Little life-savers

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Do you know if any of the pupils you're taking away suffers from asthma? The right paperwork could save a life on a trip, says Phil Revell

Preparations for a school trip can be tiresome, and it's no surprise that teachers are less than enthusiastic about some of the paperwork that has to be done. But a piece of paper could save a life. So whatever you do, don't forget those health forms.

Is this child allergic to wasp stings? Does Joe need his inhaler? These are the last things you want to think about when you're halfway up a mountain.

But if you end up in Aamp;E you might be asked if you are the legal guardian.

Well are you?

On any trip, someone is bound to fall over, throw up or hurt their finger.

Experienced trip leaders anticipate such emergencies. From the sick bags on the bus to the trained first-aider in the background, the idea is that if you plan for the minor emergencies you will be better able to cope with the real thing.

Preparation starts with the health form. At the very least, you need to know about allergies, long-standing health problems and regular medication.

Parents must give you permission to administer first-aid - it's just not practical to phone home every time you need to apply a plaster.

Ask parents if they are happy for their children to be given paracetamol for a headache, for example. In a real emergency, it can save time if parents have confirmed that you are the child's legal guardian on the trip.

The first priority is to contact parents while doctors get on with treatment, but written authority simplifies matters, especially if you are abroad.

Don't rely on pupil-post for this letter, and make sure every parent sends it back. Get it translated for families with English as a second language and check the answers carefully.

If a child takes medication, have a follow-up conversation with the parent.

Even minor conditions can be a problem. Asthma can be a killer; a child died this year after suffering an asthma attack in France.

Unions are unhappy about teachers being asked to administer medicines, and they have a point. No one should be asked to do this without training. The best solution is for a teaching assistant to be trained as a first-aider for trips. They should take responsibility for health issues and medication, though most health experts agree that children should take responsibility for their own medication as soon as it is practical.

Children should carry their own inhalers as they know when they need it.

But the first-aider should have a spare.

The first-aider should not be the party leader. In a crisis, the leader should assume responsibility for the whole group, and the first aider should take responsibity for the injured pupil. Minor cuts and bruises should be treated without worrying about legal issues. Despite concern about the treatment issue, there has yet to be a court case where first-aiders have been sued. For more serious incidents the first-aider's maxim is the same as the doctors: "Do no further harm." If in doubt, make the victim comfortable and wait for help to arrive.

Routine first aid training is inadequate for school trips as it assumes that an ambulance is minutes away. I recommend the REC course (Rescue and Emergency Care), which is approved by the Health and Safety Executive and designed for incidents outdoors.

phil.revell@ukonline.co.uk

Tel: 0870 532 9242; www.recfirstaid.com Courses last for one to four days and cost between pound;50 and pound;340

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