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Sepsis is responsible for 52,000 deaths in the UK each year. A distressing 250,000 people contract the condition, which can have life-changing implications. Many of these are unknown by most people – they range from fatigue and poor concentration through to PTSD, amputation and organ damage.

Why has sepsis been in the news?

Caught early, the outcome from sepsis is good. It is the delay in treatment that can lead to spiralling of the condition resulting in multi-organ failure and potential death. The Sepsis Trust claims that improved national awareness could save as many as 14,000 lives a year.

Sadly, the early symptoms are often easy to miss and often there is a delay in Emergency Services, GPs and hospital staff recognising the condition. This delay has major implications and often the window of opportunity when antibiotics can treat the sepsis, is missed.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis arises due to the body’s abnormal response to an infection. The immune system usually works to fight any germs (such as bacteria, viruses and fungi) and infection in the body. However, for reasons that are not fully understood, sepsis results in the immune system going into overdrive and attacking health organs and other tissues.

What damage does it cause?

This inflammation causes injury to the body’s tissues and organs. The initial, localised infection spreads into the blood stream and is circulated around the body spreading and increasing the damage. This life-threatening breakdown in circulation can lead to organs all over the body being affected, including the brain, lungs, heart, skin and kidneys.

What has septicaemia got to do with it?

Sepsis is sometimes referred to as septicaemia or blood poisoning. However, septicaemia is an old, now defunct term which implied there was something we could measure in the blood which indicated sepsis – this is not the case.  Sepsis is the preferred and more accurate term for the condition.

What causes sepsis?

Sepsis can be triggered by an infection in any part of the body. The most common causes of sepsis are the following;

  1. Pneumonia (or a chest infection),
  2. Urinary infections,
  3. Intra-abdominal infections (such as a burst ulcer or hole in the bowel),
  4. Skin infections (an infected cut or bite),
  5. A wound from trauma or surgery,
  6. Soft tissue infections (a leg ulcer for example).

Most cases are caused by common bacteria which wouldn’t normally induce illness. Trauma is responsible for 2-3% of reported cases.

Is it linked with meningitis?

Meningitis causes less than 1% of adult cases of sepsis. However, it is the cause in around 10% of cases in children.

Whilst most cases of meningitis are viral and therefore not life-threatening (or sepsis-inducing), a minority are bacterial infections and can lead to sepsis. Both conditions are serious and so it is important to be able to recognise common early signs and symptoms.

What is sepsis in more detail?

Sepsis is a massive reaction that damages blood flow all over the body. The immune system releases chemicals causing tiny blood vessels (capillaries) to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues. This causes inflammation which can ultimately lead to reduced blood flow to vital organs and organ damage.

The chemicals  damage the capillary walls, which leak even more, causing dangerously low blood pressure. Blood clots try to repair the damage, but many break loose, causing blockages and further impairing blood flow to tissues.

If the cellular metabolism is damaged in this way and blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels, the amount of blood and oxygen reaching the body’s organs is reduced and prevents them functioning properly. This is known as septic shock.

What needs to be improved nationally?

The Royal College of Nursing held a conference in May 2019 in which they stressed the need for an urgent dissemination of a national Paediatric Early Warning Score to improve identification of the signs of sepsis in children. Currently, between 1000 and 4000 children die each year from the condition. An adult symptoms checklist is already used by the NHS, but trusts use individual systems for children which results in an inconsistent and unreliable approach

A symptoms checklist for adults already exists but NHS trusts often use their own systems for children. The children’s checklist would help medics spot when a youngster is deteriorating through:

  1. Checking temperature,
  2. Heart rate,
  3. Respiration rate,
  4. Other signs, such as urination, skin colour and rash.

The Sepsis Trust claim that patients presenting early being around half as likely to die than those presenting late. This emphasises the importance of awareness.

The condition deteriorates in children far quicker, and therefore it is particularly important for those in childcaring positions to be fully informed of the signs and symptoms.

What would I feel like if I had sepsis?

  1. Flu-like symptoms are common,
  2. Chest infection or gastroenteritis type symptoms,
  3. Feverish and shivering – although sepsis can cause an abnormally high or low temperature.
  4. Rapid heartbeat,
  5. Quick breathing
  6. Feeling extremely unwell.

In more extreme cases, you may experience:

  • Dizziness,
  • Feel faint,
  • Disorientation and confusion,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Cold, clammy, pale or mottled skin.

In children:

  1. Fast breathing,
  2. Lethargic behaviour and fatigue,
  3. Mottled, bluish or pale skin,
  4. Fits or convulsions,
  5. Failure to pass urine,
  6. A rash that doesn’t fade when pressed – NEVER wait for a rash, it is often a very late sign and may not show at all.

Any baby or child under 5 years old who is not feeding, vomiting repeatedly or hasn’t had a wee or wet nappy for 12 hours, might have sepsis.

What do I need to remember?

If you think you have these symptoms, or feel that something isn’t right, seek urgent medical advice (e.g. call NHS 111 or go into hospital). It is vital that you trust your instincts and get help to fight the infection as fast as possible.

Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

Award-winning first aid training tailored to your needs – Please visit our site and learn more about our practical and online courses. It is vital to keep your skills current and refreshed.

It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit https://firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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Anxiety UK claim that 1 in 6 young people experience anxiety. At no time is this stress felt more than during the exam season.

As a parent, you want to ensure that you are well-equipped to support your child and reduce feelings of stress as much as possible. However, it is also reasonable and healthy for anyone to express a certain level of stress.

This article will talk you through the things you can do to prevent high levels of stress arising in your child, as well as how to recognise anxiety and how to help your teenager through it.

Remember, it is common for children and young people to feel stressed due to school or university work, especially during deadlines or exams. However, it is important to remember that schoolwork may not be the cause of their anxiety. Your child may feel increased anxiety if you assume that they are worrying about their academic results – so try not to make any assumptions about the cause. Once you have spoken to your child about their stress levels, then you can identify the causes together.


Preventative measures

It is advisable to be aware of steps you can take to reduce the chances of mounting stress in a child or teenager which becomes harmful.

1. Communication:

Encourage your son or daughter to talk to you about their concerns and worries. They don’t have to tell you everything about their life, but if they know they can rely on you for support and ‘debriefing’ that can be a huge relief. You may be able to take some of their burden if they feel they are experiencing a stressful situation, or you may be able to explain why a situation is not necessarily as stressful as the child is viewing it.

2. Energetic activities:

Not all children love sport, but if you can encourage your son or daughter to do some form of activity (swimming, running, tennis etc.) which gets their heart racing then that could be a good chance for them to relax and clear their mind. Regular exercise has been continually proven to promote physical and mental well-being.

3. Hobbies:

Enjoying a hobby such as yoga, art, photography or theatre are also ways to unwind and have a break from schoolwork, as well as to develop their passions and outside interests.

4. Environment:

If possible, ensure your child or teenager feels their bedroom is a safe space designed to help them relax, free from loud surrounding noise and threats. Ideally the bedroom should be an area just for sleeping in, rather than working in or watching TV in, though of course this is not possible for everyone and my teenagers have always preferred to work in their bedrooms.

5. Bedtimes & routine:

To make sure your child or teenager is getting enough sleep, try and stick to a fairly fixed and stable daily routine and encourage them to do the same. Going to bed at a similar time each night, perhaps after having had a mug of milk, can help with the body recognising the end of the day and supporting a healthy sleep pattern.  Encourage them to switch off and remove phones and any other distractions before going to bed.

