St. John Ambulance: Ho-ho-how to have a safe Christmas with festive first aid

As the nation prepares for Yuletide celebrations St John Ambulance is encouraging everyone to equip themselves with the vital skills to treat common festive mishaps and minor injuries at home.


Each Christmas, the NHS experiences significant strain on A&E resource with many patients enduring delays or even being diverted elsewhere due to increased demand. Some simple first aid tips could prevent an unnecessary trip to the GP or hospital at a time when healthcare services are already stretched and ensure families spend time together rather than in hospital waiting rooms.


Alan Weir, Head of Clinical Operations at St John Ambulance said: ‘At a time when there is increasing pressure on our emergency services, knowing basic first aid, such as how to treat a burn from hot pans while cooking, or a sprained ankle from falling whilst getting decorations down from the loft, is vital. It means minor injuries can be dealt with at home, reducing the need for health professionals to step in unnecessarily for minor ailments


‘No one wants to end up in hospital during the Christmas period. With GP surgeries either closed, open at limited times, or working with reduced staff we’re urging everyone to be prepared, stock up on essentials like plasters and indigestion remedies and use first aid as the first port of call. Equipping yourself with these skills can help you to identify when to seek medical attention, ensuring healthcare professionals’ time is used for life threatening emergencies and that you’re back enjoying the festivities quickly’


Here are some key tips from St John Ambulance for treating some of the more likely injuries that could occur during the festive period:


Cuts and grazes


A slip of the knife while preparing your Christmas feast could leave you with a cut finger or for little ones, tripping over whilst playing may end with tears and a grazed knee.


What to do:


  1. If the wound is dirty, clean the wound with cold running water or alcohol-free wipes
  2. Pat it dry
  3. Raise and support the injury
  4. Apply a sterile adhesive dressing.


Treating a burn or scald


Hot oil jumping out of the pan while checking on roast potatoes or a cup of tea pulled over by a child can easily cause minor burns or scalds.


What do to:


  1. Hold burn under cool running water for at least 10 minutes
  2. Remove clothing or jewellery around the burn, unless stuck to the burn
  3. Cover lengthways with cling film
  4. Monitor casualty and seek medical advice, for example by calling NHS 111


Treating sprains and strains


It’s a familiar sight for everyone, presents have been unwrapped and scattered everywhere and this causes you to trip on some toys and sprain your ankle.


What to do – remember ‘RICE’:


  1. R – Rest injured part
  2. I – Apply frozen peas or an ice packwrapped in a tea towel
  3. C – Provide Comfortable support
  • Check the circulation every 10 minutes
  1. E – Elevate the injured part
  • Advise them to rest


Choking (adult and child)


Overexcitement at the dinner table can sometimes result in some of that delicious Christmas turkey getting stuck in the throat, which can turn into an obstruction of the airway.


What do to (adult and child):


  1. Cough it out
  • Encourage the casualty to keep coughing
  1. Slap it out
  • Give 5 sharp back blows between the shoulder blades
  • Check their mouth each time
  1. Squeeze it out
  • Give 5 abdominal thrusts
  • Check their mouth each time
  1. Call 999/112 for emergency help if the object does not dislodge
  • Repeat steps 2 and 3 until help arrives.


What to do (baby):


  1. Slap it out
  • Lay the baby face down along your thigh and support their head
  • Give 5 back blows between their shoulder blades
  • Turn them over and check their mouth each time
  1. Squeeze it out
  • Using two fingers, give 5 sharp chest thrusts
  • Check the mouth each time

3. If the item does not dislodge, call 999/112 for emergency help

  • Take the baby with you to call
  • Repeat the steps 1 and 2 until help arrives

The recovery position

If someone’s had one drink too many and you’ve found them unresponsive (but still breathing), putting them in the recovery position will help to maintain their airway. Make sure to reassure them, keep them warm and check for any other injuries and do not make them be sick as this may cause a blockage.


What to do:


  1. Place their nearest arm at a right angle to their body with the elbow bent
  2. Place the back of their far hand against their cheek
  • Hold it there
  1. Pull the far knee up until their foot is flat
  2. Pull on the bent leg to roll them towards you
  3. Tilt their head back to open airway
  4. If you’re unsure about how serious their condition is then call 999 or 112 for medical help



In the case of an emergency always call 999 for help. For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website. ( It offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses please call 0844 770 4800.