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Responding to Injuries

Despite your best efforts to keep infants and toddlers safe, injuries can happen. You must be prepared to respond quickly when a child or staff member gets hurt. This lesson will help you recognize different events that can cause injuries, how to keep infants and toddlers safe, and when to get them medical attention.

  • Identify your role in responding to injuries.
  • Recognize when you need to call emergency medical services to respond to an injury.
  • Develop a plan to maintain classroom order during an emergency.


This lesson only provides a very brief introduction to keeping children safe when they are injured. You are required to maintain current CPR and first aid certification.


Infants and toddlers are natural explorers. Have you ever thought, “That child has no fear!”? You were probably right. Infants and toddlers do not recognize the danger in situations. They challenge their developing bodies and minds. You have to be prepared to respond to a range of injuries. Some injuries will require cleaning and bandaging. Other injuries require immediate medical attention. You must be able to tell the difference between the two. You must be prepared to respond during any situation. Consider these examples:

  1. Dante and Claire are toddling after one another on a paved surface on the playground. Dante trips and skins his knee.
  2. Madison and Tristan are riding tricycles down a path that goes down a slight hill. Madison stops her trike at the bottom of the hill. Tristan can't stop in time and runs into Madison. Both trikes fall over on top of the children. Madison hits her mouth on the bar of her trike and cracks her lip.
  3. Luke drops his soccer ball on the way to his dad's car. It rolls into the parking lot and he toddles out to  get it. An oncoming vehicle cannot stop in time to miss him.
  4. Luis crawls over to his caregiver and opens his hand to reveal a few small pills. They must have fallen out of an adult's purse. When a caregiver gets him to open his mouth, she sees more pills there.
  5. Millie is giggling and clapping her hands during lunch. Suddenly her face turns red, her eyes get wide, and she stops making any sounds. It appears she is choking.

Your facilities and classrooms are designed to minimize risks when accidents occur. For example, properly inspected playground equipment and cushioned fall zones make it unlikely a child would be seriously injured in a fall from the slide. The safety rules you teach make it less likely children will collide with one another at high speeds. Even in the best situations, though, accidents happen. You must be prepared to act on injuries big and small. 

Some injuries are small and only require minor first aid. For example, when Dante skins his knee, his caregiver will likely respond by cleaning the wound, applying a bandage, and completing an incident report. Dante is able to continue playing. 

Other injuries are serious but not life threatening. For example, Madison may need medical treatment for her injuries, but she is not likely to face permanent disability or death. 

Some injuries are life threatening and require immediate medical attention. For example, Luke's accident with a moving vehicle, Luis's ingestion of pills, and Millie's choking could all result in serious injury or death. As a child development professional, you must be able to recognize these situations and respond appropriately. 

You must know what resources are available for helping an injured child. Your options will depend on the severity of the injury and the urgency of the situation. If the injury is minor, like a cracked lip, a caregiver trained in first aid can offer immediate care. If a child is choking or not breathing, a caregiver trained in first aid or CPR should also respond immediately. Training on first aid and CPR is offered by your employer and community agencies, such as the Red Cross. If an injury is severe or a child displays life-threatening symptoms, call emergency medical services (EMS). EMS refers to any emergency responders in your area. These may be firefighters, ambulance companies, or the police. EMS services are reached when you dial 911. 


You must know what to look for when you are deciding how to respond to an injury.

If a child has any of the following symptoms, call emergency medical services (EMS) right away:

  • You believe the child's life is at risk or there is a risk of permanent injury.
  • The child has difficulty breathing, is having an asthma exacerbation, or is unable to speak.
  • The child's skin or lips look blue, purple, or gray.
  • The child has rhythmic jerking of arms and legs and a loss of consciousness (seizure).
  • The child is unconscious.
  • The child is less and less responsive.
  • The child has any of the following after a head injury: decrease in level of alertness, confusion, headache, vomiting, irritability, or difficulty walking.
  • The child has increasing or severe pain anywhere.
  • The child has a cut or burn that is large, deep, or won't stop bleeding.
  • The child is vomiting blood.
  • The child has a severe stiff neck, headache, and fever.
  • The child is significantly dehydrated: sunken eyes, lethargic, not making tears, not urinating.
  • Multiple children are affected by injury or serious illness at the same time.
  • When in doubt, call EMS.

After you have called EMS, remember to contact the child's legal guardian.

If a child has any of the following symptoms, get medical attention within one hour:

  • Fever in any age child who looks more than mildly ill
  • Fever in a child less than eight weeks of age
  • A quickly spreading purple or red rash
  • A large volume of blood in the stool
  • A cut that may require stitches
  • Any medical condition specifically outlined in a child's care plan requiring parental notification


  • Prevent injuries. Follow procedures outlined in other lessons in this course. Make sure dangerous and toxic items are out of children's reach.
  • Be prepared. Have a well-stocked first aid kit. Make sure your first aid and CPR training are always current.
  • Respond quickly. Use what you learned in your first aid courses.
  • Stay calm. This provides assurrance to the child and keeps the scene as calm as possible.
  • Survey the scene. Look around and find out what is wrong. Decide whether it is safe for you to approach. Tell the child you are there to help. Ask questions and examine the child head-to-toe for injuries.
  • Take action. Decide whether injuries are life threatening. Is the child conscious? Is the child breathing? If the child is not breathing, perform CPR as needed. Use what you learned in your first aid and CPR training to do the procedure correctly. If the injury is not life threatening, check the child head-to-toe. Look for all injuries. Ask the child questions and continue to check breathing and heart rate. Perform any basic first aid that is needed. Do not move the child unless his or her life is at risk.
  • Make the calls. Decide whether you need to call EMS. Call the child's family.
  • Ride along. Be prepared to ride with the child in the ambulance. Know what documents and contact information you need to bring with you.
  • Document. Report the injury using the forms provided by your workplace and any forms required by your state or program. Make sure the family also signs the incident report.

When it comes to responding to injuries, make sure you always do the following:

  • Have a fully stocked first aid kit in the classroom.
  • Have a fully stocked first aid kit that can be taken along on the playground or field trips.
  • Know how to stop any bleeding with a child.
  • Know what to do if a child is not breathing.
  • Know how and when to call 911 or Emergency Medical Services.
  • Know where your program's accident report forms are located and the procedure for completing one.


It is important to think about what you would do during stressful situations. Read and review the Responding to Injuries activity. Complete the answers and share with your coach, trainer, or administrator. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.


Make sure you are prepared for injuries and other emergencies. Read the First Aid Kit Checklist and use it to make sure your first aid kit is well-stocked.


Which of the following is a life-threatening situation?
A call to EMS would not be necessary for which of the following situations?
Which of the following statements are true?
References & Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019, September 24). When your child needs emergency medical services. Healthy Children 

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2019). Caring for our children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. (4th ed.). American Academy of Pediatrics.