up and may cause difficulty breathing. The first thing to do if you think a student is having an allergic reaction is ask if they have an EpiPen, and where it is. 

Have them lie on their back and keep their feet elevated by about 30cm. Loosen any tight clothing around the neck and chest. Keep your finger away from the orange injector and learn how to administer the shot. An EpiPen should be used as soon as possible during an allergic reaction, and emergency services should be called after.

Bleeding Injuries First Aid

Grazes and cuts tend to be the most common school injury, and with younger students, soothing them is usually a bigger job than treating them. But to stop the bleeding of a wound, raise the area and put pressure on it. Once you’ve done this you can get some water and disinfectant – salty water will do in a pinch – and a bandage or plaster. Wash the wound with water, dab it with disinfectant, then bandage it tightly, but not uncomfortably. 

You can use this method to aid small to medium injuries, but if the bleeding is excessive and the wound is deep, you should call 000 for help and instructions. 

Sprain First Aid

Sprains are caused when a joint twists the wrong way or too far, and they’re all too common on the playground. Thankfully, children tend to have more flexible joints, so their sprains are milder and need little more than rest and recuperation, but there are some things you can do to help. 

First, raise the limb above their heart, then hold an ice pack to the sprain for 15 minutes. This will reduce swelling, allowing a natural blood flow to work its healing magic. 

In the rare case that a ligament has been torn, call 000 or have the student taken to the hospital for it to be reattached.

Fracture First Aid

A slip on the monkey bars can lead to a fractured arm. If this does happen, avoid moving the damaged area and make a splint or sling if possible. Treat any bleeding areas with disinfectant and bandages, and provide an ice pack to help with swelling, and provide psychological support too. 

Because a damaged bone is not easily seen, the student will likely have to be sent for an X-ray, so call their parents. If the bone is visibly broken, call emergency services at 000 and have the injured student hold still. The emergency services operator will be able to guide you through any other necessary actions to ensure you don’t make the situation worse.

First Aid for Asthma Attacks

Asthma attacks cause swelling and tightening of the airways that can make it hard to breathe. They can be caused by excessive exercise, pollution and interaction with animals, and require a special inhaler to be treated. If a student is having trouble breathing and has pale, bluish lips, have them stop any exercise and get their inhaler. 

The inhaler should be used one puff at a time, with four breathes after each puff. If the attack has not subsided after using the inhaler multiple times, emergency services may be needed.

Wrap Up

An attentive teacher will be able to notice unusual behaviour and help out when needed – whether that’s by applying first aid skills, or calling for expert medical help. So as a teacher, the best thing you can do is look out for causes for concern such as difficulty breathing and precarious situations. That will save you valuable time when dealing with an injured student so they can receive appropriate help straight away.Whilst it is policy for teachers to have a duty of care to their children during school hours, brushing up on these key health skills will help you off the playground too, as well as helping you and your students feel more confident that you know how to help them when you need to. And who knows? In the near future, our first aid-trained teachers may also come to play a vital role in providing first aid education for teenagers as well.

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