6. Nutrition:

Eating healthily has also been linked to lower stress and anxiety levels. Try to get your children to eat five a day, plenty of whole grains (brown spaghetti, rice, bread etc.) and generally stick to a balanced diet free of processed foods. Rather than banning foodstuffs, ‘all things in moderation’ is a good motto to stick to. Keep blood sugar levels to a fairly stable rate in order to avoid dips in the day that could trigger depression and fatigue. Achieve this by avoiding sugary or caffeinated foods and drinks and by eating or drinking regularly.


Recognising stress

The symptoms of stress can be physical and/or mental. Your child may not recognise that they are stressed, so it is helpful if you can be on the lookout for the signs.

Physical signs can be:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Overactive bowels
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Increased or decreased appetite.

Mental and emotional signs can be:

  • Feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Low self-esteem
  • Racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions.


Helping your stressed child or teenager

Firstly, ask your child if they feel stressed. They may not like to admit it,  not realise they are stressed, or it could be something else altogether.


Suggest that you take a break, perhaps together. The break could be treating them to a hot chocolate in a café, or going for a short walk, or visiting a grandparent if you have the time. Whatever you chose, removing them from the stressful environment and talking on neutral ground is a good option.


Work together to make a plan on how to reduce their workload or solve the problem that they feel stressed about. Explain that stress is normal, but that it shouldn’t be overwhelming and that you want to support them so that they feel well enough to continue.


Recognising an anxiety disorder

You may not realise immediately that your child or teenager is suffering from anxiety. People experiencing anxious conditions may not realise themselves what they are going through.


Anxiety is often longer term than stress, though they are similar in many respects. Your child or teenager may be experiencing similar symptoms to those mentioned above, but on a long-term, regular basis possibly without a specific trigger. Or, they may be especially prone to regular anxious periods.


Symptoms that your child may have an anxiety condition:

  • The anxiousness they are experiencing is uncontrollable and long-lasting.
  • The child’s daily life (school, hobbies and socialising) is being affected – by avoidance, reluctance to participate or by a change in behaviour or motivation.
  • They have difficulty concentrating, feeling blank,
  • They are suffering muscle tensing (e.g. jaw clenching)
  • Your child is tired easily and often/seems unhappy
  • The symptoms described above are being experienced regularly.

If you suspect your child has Generalised Anxiety Disorder, your GP should be the first port of call. Anxiety conditions are treatable by medication which many find helpful. However, there are also many other ways to cope with long-term feelings of anxiety that don’t involve medication.

Coping Mechanisms

If your child has a disorder, or is experiencing a period of anxiety or stress, the following are some wonderful things you can encourage them to do to reduce their stress levels.

1. Breathing exercises

These could be done whilst stretching, in a yoga class, or using a mindfulness resource, or just on your own.

2. Taking regular physical exercise

This doesn’t have to be strenuous, but it’s good to gain some endorphins and release some adrenaline.

3. Keeping a diary

Releasing and evaluating your thoughts and feelings can be a good way to see them in perspective. Or it can be a way to keep track of your emotions and to spot triggers and causes for certain feelings or behaviours. The act of writing down your worries can be therapeutic in itself. If your child doesn’t like writing, suggest they try talking to someone else regularly – a friend or family member.

4. Keeping stable blood sugar levels

This should avoid any sudden energy dips that can increase feelings of depression and anxiety.

5. Getting enough sleep.

This, again, helps avoid fatigue and heightened symptoms resulting from lack of energy.

Panic attacks

Panic attacks can have many medical and emotional triggers, including severe stress, with women twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with panic disorder – which is classified as repeated and unexpected panic attacks.


How to help your child with an panic attack


  1. Stay calm
  2. Gently let them know what you think is happening and remind them you are here for them.
  3. Practise breathing exercises with them: counting, or asking them to watch whilst you raise and lower your arm can be calming.
  4. Encourage them to stamp their feet to release some tension.
  5. Encourage them to sit down.

Don’t pressure them to ‘feel better’ immediately or to calm down. Allow them to take their time.

Don’t instantly use logic or rationale to dispel their fears – this can increase their anxiety. Remember, the child isn’t choosing to be anxious. 

Ask them about their experience of worry and anxiety.

Find out more about anxiety on Mind.com or at Anxiety UK to show them that you recognise they are suffering and want to help as actively as possible.

Be patient and loving.

Written by Emma Hammett, CEO of First Aid for Life


Book a first aid course now – the skills you learn could equip you with the knowledge to save your child’s life! https://www.firstaidforlife.org.uk


First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning fully regulated and Ofqual approved first aid training company. www.onlinefirstaid.com are the leading UK online first aid training providers to allow you to learn these vital skills when it suits you


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Who was Edith Cavell?

Cavell is the Florence Nightingale you may not have heard of.

She bravely treated soldiers of all nationalities during the First World War. This was in an era before charities such as Medicins Sans Frontieres existed and was during a time of intense nationalism and discrimination, possibly intensified by the War.

She was also part of an undercover mission from her Belgian hospital in which she courageously helped Allied soldiers to safety. This eventually got her executed and shot by firing squad.

Her story is fascinating and inspiring. Cavell is an unsung hero of the British nursing tradition.

Early history

Cavell was born in 1865 near Norwich, Norfolk. She initially worked in Belgium as a Governess but returned to her home village when her father became ill.

She was a devoted home carer, nursing him back to health. After doing so, she decided to formally train to become a nurse. Cavell trained at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel under Matron Eva Luckes – a friend of Florence Nightingale!

Cavell served in a number of British Hospitals before being invited back to Belgium to nurse a sick child. Here, she was invited to become Matron in the very first Belgian Nursing School.  

Cavell became a leading pioneer in Belgian healthcare. She trained nurses in their profession,

In 1914 Cavell immediately returned from a family visit in England back to Belgium. Although she could have stayed in England, further away from the frontline, she explained that ‘at a time like this, I am needed more than ever’.

World War One

Cavell is best known for her work during World War One. Both the courage and impartiality she demonstrated in treating soldiers of all nationalities during this time are truly inspirational.

Cavell cared for all the wounded, regardless of nationality. This was unheard of in such times. She received a huge amount of criticism by many British who disapproved of her assisting German and Austrian soldiers (who were the ‘enemies’).

Cavell stated, ‘I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone’ in 1915.

Arrest and execution

After the German’s invasion of Brussels, the nursing school became a Red Cross hospital. It continued to treat Belgians, but also casualties from both sides of the war.  She happened across two wounded British soldiers, she treated them and then helped to smuggle them across the border into Holland.

Following this, Cavell became an integral part of a whole network of people who sheltered Allied and Belgian soldiers. In 11 months, it is estimated that she saved over 200 British, French and Belgian soldiers. These wounded soldiers were initially given shelter in the hospital and then helped across the border into neutral Holland.

On 9 August 1915 she was arrested by the Germans charged with ‘assisting men of the enemy’. She was tried with 34 co-conspirators and was sentenced to death for treason. She was executed on 12 October 1915.

Her body was transported back to Britain and a memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey. She became a symbol of the Allied cause.

Nurses today

From her legacy, the Cavell Trust has been created. This Trust provides support to nurses and other medical professionals.

Help has been required more urgently in recent times. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of calls to the Cavell Trust doubled. A Cavell Trust report revealed that nursing staff were also twice as likely to be unable to afford basic necessities than the average person.

In addition, it found more than two in five nurses had a physical or mental health condition that was expected to last longer than a year.

Clearly, more support for nurses is required. There are many ways you can support nurses, not least through the Cavell Trust itself.

One hundred years after the War, Edith Cavell symbolises the bravery and tolerance which the nursing profession is so well known for.

