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The essential first aid guide for families in Shanghai

As parents, we are usually the first point of contact when bumps, bruises and burns happen to our children. In Shanghai we're lucky that doctors are only one call away, however knowing how to respond quickly and calmly ourselves is also critical. Learn how to do just that with expert's advice on how to deal in common health emergency situations.

Remember: Shanghai's emergency ambulance service phone number is 120 (Mandarin only). For ambulance service in English, dial SHU's emergency room at 2216 3999 or 5133 1999. You may also find an interpreter via Shanghai Call Centre by dialing 962 288.


1. Get behind victim and wrap your arms around them.

2. Make a fist with one hand; the thumb side of the fist should be slightlythe belly button and below the breastbone.

3. Grasp the fist with your other hand and give quick upward thrusts into victim’s abdomen. Continue until the object is forced out.

4. If the victim is in the late stages of pregnancy, thrust on the chest rather than the abdomen.


1. Scan the chest for signs of breathing. If the victim is not breathing, begin CPR.

2. Make sure the victim is lying on their back on a firm, flat surface.

3. Start with chest compressions. Put the heel of one hand on the lower half of the breastbone. Put the other hand on the top of the first one.

4. Push straight down at least 5cm but no more than 6cm at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. After each compression, let the chest come back up to its normal position. Give 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths (blow for one second each time).

5. Before you give the first breath, open the airway by lifting the chin and tilting the head back. Make sure chest rises with each breath.

Animal bites

1. Clean the wound with soap and a lot of running water.

2. Cover it with a bandage; stop any bleeding by applying pressure to the wound.

3. Apply an ice pack if there’s bruising or swelling.

4. It is important to see a doctor immediately after being bitten, even if you have received your rabies vaccinations.

Electric shock

1. Do not touch a person if they are still in contact with a power source; if they are no longer in contact with the power source it is safe to touch them.

2. Switch off the power source at the mains if they are still in contact.

3. Assess if CPR is needed.

Head or spinal injuries

1. Minimise movement of the head and neck to prevent further injury.

2. Do not move the victim unless they are in danger or need CPR.

3. If the victim has to be moved, use the ‘log-roll technique’: hold the hip, thigh and calf to steady the legs; support the head and the spine as you roll them over.

4. Roll to the side if the victim vomits or has fluid in the mouth.

Sprains and strains

Follow the RICE guidelines:

1. Rest the injured part of the body.

2. Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area – for ten to 15 minutes at a time – every few hours for the first one to two days to prevent swelling.

3. Apply an elastic Compress bandage or a tight wrap that covers the injured area completely for at least two days to reduce swelling.

4. Elevate the injured body part.

In most cases, you won’t need to see a doctor for a sprain or strain. Simple pain relief such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen for the first few days of injury is usually the best course. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a bone fracture. If you are unsure, or if the pain gets worse after a day or two, see your doctor.

Embedded foreign objects

Objects such as thorns or wood slivers can get embedded in the skin. Only remove an embedded object if it is small, visible, and near the surface. If you do remove the embedded object, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water then dry and bandage it. 

A puncture wound, especially from a rusty nail, may require a tetanus shot if the patient has not had one in the last five years. Incidentally, the embedded object may help block bleeding; this means that removing the object may do more harm than good. When in doubt, see your doctor.


Don’t believe the old wives’ tale that a child with a nosebleed should place his head between his knees or tip his head back; these actions will not stop the bleeding. Tilting the head back can be especially bad for your child because the blood could be breathed into the lungs or even get into the stomach, causing children to cough or vomit blood as an after-effect of the nosebleed.

Instead, press the fleshy part of the nose down firmly for ten minutes until you completely control the bleeding. If a nosebleed lasts for more than 15 minutes, occurs following a serious injury or is accompanied by severe blood loss, visit your doctor or the emergency room.

Cuts and scrapes

For skin-level wounds:

1. Clean the cut by washing it well with soap and water. If there is dirt, glass, or anything in the cut that you can’t get out after washing it, see your doctor.

2. Press a clean cloth or bandage firmly on the area for 20 minutes to stop the bleeding.

3. Elevate the cutyour heart if possible to slow down the bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop after 20 minutes, see your doctor.

4. Put a thin layer of antiseptic or antibiotic ointment on the cut or scrape and cover it with a bandage or gauze, keeping the bandage clean and dry.

5. Change the bandage one or two times every day until the cut or scrape heals.

6. Watch for signs of infection, which are fever, redness, swelling, warmth, increasing pain, pus or red streaks around the cut area. See a doctor if these occur. Most cuts and scrapes heal on their own within seven to ten days. As the cut or scrape heals and forms a scab, be sure to leave the scab alone and not pick at it. You may need a tetanus vaccination if your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago or if the wound is dirty or deep.

For deeper wounds:

Any cut that goes deeper than the top layer of skin might need stitches. Generally, the sooner stitches are put in, the lower the risk of infection. If you think the wound needs stitches, contact your doctor immediately.

Burns and blisters

See a doctor immediately if:

  • The burn is deep, even if you do not feel any pain.

  • The burn is larger 5-8cm (2-3 inches).

  • The burn was from a fire, an electrical wire or socket, or chemicals.

  • The burn is on the face, scalp, hands, joints, or genitals.

  • The burn looks infected (if you see swelling, pus or increasing redness).

First-degree burns

First-degree burns can be treated at home. In a first-degree burn, only the top layer of skin (epidermis) is affected. The skin will be red and painful but still feel normal. Run cold water over the burn area for at least ten minutes; a bag of frozen vegetables will work nicely as a cold compress for pain control. A first-degree burn should heal within one week.

Second-degree burn

Second-degree burns should be seen by a doctor. These are very painful and typically produce blisters on the skin. It is possible to treat the burn yourself by soaking the burn area in cool water for at least 15 minutes. If the burn area is small, put a cool, wet cloth on it for a few minutes every day followed by a doctor-prescribed antibiotic ointment. Dress the burn with a dry, non-stick dressing, and check every day for infection. Don’t pop the blisters. A second-degree burn should heal in two to three weeks.

Third-degree burns

Third-degree burns should be seen immediately by a doctor. Don’t take off any clothing stuck to the burn. Don’t apply ointment or soak the burn in water. Third-degree burns cause damage to all layers of the skin, and the burn area will appear white or charred. These burns may cause little or no pain due to nerve damage and take a long time to heal.


For mild blistering, cool the affected area. For areas that are likely to rub against clothing or other parts of the body, apply petroleum jelly after cooling to reduce friction or cover the area with a band-aid to prevent further irritation. Don’t try to pop the blister as this can lead to infection. The water inside the blister helps the skin underneath to heal.

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