Paediatric first aid primary survey: DRABC

Understanding paediatric first aid primary survey

Emergencies can occur without warning, and being equipped with the right knowledge can make a critical difference, especially when it comes to children. Paediatric first aid is a vital skill for anyone involved in caring for children, whether they are parents, teachers, or healthcare professionals. In this blog, Rose delves into the DRABC primary survey in paediatric first aid, providing essential information to ensure the best response in crisis situations.

Key facts and statistics

Each year, thousands of children in the UK find themselves in emergency situations requiring immediate first aid. According to the NHS, over 2 million children under the age of 15 experience accidents in and around the home each year, necessitating some form of emergency response. With proper training, caregivers can significantly improve the outcomes of these incidents, reducing the severity of injuries and, in some cases, saving lives.

Key definitions

DRABC stands for Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. It is a mnemonic used to facilitate a systematic approach to a first aid situation, ensuring that the most critical assessments are conducted efficiently and effectively. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Danger - Ensure that both the child and the rescuer are not in any danger.
  • Response - Check if the child is responsive by gently tapping their shoulders and asking loudly, “Are you okay?”
  • Airway - If unresponsive, check if the child's airway is clear.
  • Breathing - Look, listen, and feel for breathing. If the child is not breathing normally, commence rescue breathing.
  • Circulation - Check for signs of circulation such as movement, coughing, or normal breathing. If there are no signs of life, start chest compressions.

Relevant legislation, regulations, and best practice

In the UK, the Health and Safety (First aid) Regulations 1981 mandate that employers, including those in educational and childcare settings, provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure immediate first aid can be given to employees and others if they are injured or become ill at work. This includes training staff in paediatric first aid, particularly where children are involved.

Best practices in paediatric first aid, as outlined by the Resuscitation Council (UK), emphasise the importance of regular training and refreshers to keep skills up-to-date. Compliance with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) standards further reinforces the necessity of adhering to robust paediatric first aid procedures.

The importance of DRABC in paediatric first aid

  • Danger - The initial assessment for any danger is crucial to prevent further harm to both the rescuer and the child. It involves a quick scan of the environment to ensure there are no ongoing risks.
  • Response - Determining responsiveness helps gauge the severity of the situation and dictates the subsequent steps in the emergency response.
  • Airway - A clear airway is vital. Obstructions, such as food, small objects, or vomit, need to be carefully removed. For babies, a modified technique that involves checking the mouth and removing any visible obstructions with a finger sweep is recommended.
  • Breathing - If a child is not breathing normally, immediate action is required. For infants, this involves five initial rescue breaths followed by chest compressions. For older children, normal CPR ratios apply.
  • Circulation - Checking circulation includes looking for signs of life. If none are present, CPR should be commenced immediately, following the latest guidelines from resuscitation councils.


To ensure effectiveness in a real-world scenario, training should be hands-on and scenario-based, allowing participants to practice in simulated emergencies. Regular refresher courses are also recommended to maintain proficiency.


The DRABC primary survey is a lifesaver in paediatric emergencies. Understanding and implementing this method can significantly improve the chances of positive outcomes following accidents involving children.

Click here to explore our paediatric first aid courses and find more resources to enhance your preparedness. Your dedication to safety can transform outcomes for the children in your care equip, educate, and empower yourself today.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Rose Mabiza

Rose has dedicated over 15 years to improving health and social care quality through practice, targeted education and training. Her extensive experience includes working with older adults, individuals with mental health conditions, and people with autism and learning disabilities.

Understanding paediatric first aid primary survey - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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