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You are 6 times more likely to be seriously disabled than die, following an injury or illness

The article that follows is a personal story, illustrating how the unexpected can suddenly happen and turn everyone’s life upside down. Injuries and illnesses can hit at any time. Yet there are some advance measures that can be taken to smooth the way for those trying to cope in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Penelope, a personal story

My sister, Penelope, was the heart of her immediate and extended family and life and soul of the village she lived in, until one evening, returning from her Macmillan Nursing shift, she had a catastrophic car accident, leaving her severely brain damaged. She and I had both trained as nurses and often discussed how awful it would be to be left in the state of some of our patients. She was adamant it wasn’t going to happen to her! However, it had: and in the absence of her having made a Living Will, there was nothing I, her husband, or the medical team, could do to help her.

At the beginning there was hope; the prognosis from health experts was grim, but friends continually offered us misplaced assurances that they had read numerous books where the unconscious heroine woke up from their unconscious slumber 100% okay.

In the early days, I went to the hospital as often as I could and I was helping to bathe her a few weeks after the operation, when she suddenly opened her eyes. We were convinced this was the turning point, but there was no life in her eyes and my sister no longer appeared to be there. From this point it was a long slow process of rehabilitation. She was transferred to another unit in Oxford – a major trek for her loving husband and family. It was a desperately traumatic time for everyone, particularly as she was so totally helpless and some of her care was not entirely as we would have wished.

Eventually, months after the accident, she was allowed home some weekends, so long as there was a nurse present to help with some of her suction and more invasive care. Her daughter had just qualified as a nurse and I was around and so between us we were able to help Pen come home. Those days are harrowing and blurry, but we still had hope that my wonderful sister would return and she would be back to being the fabulous wife and mother that she had been previously.

My brother-in-law re-arranged his life around my sister’s care. My niece got married and moved with her husband to come and live back at home to care for her mum. They had to re-organise the house to enable someone in a wheelchair to gain access to her bedroom, bathroom, the kitchen and living room. Her youngest child was 11, just starting secondary school and he and his brothers and sister were catapulted into a totally new way of coping with life. There were occasional glimpses of the old Pen, but the majority of time there was someone who needed 24-hour care and support. The hopes and companionship were dashed and everyone re-adjusted to a new way of living.

There was never a suitable time to grieve for the old Pen and the life she should have been enjoying.

You never would have registered a catastrophe of such magnitude had happened in the house. Everything appeared to continue as planned. My brother-in-law took my sister on holiday with him every year – even to Venice in her wheelchair. He wasn’t able to share a single memory with her, so recorded everything on video so we could all share it with him when he returned. No one could have given her better care than her husband and daughter. They had some help, but ultimately the 24 hour responsibility was theirs.

The early improvement that we had seen when my sister first returned home, then plateaued and over the years she became more difficult, incontinent, heavier, uncooperative and considerably harder to care for. My niece had two small children and any parent struggling to get children up and out, will be incredulous how my niece managed to get her mother up, bathed, change her bed and sort her out and get her children up and ready and to school on time. It wasn’t easy and some days my niece said she would wake up and cry at the sheer effort, exhaustion and monotony of being a carer. She NEVER complained and neither did her incredible husband.

When my niece was pregnant with her third child, her brother had a horrendous trampolining accident, paralysing him from the chest downwards. After considerable rehabilitation, he came back to live at home and my niece was now responsible for two paraplegics with very different needs and capabilities.

They carried on for a few more years but it was becoming too much. My sister was getting increasingly difficult to help and finally my niece and brother-in-law made the incredibly difficult and unbelievably guilt-ridden decision that after 18 years at home, the best place for my sister was in long term care.

One in (six) million

This is one story amongst 6.5 million carers. Some of these carers are spouses of others with Alzheimer’s, serious disabilities and degenerative conditions. People don’t generally choose to be carers, or those cared for – but it happens.

Becoming a carer

Often the caring role gradually increases, sometimes it is a result of a sudden illness, injury or accident that turns everyone’s life upside down. It can be hugely rewarding caring for someone, but can also be hard work, demoralising and isolating. The person you are caring for, may be fundamentally mentally or emotionally changed by their situation and in some cases may not recognise you at all. This can be even tougher!

People often have to up-sticks and live in new locations. They have to leave their jobs and lose their friends. Their spontaneity has gone and they are often trapped in their house as the cared for person cannot be left. I am sure we all know people for whom this is the case.

Advanced planning can go a small way to help in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. Consider too, what happens if the carer becomes incapacitated or dies…

What can society do to help? Any one of us could suddenly become carers/cared for in an instant!

Talk to each other – let those closest to you know what you would like to happen in the event you are unable to make your own decisions.


Write a Last Will and Living Testament – This makes everything so much simpler for everyone in the event of your death. Your wishes are clearly documented and there is a witnessed record as to how you want things to be, should you no longer be here.


Set up a Lasting Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that enables your next of kin to act on your behalf should you be incapacitated or even abroad and wish to empower them to make decisions or payments on your behalf. This is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian OPG. You can appoint more than one trusted friend or member of your family to be your attorneys and they can act jointly or independently. Their mandate is to always act in your best interests.

It means they can access your bank accounts, pay bills and keep going with the normality of life whilst coping with the disaster that has befallen you. Without this, they will need to go through a legal process to achieve this.


Ensure your next of kin can access your finances and your passwords – It is all very well, having established a Power of Attorney, but if they don’t have your account details that will be another hurdle to get over.

Store passwords, bank access details…extremely safely and securely, but accessibly for you, your partner or next of kin in case of an emergency – let them know where this information is kept and do not save a copy on your computer in case it is hacked.

It is sensible to store partial bank details in two different places eg – details and passwords in one place and details and usernames in another.

The same goes for your Will and any other important financial and legal documentation – ensure the key decision makers will know where to find this information.


Write a Living Will or Advance Decision Making Document – this is a document outlining your wishes should you become incapacitated and unable to articulate for yourself. It can cover elements such as your wish not to be resuscitated, to receive active treatment, be tube fed, specific advice on organ donation and any other instructions or wishes should you find yourself unable to speak for yourself.

Life Cover

If you can afford to do so, make financial provision/take out life cover to pay out if you do need care. Unfortunately, this cover is often at a ridiculous premium.

Just remember, you are over 6 times more likely to be incapacitated than die following an injury or illness – life is precious, live it to the full, but none of us are invincible, so make plans to make things a little easier your loved ones in your absence.



Written by Emma Hammett, CEO of First Aid for Life

Book a first aid course now – the skills you learn could equip you with the knowledge to save your child’s life! https://www.firstaidforlife.org.uk

First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning fully regulated and Ofqual approved first aid training company. www.onlinefirstaid.com are the leading UK online first aid training providers to allow you to learn these vital skills when it suits you

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Your Baby Weaning Plan

Weaning your baby from breast milk or formula to solid foods can be a daunting process. Creating a baby weaning plan is the first step and you will want to ensure that you feel confident in keeping your baby safe from harm whilst introducing the infant to solid foods. The top fear among parents, discovered by Weaning Week’s survey of a full four hundred adults, is the risk of choking.

This is not without cause.

24 babies choke to death each year in England and Wales. It is in fact the third most common cause of death for babies.

Whilst you shouldn’t be alarmed, you should equip yourself with as much information as possible in order to reduce the chances of choking. You should also learn how to help if your baby does choke. You should make sure you’re aware of the signs of choking, which are different to the signs of gagging.

According to a survey by St John Ambulance, 40% of parents have witnessed their own baby choke, yet over 80% of these parents had no idea what to do in such a situation. This is an alarming statistic, especially when you consider that an average of 34 children are treated in hospital for choking on food every day.

The following is a comprehensive guide that should keep you and your baby safe.

A learning process

Even though eating solids is natural and instinctive behaviour to us, it is – like walking – a process that babies must learn gradually. It can be helpful to remember that your baby is learning to regulate the amount of food they can chew and swallow at a time.


