width= Childproofing

By: Dr. Michelle MD
 

In my 30 years experience, I have dealt with a number of life threatening incidents from preventable accidents in the home. The following is a brief list.

  • A 7-year-old fell head first out of a second story window onto the concrete below when the screen he was leaning on fell out of the window.
  • A 15-month-old child fell head first out of his highchair onto a ceramic tile floor and required emergency neurosurgery.
  • A 9-month-old sustained 3rd degree burns of the hands from an oven door.
  • A 9-month-old baby was found not breathing under a plastic covered pile of newly delivered dry cleaned clothing that had been left on a bed.
  • A 4-week-old baby sustained severe burns of the buttocks when placed in a sink for a bath. After the mother checked the water temperature, the hot water tap had quietly leaked into the sink while the mother was undressing the baby.
  • An 8-month-old sustained severe chemical burns when he sat in a puddle of St. Moritz oven cleaner that his toddler sister had found and spilled on the floor.
  • A 2-year-old child required CPR when her heart stopped from an accidental overdose of her grandmother’s heart medicine which she found in her pocketbook.
  • A 13-month-old baby was found with his head submerged in the toilet which he fell into while trying to retrieve a toy.
  • A 22-month-old and the 8-month-old sibling ate 90 vitamin tablets that the older one knocked off the bathroom shelf while standing in the sink.

Miraculously, all of these children survived their injuries, some of them with scars, many requiring prolonged hospitalizations.

It is well known that more children die as a result of accidental injury than from all illnesses combined. Thirty years ago, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Safety Council proposed the concept of Childproofing to teach parents how to avoid injury around the house. Most people know that they must try to make the environment in their home safe for their children. Electrical outlet covers and kinderlocks on cabinets have become standard in most households. There are, however, many more basic aspects of home safety that must be considered to effectively childproof a home. Here is a simple checklist.

1) Preventing choking—The airway of a small child can be blocked completely by any small rounded object like a grape or round pieces of hot dogs. This category includes jellybeans and hard candies. All round foods must be cut in lengthwise pieces before giving them to a toddler. For these reasons these foods should not be given whole or in round pieces until the child is at least three years old. All coins, buttons, balloons, the wheels of toy cars and marbles can also block the airway. When any toy is labeled as a choking hazard it is to be avoided until age three.
Nuts, corn and raw carrots also often cause choking and the small pieces get into the airway. These do not usually cause total blockage of breathing, but they can get stuck in the bronchial tubes and often require endoscopic removal.

2) Preventing poisoning—“Never underestimate the ability of a quiet toddler to climb high and to find trouble!” All medications, including vitamins and supplements, should be kept in a locked box or cabinet no matter how high the cabinet is. Cleaning solutions laundry products and cleaning sprays should never be kept under a sink. They also must be put in an inaccessible place.
When there are elderly adults in the house they must also take care to hide their medications and not leave them on their dressers or in pocketbooks. Some house plants are poisonous. Check yours to be sure they are safe if they are accidentally eaten.

3) Preventing falls—To have a safe home you need proper equipment and a lot of common sense. Windows must have window guards. Window screens do not provide any protection at all. Stairways should be blocked by safety gates. Safety straps and even 5 point harnesses must be used when the child is in a high chair, especially if he or she is an escape artist. Bunk beds and toddler beds must have rails.
In general, never leave a baby on an elevated surface like a counter top or a bed without keeping one hand on him to prevent a fall. If you cannot do this put the baby on the floor. Coffee tables are low enough to cause serious injury when a child falls and strikes the edge with his head. Remove them when the babies are standing and walking and when kids are running around. Curious toddlers can climb on top of bookcases and even refrigerators. It is essential to always know exactly where your toddler is and what he is doing.

4) Preventing burns—Radiators and oven doors must have covers. A baby will use the hot radiator or oven door to support his weight as he tries to stand up and this can result in severe hand burns. The hot water heater in the house must be set at 120 - 125 degrees. If your tap water is hot enough to dissolve instant coffee it is too hot. Pot handles should be turned to the wall when you are cooking. Never hold a child while you cook or when you have a hot drink in your hand. Serving soup from a tureen at the table can prevent accidental burn while transporting the steaming soup bowls from the kitchen. Electrical outlets must have snugly fitted covers.

5) Preventing cuts and lacerations—Knives, scissors, food processor blades, sewing needles and other sharp objects must be made inaccessible. Discard empty cans in a safe container. Glass items should not be left in easy reach.

6) Preventing asphyxiation—All of the following can lead to serious injury or even death: Hinged toy boxes, tight spots (such as between beds or between the bed and the wall), ropes and blind cords, plastic dry cleaner bags, plastic bags, strings around the neck (including necklaces on babies and pacifiers on ribbons around the neck)

7) Preventing drowning—A child should never be left alone in or near water even for a second. Besides bathtubs and swimming pools, even mop buckets and toilets can be dangerous. Babies and toddlers are “top heavy” and they can fall in head first if they reach for something in the water. Tubs and kiddie pools should be emptied after each use.

8) Dealing with accidental injuries—All caregivers, parents and grandparents should learn basic first aid for cuts (pressure) and burns (cool water) and how to do a Heimlich maneuver. The few minutes time until EMS arrives can be critical to the outcome in a life threatening situation.

It is important to remember that other homes the children visit, like the babysitter’s house, the grandparents’ house and summer homes, must be childproofed too. Childproofing is our obligation. We must all do our share to ensure the basic safety of our kids.
 
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