Need-to-know cottage first aid for common kid injuries

band-aid-on-child's-knee Photo by Chepko Danil Vitalevich / Shutterstock

When your beloved urchin cuts her foot, “being away from it all” means you make the call: is this a right-now emergency, a see-the-doc-when-we get-home complaint, or a job for the Cottage First Responder (a.k.a. Mom or Dad)? Most minor injuries require only first aid and “watchful waiting,” says Tim Redmond, an ER physician with Ontario’s West Parry Sound Health Centre. Parents can also get crucial support from telephone advice lines now operating in all provinces, says Michelle Fisher, the clinical manager for Saskatchewan’s HealthLine 811. An experienced registered nurse asks a battery of questions and directs the casualty to the appropriate care. “Sometimes people just need some reassurance,” Fisher says. “If they call us, we’ll triage them. We always err on the side of caution.”


Cottage First Responder Flush wound with clean water for 2 to 5 minutes. Apply an adhesive bandage if the cut closes neatly. You can also use a petroleum jellybased topical ointment, such as Polysporin. Minor redness around the cut is normal.
Go to the ER if the cut gapes and will not close or is so deep that subcutaneous tissue, fat, or tendons are visible. During healing, go to the ER immediately if the redness doubles or triples in size, your patient suffers chills and a fever, or a red line extends from the cut towards the centre of the body—signs of serious infection.


Cottage First Responder Bee stings take up to 36 hours to reach peak swelling, but most bites and stings heal if left alone. Use a cool cloth, antihistamines, or calamine lotion to reduce irritation and deter scratching. Call for an ambulance immediately if your child’s first bee sting is accompanied by widespread hives, swelling of the tongue, lips, or face, difficulty breathing, nausea, and/or loss of consciousness. You can administer children’s Benadryl if your child isn’t nauseous or extremely unwell.
Go to the ER immediately if you know your child is allergic. Use the child’s EpiPen, then always go to the ER.


Go to the ER Hooks are “hard to pull out and painful to push through,” says Peterborough ER physician James McGorman. Leave the hook in place and stabilize it to prevent it from moving. ER staff will freeze the area, remove the hook, and provide a tetanus shot if needed.


Cottage First Responder Elevate and rest the injury, and apply ice. You can also use a splint or a Tensor bandage, as necessary.
Go to the ER or your doctor if the injury remains painful or the limb won’t bear weight or is difficult to move. (If you can wait, morning trips to Emergency may mean a shorter queue.) Go to the ER immediately if the joint or limb has obvious deformities or if there are signs of impaired circulation, such as pain, numbness, tingling, pale skin, or skin that is cool to the touch.

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