Gagging is part of the weaning learning curve for babies. Don’t be alarmed if your baby is gagging, it is a normal reflex as they learn to eat solids and liquids. The physical effect of gagging is to:

  1. Bring the food back into the mouth;
  2. Chew it further;
  3. Consume it once more but in a smaller amount.

Although it may seem alarming, gagging is actually a safety mechanism designed to prevent choking.

It happens whether you follow the spoon-fed weaning method or baby-led weaning.

The signs are:

  • Watering eyes
  • Tongue hanging out of the mouth
  • Retching movements or even vomiting.

Gagging can be caused by an overload of food, a dislike of the taste of food, or some babies even gag on their own fingers just to see how far they can put things in their mouths. Babies also gag on liquids as they learn the rhythm of sucking.

Gagging is often a noisy affair. It can be frustrating to see the food you’ve prepared for your baby be spat and retched out, but do remember that this is a normal and healthy part of the weaning process.


Choking occurs when food blocks the airway, rather than going down the oesophagus – it goes down the breathing tube, rather than the food one! Usually when we eat or drink and swallow – the epiglottis covers the top of the trachea (wind pipe) and stops food from entering it. Sometimes, particularly if talking, laughing or crying whilst eating, the flap of the epiglottis is unable to protect the trachea and enables food to enter.

The body’s reflex if this happens is to cough, to eject the food. However, if the airway becomes completely blocked the person is unable to cough and is silent. This is extremely serious and without help, they could die.

To prevent chokings:

  1. Cut food into very small pieces.
  2. Puree or blend foods, especially at the beginning of the weaning process.
  3. Discourage older children from sharing food with babies.
  4. Supervise children and babies when eating together.
Meal planner

These tips will help you prepare safe meals for your baby. There are many online meal planners you can use to help you feed your baby both healthily and safely.

  1. Cut small round foods (grapes, cherry tomatoes) into small pieces. Sticks or batons rather than circles is a good rule to follow.
  2. Peel fruit, vegetables and sausages.
  3. Remove pips or stones from fruit.
  4. Remove bones from meat or fish.
  5. Avoid hard foods such as raw carrot, apple, whole nuts and peanuts.

Ensure your baby is sitting up in their high chair and always supervise their meal times.

Choking – the signs

Babies have sensitive gag reflexes and often appear to struggle when trying new food textures and this can be frightening. The majority of the time they manage to clear the obstruction themselves, repositioning them with their head lower than their body can help.

Keep as calm as you can as babies quickly pick up on panic and this can make things worse. If they are able to cough, encourage them to do so. If they are quiet and struggling to breathe, help immediately.

Choking – how to help
  1. Stay as calm as you can.
  2. If they are able to cough, reposition them to see if they can clear it themselves.
  3. Have a quick look in the baby’s mouth and carefully remove anything obvious. NEVER blindly sweep inside the baby’s mouth with your fingers as it can cause damage and push the obstruction further down.
  4. Lay the baby downwards across your forearm, supporting under their chin.
  5. With your hand hit the baby up to 5 times firmly between their shoulder blades
  6. Check after each back blow to see if the obstruction has cleared
  7. If still choking; lay the baby on its back across your knees, head downwards. Place two fingers in the centre of their chest at the nipple line, and give up to?five, firm upward chest thrusts.
  8. If the baby is still choking, call 999/112 and continue giving baby?five back blows, alternated with five chest thrusts, until help arrives

If the baby becomes unconscious start CPR immediately.

First aid courses

Attending a first aid course will mean you can let your children develop and flourish, experiencing inevitable minor bumps and bruises, with peace of mind that you have the knowledge and skills to recognise and help if something is more seriously wrong.

Basic first aid can mean the difference between life and death and can massively affect the extent of your child’s recovery, the amount of pain they’re in and how long they need to be in hospital. Prompt first aid can even lead to someone recovering completely without the need for medical intervention at all!

Many parents book onto our courses when they’re pregnant, some wait until their babies have arrived and still more are prompted when they start weaning. The advice is to gain these skills as soon as you can and feel confident knowing that you are able to recognise if something is seriously wrong and know how to help. Parents can book on as individuals, arrange a group course at a time and place to suit them, or learn at work. Training should be refreshed regularly to ensure the information is current and fresh in your mind in case you need to jump into action. Refreshers can be practical or online. The most important message is not to let yourself be in the position of wishing you had known what to do.

First Aid for Life have a free first aid course for choking, click here to access it.


Written by Emma Hammett, CEO of First Aid for Life

Book a first aid course now – the skills you learn could equip you with the knowledge to save your child’s life! https://www.firstaidforlife.org.uk

First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning fully regulated and Ofqual approved first aid training company. www.onlinefirstaid.com are the leading UK online first aid training providers to allow you to learn these vital skills when it suits you

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The largest cause of hearing loss is age-related damage to the inner ear. The second biggest cause of hearing loss however is exposure to loud noise. Loud noises can come from a wide range of sources ­– unwanted and wanted – but both can jeopardise your hearing if it is at hazardous levels.


Unwanted noise includes machinery at work, power tools at home, noise from transport such as the London Underground and airplane take off. Desired noise includes listening to loud music such either via head phones or at live concerts, motorbike racing such as Formula 1, or shooting for sport.

In general, a noise could be loud enough to damage your hearing if it entails you raising your voice in order to talk to other people or you can’t hear what people are saying even when they are close by. Or if it hurts your ears or you experience ringing in your ears or muffled hearing afterwards.

Measuring noise

Noise exposure is dependent on two main things – the volume of the noise which is measured in decibels (dB) and the duration of the exposure to that noise.

The louder the noise the greater the risk of hearing loss.

To get an idea of how loud common noises are, look at this noise gauge:

  • whispering – 30dB
  • conversation – 60dB
  • busy traffic – 70 to 85dB
  • motorbike – 90dB
  • listening to music on full volume through headphones – 100 to 110dB
  • plane taking off – 120dB
  • balloon pop 157dB
  • shot gun 170dB
Dangerous decibels

Under 85dB sounds are safe to listen to and you don’t need to use any hearing protection. These include sounds such as: electric toothbrush, electric shaver, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, doorbell, pop up toaster and flushing toilet.

Noises above 85dB include a leaf blower, handsaw, power saw, motorcycle, noisy restaurant, disco or heavy traffic. 85dB is the threshold level at which your hearing can become damaged over time.

Over 110dB hearing loss can occur with regular exposure to noise levels of 110 dB or more, for periods of longer than one minute. These sounds include: a crying baby, a squeaky toy held close to the ear, ambulance siren, a rock concert or symphony concert or a football game.

At risk


For example, in the average nightclub – which plays music at 100dB – you’re at risk of hearing damage after just 15 minutes if you don’t use earplugs to protect your ears.

Even a very short exposure time to sounds such as pneumatic drills or chain saws (sounds of 110–120dB) can cause hearing damage.


Exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. If noise is the suspected cause, this is termed noise-induced hearing loss.

Loud noises can damage the hair cells in your cochlea, resulting in a hearing loss at certain frequencies. When exposed to too much loud noise, these super-sensitive sound-sensing hair cells become over stimulated, tired and eventually, just stop responding.

This is a temporary hearing loss. After a break, the hair cells can recover. However, if loud noises continue, the hair cells cease being able to recover and die. This can result in permanent hearing loss.


Even when hearing loss is temporary, it should act as a warning signal, indicating that permanent damage is possible if this exposure continues.


Such hearing loss makes it harder to pick up softer sounds and increase difficulty in hearing speech, particularly when there is background noise.


Symptoms of damage

For some people, an experience of tinnitus is the first sign their hearing has suffered noise damage. Tinnitus describes hearing sounds – such as ringing or buzzing in one or both ears – that doesn’t come from an external source.

