The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Nursery Accidents

by Emeline Petrie Steinthal
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 423-426

[Emeline Petrie Steinthal, 1855-1921, was a sculptor, painter, and co-founder of the P.N.E.U. with Charlotte Mason. She was married to Francis Steinthal. They had four children: Paul Telford, Dorothea, Francis, and Paul Cuthbert, who all lived well into adulthood.]

The other day my little boy rushed downstairs in a great state of excitement to inform me that his sister had fallen in the nursery against the corner of the table, and had a big hole in her head. I ran up, and found the little sufferer looking very pale and faint, having her head sponged with warm water, the blood trickling down her face. I at once cut off all the hair, leaving a large bare place round a very nasty-looking wound. The little boy had been perfectly correct; she really had a hole in her head. After removing the hair, I bathed the affected part with boric acid, which ought to be in every nursery and every mother's medicine-chest. It is a white powder, which, when wanted for use, is mixed with warm water in the proportion of two tablespoons to one pint of hot water.

This is a very strong solution; for lesser accidents a smaller quantity of the acid can be taken. If the water is not warm enough it will not mix, but floats about in lumps.

After bathing for about five minutes, I dipped a pad of lint into the acid, put it on the wound, and then bandaged by putting a handkerchief folded lengthwise over the head and under the chin, and keeping it in its place--as children are apt to play about and loosen their bandages--by stitching a strip of linen to each side of the handkerchief, passing it round the back of the head, and fastening it just under the ears. We did not move the bandage for two days, and when taken off, it was difficult to discover where the wound had been. It had closed and healed perfectly.

It then occurred to me that other children must occasionally injure themselves, and that perhaps some young mothers might be interested and helped by reading of the experiences of an older one. Many must know a great deal more than I do, but I venture to send in my modest mite, trusting that abler pens will take up the subject, and give us further more practical suggestions.

As we started with treatment with boracic acid, it might be advisable to first mention other nursery accidents it is useful for.

Burns and Scalds--Sprinkle the boracic acid powder over the injured part, or, if the acid is not near at hand, oil and limewater, and bandage. Leave it untouched for forty-eight hours. It is most important not to uncover the sore part sooner. A friend, who had once severely scalded herself during the day, was seized with curiosity in the evening to see what the place looked like, and in consequence suffered for many weeks afterwards.

At the right time, take off the covers, and cut the blisters, but be very careful not to let the liquid in them run over the skin, as it is very hot; soak it up as you cut with a piece of wool. Then spread boracic ointment on the back of the lint. The wooly side must in these cases be outside, as otherwise the wool would get in the wounds and irritate them. Bandage again, and the place will heal nicely.

If the burn is a very long one--say, from the wrist to the elbow--put on half a dozen separate bandages. The object of this is that each piece can be lifted off and dresses separately, as there is always a danger of cold being taken after a severe burn, and therefore the wound must be exposed as short a time as possible. If the surface looks watery or uneven, put on a little red lotion under the ointment. This smarts a little, but quickly heals the "proud flesh." It is most important to feed the patient very well after a burn or scald.

Concussion of the Head--A little schoolboy fell the other day in the playground against the pole of a swing, with such force that it caused a slight concussion, which stunned him. He was at once put into bed, and kept perfectly quiet for a week, and was not allowed during that time to taste anything but milk and soda water, as it is most important that the food is digested in this illness. He joined his class in a fortnight, and has suffered no after-effects.

This leads us on to--

Bumps and Fractures--For bumps, the boracic ointment is again of great service. One of our children fell against the garden gate, and was much bruised on one cheek and forehead. I feared a swelled face, painted with the most brilliant colours, would be before us for several days, but hopefully put on plenty of ointment. The next morning no swelling appeared, and in two or three days all signs of the blow had disappeared.

I would not recommend the use of arnica. If the skin is only slightly broken, it is dangerous, as erysipelas [very red strep infection] is liable to set in. Tincture of calendula is much safer, but even that is not as good as the boracic ointment.

Dislocated Arm--This accident might easily occur when the nurse or anybody else quickly lifts a child off the ground, holding it only by one hand. Put a pad under the armpit, and another between the elbow and body. Bend the elbow, and lay the forearm and hand across the body, and put a third pad between the hand and body, the skin of babies being so tender that they easily chafe, and they must be without clothes, which might otherwise protect it. Put a bandage round the hand, arm, and body three times; then twice over the injured shoulder, across the chest, and under the arm; then over the other shoulder. The bandage, when finished, has the appearance of braces. When complete, fasten it with a safety pin.

Thanks to the St. John's Ambulance Association, the treatment of the fractures of any limb is so well understood that it is not necessary to go over the ground in this paper.

Stings of Bees, Wasps, and Ants will be relieved by the application of a strong solution of bicarbonate of soda. We have listened to an old wife's tale, and always cover the bite with the powder blue used by washerwomen, and find it very effectual.

Scratch of a Cat--When the scratch rises immediately and looks angry, apply a bread poultice to the wound, which will at once draw out any injurious matter.

Foreign Bodies in Nose and Eyes, such as beads, stones, pencil-ends, etc.--The best means to use is a loop made of wire, which can be carefully introduced into the cavity, and then turned gently round, so that it passes behind the foreign body, which can then be extracted.

Choking may be the consequence of swallowing hard bodies, such as marbles, buttons, plum-stones, etc. No time must be lost in relieving the child. Give him a smart stroke of the back with the hand, and if this does not bring up the enemy, take him up by the legs, holding the head downwards, and again slap his back. If this does not succeed, give him a strong emetic, such as mustard and water, and make him sick. If the stone be long and pointed, as a plum-stone for instance, there is a danger of it sticking in some passage and producing convulsions. In this case, although convulsions really belong to the category of diseases of the nervous system, we might mention them in our list, as they can also be caused by an accident.

Convulsions--These are very common in children, and few mothers of large families have been without some experience of them. The child becomes insensible, there is slight twitching of facial muscles, rolling of the eyes, and some difficulty in breathing. Severe cases are marked by violent movements of the arms, legs, and head, turning of the eyes so that the white is visible, redness of the face, lividity of the lips, clenching of the hands, the thumb being always under the fingers, and the great toes pressing also upon the soles of the feet. The patient should at once be placed in a very hot bath, containing mustard, at 90°, and cold-water cloths kept on the head. In cases when it is not possible to procure a bath or sufficient hot water, a blanket might be wrung out in boiling water, and the child rolled up in it. It must be kept in the bath for five or ten minutes and the cold cloths renewed every two minutes. Camphor can be held to the nose, or given to him by putting a drop of the tincture on the tip of the little finger and inserting it between the lips of the patient. I have known a child, after being in a convulsion for an hour, again brought to consciousness by the application of a mustard poultice to the calves of both legs.

The above is written mainly for the guidance of many young mothers who may not be able to obtain medical assistance very quickly; but in all serious cases I would earnestly advise every one to send as soon as possible for the family doctor.

Proofread by LNL, August, 2023