Festive First Aid – advice from St John Ambulance

Tis’ the season of Christmas parties, dinners, and drinking and we want you to stay safe during the holiday period.

Here’s some useful first aid advice to make sure that you have all the information you need, just in case you or somebody else runs into a medical emergency.

Cuts and grazes

With all the excitement in the air and all the presents to unwrap and open, it’s a common injury to get a cut or a graze, which can usually be treated at home. All you need to do is clean the cut or graze to reduce infection and apply pressure and raise the injury to stop the bleeding.

What to do

  • 1. Clean it under running cold water or with alcohol-free wipes.
  • 2. Pat it dry, cover with a sterile gauze or a clean, non-fluffy cloth.
  • 3. Raise and support the injury. Apply pressure to stop bleeding.
  • 4. Remove the cloth or gauze and apply a sterile dressing or large plaster.
  • 5. If there’s high risk of an infection or something in it, tell them to see a healthcare professional.



Children can get excited opening their gifts and may want to immediately play with their new toys. Young children are more likely to choke than adults because they often put small objects in their mouths.

What to do

Cough it out – Encourage them to cough it out. If that doesn’t work, try to slap it out.

Slap it out – If coughing doesn’t work:

  • • Help the child bend forward and use the heel of your hand to give up to five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades.
  • • Check their mouth to see if there’s anything in there. If there is, get them to pick it out themselves.

Squeeze it out – If the back blows don’t work, try giving them up to five abdominal thrusts:

  • • To do this, stand behind the child, making sure they are bending well forward.
  • • Link your hands between their tummy button and the bottom of their chest, with your lower hand clenched in a fist.
  • • Then pull sharply inwards and upwards.

If they are still choking call 999 or 112 for an ambulance.


Burns and scalds

Whilst keeping an eye on the Christmas dinner in the kitchen and entertaining friends and family, you need to be extra careful that you don’t burn yourself on a hot dish. But if you happen to get a burn or a scald, you need to be extra careful when treating them.

What to do

  • 1. Move the person away from the heat 
  • 2. Place the burn or scald under cool running water for 10 minutes minimum
  • 3. If the burn is to a child, larger than your hand, on the face, hands or feet, or is a deep burn, call 999.
  • 4. Remove jewellery and clothing around the area, unless stuck to the burn.
  • 5. Cover the burn loosely, lengthways with kitchen film to prevent infection
  • 6. Don’t burst blisters.
  • 7. Monitor and treat for shock if necessary.
  • 8. Tell them to seek medical advice.


Strains and sprains

If you and your family like to go on a post-Christmas dinner walk you need to be careful if the ground is icy and slippery. Strains and sprains are common injuries, which affect the soft tissues around joints. If someone does happen to slip over think RICE.

What to do

  • 1. Rest – help them to sit and support their injury in a comfortable raised position.
  • 2. Ice – apply something cold. Don’t leave it on for more than ten minutes.
  • 3. Comfortable support – wrap a soft layer of padding around the area. Tie a support bandage around it which goes up as far as the next joint on each side.
  • 4. Elevation – keep the injury raised on something soft.
  • 5. If the pain is severe send them to hospital. Otherwise, tell them to rest the injury.


The recovery positon

If someone is unresponsive and breathing then you need to turn them onto their side and into the recovery position, to keep their airway open so they can still breathe.

What you need to do

  • 1. Kneel down next to them on the floor.
  • 2. Place their arm nearest you at a right angle to their body, with their palm facing upwards.
  • 3. Take their other arm and place it across their chest so the back of their hand is against their cheek nearest you, and hold it there
  • 4. With your other hand, lift their far knee and pull it up until their foot is flat on the floor. Carefully pull on their bent knee and roll them towards you.
  • 5. Tilt their head back, gently tilt their chin forward and make sure that their airway will stay open and clear.
  • 6. If you think they could have a spinal injury, you must try to keep their neck straight and only move them if you have to, to keep their airway open. If you have a helper, one person should keep the head steady while the other person turns the casualty on to their side.
Merry Christmas from St John Ambulance

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