Tinnitus can affect all ages – even children can get it – although it is more common in older adults. Around 1 in 10 adults in the UK have tinnitus all the time or frequently.

Some people have tinnitus for a short time that is triggered by listening to loud music, or because of congestion due to a cold.

If you find yourself unable to hear properly or have ringing in your ears which continues for several hours after an event, it shows you’ve been exposed to noise sufficiently loud to damage your ears.

However, others may not notice the effects of noise-induced hearing loss until years after being exposed to the loud noise.


What the law does to protect your ears


Noise at work


Your employer should make sure that you have hearing protection if you work in a noisy environment such as manufacturing or construction, or if you need to listen to noise through headphones or earpieces.

Employers have a legal duty to protect your hearing under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) and make sure you are not exposed to excessively loud noise.

Your employer must assess the noise levels and keep records of the assessment.

Once noise exposure reaches 80 decibels (dB), your employer is legally bound to take action.

If the noises you are exposed to are loud enough to be damaging, you should be issued with hearing protection. You must wear this hearing protection if it is issued.

As a rule of thumb, if you have to shout to communicate with someone who is two metres away, the noise levels could be hazardous and an assessment is needed.

The HSE website has further information of noise at work, plus noise calculators to work out how to stay within the safe exposure range: http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/index.htm


What you can do to protect your ears
  • If the level of sound hurts your ears, you should leave the venue or stop the activity creating the noise.
  • If you need to shout to someone two metres away to be heard it suggest noise levels could be hazardous.
  • If removing yourself from the source of noise isn’t possible, take frequent breaks to give your ears a chance to recover.
Invest in proper hearing protection


If you know are going to be in a noisy environment – such as watching Formula 1 or attending a concert – consider wearing hearing protection such as good quality earplugs or ear defenders to reduce the intensity of the noise.

Plugging your ears with cotton wool is not effective.

Specially-moulded earplugs are available to buy which don’t muffle sound but make it quieter and much safer, making them suitable for professional musicians and keen clubbers.

There are many different types available, from the inexpensive to the custom-made. Some audiology departments can make these so ask them for more details.

Limit your time

When listening to music through either earbuds or headphones, limit the time and volume of your exposure to noise.

Follow the 60/60 rule: never turn your volume up past 60%, and limit listening with earbuds to sixty minutes each day.


Noise-cancelling headphones

These come in two types:

Passive noise cancelling headphones: these don’t use a power source or battery to block out sound, instead they rely on thick padding which acts as soundproofing to physically block the sound. These are the headphones used during clay pigeon shooting for example where the loud noise is intermittent.

Active noise cancelling headphones use technology to add an additional level of active noise, cancelling, effectively blocking out background noise such as the sound of planes, trains and buses when travelling, or colleagues in an office if you are trying to work. An additional advantage of these is you don’t have to increase the volume to hazardous levels to hear your music over any background noise.

Protecting your ears when listening to personal music
  • Take regular breaks of at least five minutes every hour to give your ears a rest.
  • Turn the volume down slightly. This will extend the amount of time you can safely listen for. Use a volume limiter so you don’t raise the volume without realising it.


Protecting your ears at gigs, clubs and festivals
  • Carry earplugs with you on a night out. Use them.
  • Stay away from the speakers. Proximity to the speaker increases your risk of hearing damage.
  • Take regular breaks, such as in the chill out zones, to give your ears a rest.
  • Try to limit alcohol intake and stay well hydrated. Both alcohol and dehydration can make your hair cells in the cochlea more susceptible to damage.
Protecting children’s ears
  • It’s important to look after your child’s hearing from an early age. Their ears can be more sensitive than adults.
  • If your child is crying or complaining because of a loud noise, it could be because it’s hurting their ears.
  • As their ears are still growing, earplugs may not be suitable ear protectors, so opt for ear defenders that are specifically designed for children instead.

Further information here: https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearing-health/hearing-loss-and-deafness/types-and-causes/noise-induced-hearing-loss/


Written by Emma Hammett

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

First Aid for Life is an award-winning first aid training business providing practical and online first aid courses tailored to your needs.

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In a recent survey from the British Heart Foundation, they found that 1 in 3 adults would not know how to help someone if they were unconscious and not breathing. 96% of them would call an ambulance, but the vast majority would not have a clue to help whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

The UK survival rates radically lag behind the rest of Europe. It is hoped that adding first aid to the curriculum in English Schools will help. However, the key development is that more people undertake some form of practical or online first aid training and are able to start CPR as soon as possible if someone collapses and stops breathing.

When to give CPR

In the UK alone, approximately 30,000 people suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest each year. Effective bystander CPR and use of defibrillator can more than double a casualty’s chance of survival. If someone is unconscious and not breathing it is imperative that you open their airway and commence CPR as quickly as possible. If you have access to a Defibrillator (AED), you should deploy that as quickly as possible and call for an ambulance.

If the casualty is unconscious but they are still breathing, you should put them into the recovery position and monitor them closely to make sure they continue to breathe.

Click here to learn how to put someone into the recovery position.

How to give CPR Adult

If an adult has a Cardiac Arrest they generally retain 3 or 4 minutes worth of residual oxygenated blood in their system. If someone is pushing hard and fast on their chest, to pump that blood round their body, this can keep their heart and lungs supplied with oxygenated blood for a few minutes and buy them some time.

However, after 3 or 4 minutes (without being given breaths) they will start to run out of oxygenated blood. Therefore, to keep the casualty oxygenated and give them the best chance the casualty should also receive breaths:

• Place the heel of your hand on the centre of the person’s chest, then place the other hand on top and press down by 5-6cm at a steady rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
• After every 30 chest compressions, give two rescue breaths.
• Sufficient breaths should be given to inflate the chest.
• Deploy a defibrillator as quickly as possible.


Children are more likely to have experienced a respiratory arrest and they are also unable to retain oxygen in their system with the same efficiency as adults. Therefore, when resuscitating a child, they should initially receive 5 rescue breaths – tilt their head and lift their chin to open their airway and then breathe into them sufficiently for their chest to rise.

This should be followed by 30 chest compressions, pushing down on the chest by about a third and pushing hard and fast.

Get an ambulance on the way and then continue: 2 breaths: 30 compressions….

Click to read full article on adult and child CPR and for information on why it is so important that you give breaths and well as compressions

What to do if your baby is unconscious and not breathing

As with the adult and child advice; first check Danger, Response, open their Airway and check for Breathing – If you think they are not breathing properly (less than 2 breaths in a 10 second period), start CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation)

Tilt the head and lift the chin to horizontal and give up to 5 rescue breaths
Carefully tilt the head and lift the chin to roughly a horizontal position to take the tongue off the back of the airway then give 5 rescue breaths to re-oxygenate them. Babies and children are much more likely to have had a breathing problem first resulting in a respiratory arrest – their heart will stop later.

• Seal your mouth around their mouth and nose (if you can fit your mouth over both) and blow into them gently with a puff of your cheeks (their lungs are about the size of a teabag – so don’t breathe too hard).
• If they start to gurgle when you breathe into them, briefly turn them onto their side and empty any vomit from their mouth, before continuing with the breaths.

Push down by a third of their depth with two thumbs or fingers
Push hard and fast on the centre of their chest – roughly between the nipples at a rate of about 120 beats per minute – roughly 2 per second
After about 30 compressions…you will need to give them 2 more breaths and then continue with the compressions again. 30:2:30:2:30:2…

Keep going

When you push on the chest – you are being the heart
When you breathe into them – you are being the lungs

If you are on your own, you should perform 1 minute’s CPR before phoning for an ambulance (5 breaths, 30:2, 30:2 is about a minute). Continue until the paramedics arrive.

For full article click here  on how to help an unconscious baby.

Why defibrillators save lives

It is vital that anyone who is unconscious and not breathing, receives immediate and appropriate treatment, CPR and a defibrillator. Frighteningly figures from the British Heart Foundation show that only one in ten victims survive.
Our survival rate is considerably lower than that in Scandinavian Counties where there is a far higher importance paid to the education and training of school children and the general population to ensure they are sufficiently skilled and equipped to be able to help immediately someone collapses.
Defibrillators (AEDs), combined with effective CPR, save lives.
If someone collapses and is unconscious and not breathing, their chances of survival in the community are only about 6%. However, if they receive quality CPR and a defibrillator is deployed within 3 minutes and they are in a schockable rhythm, the chances of survival jump to 74%.
Every minute’s delay giving CPR and defibrillation reduces a victim’s survival rate by 7 to 10 per cent and therefore, quick action is absolutely vital, as without immediate treatment, 90-95 per cent of cardiac arrests prove fatal.

What should you do if you witness someone having a sudden cardiac arrest?

• Call 999 – or ideally get someone else to make the call and report back to you. You can also put the phone on speaker so you can start CPR without delay.
• Start CPR
• Get someone to locate a defibrillator (AED) and bring it to you immediately.
• If you are using a defibrillator on a child, ideally you will use paediatric pads, or the paediatric setting. If there is no setting and only adult pads – you can use one pad on the front of their chest and one on the back for children over the age of one.
• If there are no paediatric pads and no special setting and the child is under 1 year, keep doing CPR and get advice from the paramedics – they will usually advise you not to use the defibrillator.

With any luck, there will be one near you. For maximum accessibility, they are most common in public places such as train, but and tube stations, shopping centres, airports, dentists, GP Practices and leisure centres there are apps such as Heartsafe which can help locate the nearest AED.

Defibrillators are extremely easy to use and you cannot do any harm to an unconscious casualty by using one. If someone is unconscious and not breathing they need your assistance fast.

Defibrillators talk to you and give you clear instructions what to do. It is necessary to be giving good quality CPR in addition to using the defibrillator.

It is vital to act fast.

Only 40 per cent of bystanders in the UK who witness a cardiac arrest perform CPR

Research by the British Heart Foundation reveal that that only four in ten bystanders performed CPR, and that 62 per cent of British adults admitted to being worried about what to do if someone collapsed in front of them after suffering cardiac arrest.

Defibrillators make all the difference following sudden cardiac arrest, but more still needs to be done to increase awareness.

It is strongly advised that you complete an online or attend a practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Visit www.FirstAidforLife.org.uk, OnlineFirstAid.com or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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There are many different triggers for asthma attacks and most asthmatics are well aware of their trigger points, although they may not always be able to avoid them.

Pollen and pollution are increasingly responsible for asthma triggers and many people find a worsening of their symptoms in spring combined with the onset of hay fever.

Hay fever and asthma

Hay fever can increase your risk of an asthma attack. In fact 80% of asthma sufferers say hay fever triggers their asthma symptoms.


This is because hay fever causes your already inflamed airways to swell up even further, leaving you breathless. Plus your increasingly inflamed and sensitised airways are more likely to react to further triggers.

Hay fever and histamine

For many people with asthma, the release of histamine triggered by hay fever can increase their asthma symptoms.  Therefore, hay fever can increase asthma symptoms or trigger an asthma attack in asthma sufferers.

Key steps to reduce the likelihood of an attack: Take your asthma medication

If you are asthmatic and have a pollen allergy, ensure you have your asthma medication with you at all times. Particularly your blue reliever inhaler.

But also take your hay fever medicine

Research has shown that asthma sufferers who also have hay fever can significantly reduce their risk of needing to go to A&E if they treat their hay fever effectively.


Antihistamines will reduce your sensitivity to the histamine released by your body in response to the pollen.

If you are taking Fexofenadine ensure you are not taking them with orange juice or grapefruit as this can dramatically reduce the efficacy of your medication.

Read our full article on how grapefruit affects your medication here: https://onlinefirstaid.com/grapefruit-danger/

Some antihistamine medications become less effective after continued use. If one antihistamine is not working for you, speak with your pharmacist and try alternatives to see if others work better.

Be careful taking antihistamines that can cause drowsiness.

Many of the same antihistamine medication is marketed by different drug companies, look carefully at the generic name of the medication and you may find it is possible to buy the identical medication much cheaper as a generic brand. Ask your pharmacist to help and advise.

When does hay fever season start?


People can begin to suffer from hay fever as pollen is released from trees as early as February, birch pollen is often an early culprit and from specific weeds as late as September. There are many species of grasses, trees and weeds in the UK. Some sufferers are particularly sensitive to certain species yet don’t react to others. There is also huge variation around the country as to when pollen is released. Plus our very changeable weather means it is hard to predict when pollen season starts. However, as a general guide:

Grass pollens are the most common cause of hay fever, being the trigger for 95% of people’s hay fever. It usually affects people in May, June and July. Birch tree pollen about 20% of people with hay fever are allergic to birch tree pollen and this as well as oak and plane trees, are responsible for many unpleasant symptoms and can exacerbate asthma. Weed pollens such as nettles and docks usually release pollen from early spring to early autumn. Working our your pollen triggers

To work out which pollen sets off your hay fever, make a note of any days when your symptoms are bad. Then you can use a pollen calendar to work out which pollen you are allergic to and find out when it is released. Look at the pollen chart here:

If you already know which pollen triggers you?

If you know pollen is a trigger for your asthma, speak to your GP or asthma nurse who can give additional support and advice to help you manage your asthma at this time.

Alcohol may make your symptoms worse

Alcohol contains histamine that is also released as part of the body’s reaction to allergies. It is therefore strongly suggested that alcohol can increase the sensitivity of the body to pollen and other allergens. It is advisable to avoid alcohol if you have a prone to allergic reactions or are asthmatic. Particularly if you are experiencing a worsening of your asthma or hay fever.



Prepare for pollen season

If you regularly get hay fever, start taking antihistamines up to four weeks before you normally get symptoms.

Remember a steroid nasal spray can take up to two weeks to start working, so start using it before your personal pollen trigger is released.

  How can you treat a pollen allergy?


The best treatment is to avoid the allergen, but pollen is extremely difficult to avoid. To reduce your exposure to pollen you can:

  • stay indoors on dry, windy days
  • ask others do the gardening during peak pollen seasons
  • keep doors and windows closed when you know pollen counts are due to be high
Simple steps to cut your asthma risk

Take these 3 simple steps to cut your asthma risk when you have hay fever

  1. Carry your reliever inhaler every day

Reliever inhalers ease your symptoms on the spot – but only for a short period of time. For long term control, use your preventer inhaler to dampen the responsiveness of your airways to allergies.

  1. Take your preventer inhaler as prescribed

Preventer inhalers reduce sensitivity and swelling in your airways, reducing the incidence of wheezing and coughing. Take it consistently to get the most effective results.

  1. Treat hay fever symptoms take hay fever medication, including nasal steroids, anti-histamines or anti-inflammatory eye-drops.
Finding the right treatment for you


There are plenty of different options to treat hay fever but you need to find ones that suit you. Talk to your GP, asthma nurses or ask your pharmacist.

If you have hay fever and asthma and begin to feel:

  • wheezy
  • breathless
  • coughing more than usual
  • that you need to use your reliever inhaler three times a week or more

it could be that the hay fever is making your asthma unstable. Talk to your asthma nurse or GP as soon as possible.

Start treatment quickly to get on top of your symptoms and reduce your risk of an asthma attack and seek further medical advice.

Read our article on Asthma and why spring can make it harder to control here: https://onlinefirstaid.com/asthma-why-spring-harder-control/

Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

Award-winning first aid training tailored to your needs

It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit https://firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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Every summer there are well-publicised campaigns about the dangers of allowing babies and children to overheat in cars or buggies during the summer months. Overheating in this way has even been implicated as a contributory factor SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

This article will provide clear information to enable you to make the best decisions in protecting your baby from sun and heat.

Is it safe for my baby to go out in the sun?

Whilst babies are under six months old, they are advised to be kept out of strong direct sunlight. Babies’ skin is much thinner than children or adults, so UV rays can cause sun damage in a very short space of time. Babies are also more susceptible to heat, thus increasing temperatures can make them seriously unwell and has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).


The two main concerns are:

  1. Overheating.
  2. Sunburn.

Sunburn at a young age has been demonstrably linked to a higher rate of skin cancer – a US study found that severe burns at a young age increased chances of melanoma (a form of skin cancer) by 80%.


If possible, avoid going out during the hottest hours which are from 10am to 3pm.

This is because the UV levels and temperatures are highest during this time.

Choose a breathable and UV protecting buggy cover:

When travelling with the baby in a pram, ensure you have an adequate and safe cover, to protect your baby from the harmful UV rays whilst allowing:

  • Easy accessibility to facilitate regular checks on your child and,
  • Sufficient air circulation within the pram which will help regulate the temperature for your child.

The Lullaby Trust has warned that covering your pram or buggy with blankets (or cloths and covers) can lead to heat being trapped within the buggy and could cause your baby to dangerously overheat.

The Lullaby Trust recommend attaching a clip-on sunshade or parasol to a pram or buggy and checking if baby is getting too hot by feeling their tummy or the back of their neck. They advise to keep babies out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

Can I use a parasol?

Parasols pose no risk to blocking air circulation, however they may not provide much shade. Plus, the area they shade will shift as the sun moves or as you travel. This means your baby might suddenly be sitting in direct sunlight without you noticing. Also, not all parasols are UV resistant.

If you decide to use a parasol, ensure you choose a UV resistant version and that you consistently check that your baby remains shaded by the parasol.

Can I use a muslin cloth?

Many parents choose to clip a muslin nappy across the buggy to shade their little one from the sun. This is not the worst solution, but muslin is not UV resistant so it cannot protect your baby from the sun’s most harmful rays.

What’s the ultimate safest option?

My personal preference would be to use a buggy cover made of UV resistant but fully breathable material, that covers the whole opening of the buggy, but allows the air to circulate. The best of these have zips to enable the parents to quickly and easily check on their babies to ensure they are not getting too hot.

Parking your buggy:

Remember that the sun will move and so if you have parked your buggy in the shade, you need to continually check that the baby or child remains out of direct sunlight.

Regular checks:

It is important to regularly check on your baby to ensure they are not getting too hot. As babies are so sensitive to temperature, remember that even on overcast or lower temperature days, your baby could still overheat.

You should regularly:

  1. Check if your baby is sweating.
  2. Feel their tummy – it should be warm but not hot.
  3. Check for flushed or red cheeks.
  4. You could carry a thermometer with you. A specific baby digital thermometer can be purchased and should be used in the baby’s armpit or ear. A healthy temperature hovers around 36.4 degrees centigrade.
Further protection for your baby:

Babies over six months old can enjoy a limited amount of sunlight, providing they have been protected by the appropriate measures.

  • Skin colour – Babies with very pale skins are most at risk from burning, however, babies with darker skin are still susceptible to sun damage! Do not exempt your baby or child from any of the advice given here due to skin colour.
  • Shade – UV rays can still burn and overheat babies in the shade!



Choose darker, tighter-weaved clothing that covers the baby’s whole body. Look for garments with a UPF of 50 which will block 98% of UV radiation. Materials such as lycra and nylon are good options.

Young ones should wear wide-brimmed sun hats (not caps) which will shade their necks and ears too.

They also require sun glasses to protect their eyes. Sunglasses should meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the CE mark – check the label. This is because the UV rays can cause eye damage to a baby’s young eyes.


Sun cream:

In the UK the general advice is that children under 6 months should not use sun cream.


Infants’ skin is thinner than adults, with a much thinner stratum corneum, the dead outermost skin layer. Therefore, an infant’s skin is less able to protect the body effectively against chemicals in sunscreen which could penetrate deeper into their skin, making newborn babies more vulnerable to allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis, inflammation or other harmful effects from chemical absorption. Newborn skin also lacks the film on the skin’s surface (known as the acid mantle) that protects the skin from bacteria viruses, and trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), a condition that can lead to dehydration. The lack of the acid mantle could leave babies more vulnerable to the chemicals in sunscreen.


Babies also have a higher surface area-to-body weight ratio than older children and adults. A baby’s body surface area is about four times the body surface area-to-weight ratio in adults, which gives a far greater body surface area and leaves them exposed to far greater penetration by chemicals. In adults, most sunscreen ingredients don’t get absorbed systemically into the bloodstream — and those that do are absorbed in tiny amounts. However, for babies this is far more likely.


In addition, babies could try and lick sun cream from their bodies causing it to be ingested. This is another reason the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends delaying the use of sunscreen until your baby is at least six months old.


Using sunscreen

If your baby has reached over six months of age, they should be wearing sun cream from around April to October (use your judgement to decide – they may need it as early as March, weather dependent).

Babies and young children are more prone to rashes than adults. One fifth of adults report skin irritation from sun cream, so it is important to:

1. Choose a sun cream designed for babies.

2. Test the cream first.

Choose wisely:

Choose a hypoallergenic sun cream specifically designed for babies.

You must use a high factor (SPF 50). It should have at least a four-star UVA and UVB protection rating. There are specific sun creams created for babies which you can buy.

Check the expiry date and discard when out of date.

Some brands offer tinted versions of sun cream so that you can see where you have put the product.

Do a swab check:

We would always recommend trying sunscreen on a small area of your baby’s skin (doing a patch test) to make sure your baby can tolerate the product. Apply the small area before you need to rely on the sunscreen to protect them from the sun and check the area for signs of redness or allergy for the next few hours. If there is no reaction, you can then apply this to all exposed areas of their body. When trying a new brand, always patch test in this way too.

How to apply it:

Use enough! Many people do not use enough sun cream – so make sure that you use at least a tablespoon of sun cream if covering the legs and arms of a baby.

Apply sunscreen liberally to any area of your baby’s skin that isn’t covered up by clothes or a hat. Remember to include his hands and feet, and the back of his neck and ears.

Pat, don’t rub:

It’s best to pat it on rather than rub it in. If you can, put sunscreen on your baby 15 minutes before they are exposed to any sun.

Cover exposed parts of your child’s skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days. Apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands. Be especially careful to protect your child’s shoulders and the back of their neck when they’re playing, as these are the most common areas for sunburn.



Reapply the sunscreen at least every couple of hours and after they have played in water, even if the sunscreen claims to be waterproof. Some water-resistant products may only protect your baby’s skin for up to 40 minutes of water play, while others may protect for up to 80 minutes.

Other tips for keeping your baby safe from the heat and sun in summer:


Fully breastfed babies should not need to be given extra water – but do check for any signs of dehydration. Otherwise, babies under 6 months should be regularly given cooled boiled water. Over six months of age, they can be given regular water.


In summer, it is best to create a cool sleeping environment for your baby. Place your baby feet to the foot of the cot, on a flat mattress without blankets or pillows.

When out and about in the summer with your baby in a buggy or pram, sleep can be more problematic. Don’t be tempted to put a blanket over the pram to block out the  sunlight as this can trap warm air within the buggy, causing the temperature to soar to dangerous levels.

Instead ideally opt for a mesh pram cover that will block out sunlight and allow air to circulate. Always ensure you park your buggy in the shade and keep checking to ensure it remains shaded and cool.

Cloudy days:

Remember, you can still get burned in the shade. Sun protection remains essential even on overcast days. If the temperature seems low to you, remember that it could still affect a young baby or child.

The impact of water:

Many people do not know that if you are on or near a body of water, this will dramatically increase the potency of the sun’s rays.

Sun cream should be reapplied after swimming.

If your baby has sunburn:

Firstly, don’t panic. Although sun protection is incredibly important, as explained above, it is by no means abnormal for a child to get a bit burned in the sun and it doesn’t mean they will definitely develop skin cancer.

Do, however, treat the burn more seriously than you would an adult’s. Remove them from the sunlight immediately and take them indoors, preferably into a cool or air-conditioned environment.

Shower the affected area for 10 minutes under tepid water, then apply neat aloe vera. Seek immediate medical advice if a baby or child has become sunburnt, particularly if their skin has blistered.

Give them regular drinks of cool water to ensure they remain hydrated. If they show signs of heat exhaustion – hot, flushed, sweaty, unsettled, vomiting or diarrhoea – always get medical advice immediately.

Enjoy the sunshine!

With these tips in mind, we hope you and your baby or young children have an enjoyable and burn-free summer together.


Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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It’s a big date for the 40,000 people who run the 26 miles, but equally it’s a big day out for tens of thousands of friends, family members and supporters who come to central London to cheer the runners on.

Although lot of focus (rightly) goes into preparations for the runner, it’s important to have a plan for spectating too. London gets horribly crowded which can be overwhelming for supporters. Tube stations are particularly busy with Marathon organisers implementing one-way systems for spectators to shuffle through – this make some areas extremely claustrophobic.

Knowing what to expect will help you choose the perfect location and give you the best chance of seeing your runner at least once on the day!

Disabled supporters:

If you use a wheelchair, the best place to go is The Highway which is between miles 13 and 14, and then again between miles 21 and 22. A free and dedicated disabled parking area is in the playground of Bishop Challoner School – access is via Commercial Road and Steels Lane. Ramps allow smooth access for wheelchair users from here.

For older supporters and those who might need to periodically sit down – pace yourselves. Don’t try and do too much. Just choose one point in which to settle yourself and watch the runners from there. I always choose a nice shady area in St James’s Park, slightly raised so I can watch in comfort from a bench or picnic rug.

What to bring: For supporters:

This is a brief checklist of things that we advise you consider bringing with you when you set off to join the supporters of the London Marathon 2019:

  • Food and water for yourself and the runner.
  • Mobile phone with London Marathon app installed (details below).
  • Picnic rug if you choose to go to a park.
  • Hat to protect you from the sun/or rain mac/or both!
  • Suncream, plasters, sugary snacks, asthma pump if prescribed one.
  • Layers for you and a runner, if you are meeting them post-race.
For the marathon runner:
  • Bring the runner’s extra layers with you. Make sure they are properly covered with these or the foil blanket.
  • Snacks such as a banana, nuts or energy bar – gently offer these to the runner but don’t offer them anything too large.
  • Water for the runner.

It is advisable not to encourage major high-energy conversation or celebrations immediately after the race as they are likely to be exhilarated but exhausted.

The app:

There is an official Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 app that can be downloaded here. It’s extremely helpful. We recommend downloading it the week of the Marathon as it has advice leading up to the Marathon (such as about the registration event that precedes the race), as well as being a tracker: just search the last name or number of the person you want to track.

You can use the app to track the runner you’re looking for the whole day. The app will display the leader board positions of celebrities and professional runners’ results too.

It also has locations of all the distance markers, points of interest, first aid points, drinks stations, live bands and pub venues along the course.

Where to go:

It can be a mistake to go rushing around various viewing zones as the crowds are intense both above ground and in the tube stations. Our advice is to pick one place and stay there, as you’ll still likely be going to meet the runner at the finishing area.

A great option for a family or group day out is St James Park. It’s got plenty of green space, shaded areas and is much less crowded than areas such as Canary Wharf. It is near the very end of the Marathon, so you will be near to the finishing area to meet your runner afterwards.


Bring lunch (as you will likely be out till 3 or 4pm) and plenty of snacks with you. A lot of energy is exerted whilst rushing around London and it can be exhausting to be in a cheering crowd for so long! Don’t underestimate the energy you will expend – even if it seems trivial in comparison to running the marathon. Water is also vital, especially if the weather is likely to be hot.

First aid tips in case of an incident
  1. Panic attacks:

It is possible that a panic attack could be triggered by the crowding and one-way systems. If you’re prone to claustrophobia, you may want to carefully consider your spectator position. Perhaps opt for a park or a more open area. If you start to suffer an attack, recall your breathing exercises (read more here) and take slow sips of water.

  1. Heat exhaustion:

My pregnant niece suffered from this last year and fainted – she ended up having to be carried out of the crowds and through the race itself on a stretcher! Thankfully she was fine in the end, but the heat last year meant that heat exhaustion was a common occurrence among spectators. To prevent this happening to you make sure to drink plenty of fluids, take breaks in shaded areas or where a hat, eat enough throughout the day and rest when you feel tired. If you feel faint, dizzy, floppy, exhausted, sweaty make sure you cool down as soon as possible.

Heat exhaustion can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches and fainting.

Key advice is to get out of the sun to somewhere cooler. Take regular sips of cool water or an isotonic sports drink. If you don’t feel better, seek medical advice. There will be first aid stations run by St John’s Ambulance service around the Marathon route.

       3. Asthma attacks:

Due to London’s high pollution levels, especially on busy roads (even if they are temporarily closed to vehicles) and pollen in the air, someone with asthma may be more prone to an attack on Marathon day. Always carry an inhaler with you if you are prescribed one – or if your child has asthma, make sure they have their pump to hand. Carry a spacer with you, too.

For more information on asthma attacks and how to help in case of an incident, click here.


Warn your children about how crowded the streets will be, especially if they haven’t experienced a similar event before. Make sure they know to stick by you and ensure they are carrying your phone number in case of an emergency. Ensure you have agreed a designated meeting point at each watching point. Hold the children’s hands tight and try and avoid the most crowded tube stations as they become extremely hot and unpleasant, particularly if you are at child height.

The night before:

Have an early dinner with the runner – make sure the meal is centred around carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, potatoes or bread. A meal idea could be pesto pasta with chicken, which provides energy and protein in an easy to digest form. Allow time for relaxing (the mind and body) before an early bedtime. Make sure everything is prepared for the next day.

At the finish:

Before the marathon, designate an area to meet up. The closest tube station to the finishing area is St James’s Park. This will be extremely crowded with marshalled crossing points which means it will take quite a while to reach the finishing area.

Victoria, Charing Cross, Westminster and Embankment stations are a little further away but will be less crowded and a more pleasant walking route.

If you’re watching from home

If you can’t come into London or simply prefer to avoid the crowds, there are plenty of options for keeping up from home or whilst on the move elsewhere. The marathon is broadcast on BBC television with live commentary for its duration. BBC 5 live radio also remains marathon-focused throughout the day.

St John’s Ambulance services will be available nearby if you think medical help is necessary. Don’t hesitate to ask their advice if you have any concerns.

As a supporter, you will have been a vital part of a runner’s achievements – whether you helped them find time to train through preparing meals, taking on housework chores, or simply tolerating a certain amount of running-oriented conversations!

Thank you for everything you’ve done and enjoy the Marathon day and an end to the intensive training period!

Written by Emma Hammett.

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Email: emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk or telephone 020 8675 4036 for more information.
www.FirstAidforLife.org.uk – Award Winning First Aid training tailored to your needs

www.Onlinefirstaid.com – The convenient way to learn vital skills straight from experts

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