Dr. Sabeena Jalal Khan talks about common domestic injuries and ways to prevent them.
Three-year-old Saim walked into the bath-room where his mother had just poured the hot water into the bucket. Out of curiosity, he dipped his three tiny fingers into the streaming water! The skin came off.
The common causes of home-injury deaths are fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning, and firearms. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most home accidents occur where there is/are:
• Water – in the kitchen, bathroom, swimming pools, or hot tubs.
• Heat or flames – in the kitchen or at a barbecue grill.
• Toxic substances – under the kitchen sink, in the medicine cabinet, in the garage or garden shed, or even in a bag or other place where medications are stored.
• Potential for a fall – on stairs, slippery floors, or from high windows.
You can take precautions to make these places safer, but the most important thing to remember is to watch young children at all times. Even if your home is child-proofed, it only takes an instant for babies and toddlers to fall, run over to a hot stove, or put the wrong object in their mouths. Your watchfulness is your child’s best defence.
However, accidents will still happen, so it’s important to be prepared. If you’re expecting a baby or you already have a child, it’s a good idea to:
1. Keep the following near the phone (for yourself and care-givers):
• Child’s doctor number
• Parents’ work and cell-phone numbers
• Neighbour’s or nearby relatives number (if you need someone to watch other children in the event of an emergency)
3. Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
4. Install smoke detectors.
Babies reach, grasp, roll, sit, and eventually crawl, and walk. At many stages in the first 2 years or so, they’re able to move around, tumble over, and get into things in one way or another. And climbing is something all kids do, but toddlers may not have the coordination to react to certain dangers. They will pull themselves up using table legs; they’ll use bureaus and dresses as jungle gyms; they’ll reach for whatever they can see.
So the potential for a dangerous fall or a tumble into a sharp edge can happen in nearly every area of your home at nearly every age. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent your child from getting hurt in your home:
• Never leave a child unattended around stairs.
• Keep stairways clear of toys, shoes, loose carpeting, etc.
• Place a guard on banisters and railings if your child can fit through the rails.
• Avoid accordion gates, which can trap a child’s head.
• Don’t keep loose rugs on the floor. Put specially designed pads under rugs to hold them securely to the floor’s surface.
• Make sure all pieces of furniture a child might climb on – tables, bureaus, cabinets, TV stands, etc – are sturdy and won’t fall over. Be particularly careful of top-heavy pieces like overloaded book shelves or entertainment centres that can fall on your child. You can also buy “L” brackets to attach furniture to walls to prevent your child from climbing on furniture and having it topple over.
• Clean up any spills around the home immediately.
• Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table or bed. If the phone rings while you have your baby on the changing table, bring the baby with you while you answer the call. If you must leave for a moment, put the baby on the floor or in a play pen or crib.
• Keep side rails up on cribs.
• Always test bath water with your elbow before putting your child in it.
• Face your child away from the faucet or fixtures so they are less likely to play with them or accidentally turn on the hot water.
• Unplug all bathroom appliances (hair-dryers, curling irons, electric razors) when not in use.
• Don’t hold a baby or small child while cooking.
• Don’t warm baby bottles in a microwave. The liquid may heat unevenly, resulting in pockets of hot breast milk or formula that can scald your baby’s mouth.
• Avoid using tablecloths or large place-mats. A small child can pull on them and overturn a hot drink or plate of food.
Here are some ways to prevent poisoning at home:
In the home
• Store poisons, household cleaners and medicines up high, out of sight and locked away. Use child-safety catches on cupboard doors.
• Keep handbags containing medicine out of reach.
• Store poisonous substances in their original containers – and never in food or drink containers.
• Safely dispose of all unused medicines, garden chemicals, cleaning fluids, etc.
• Supervise young children closely when visiting other homes where poisons may not be stored as safely as in your own home.
• Don’t give medicine intended for adults to children. Always check the ‘use by’ dates on medicines.
The most common childhood injuries
• Burns, one of the most common childhood accidental injuries. These include sunburns and burns caused by stoves, lamp, matches, lighted cigarettes, fireplaces, wood stoves, and hot liquid from a pan, cup, bath, or hot water heater.
• Head injuries caused primarily by falls from high chairs, beds, furniture, stairs, and play equipment.
• Choking on food or foreign objects.
• Strangulation caused by strings, ties, ribbons, and cords on toys, clothing, and household appliances and fixtures.
• Nose injuries caused by running into stationary objects, falling on a hard surface, or deflecting a flying toy (or the fist or foot of another child).
• Items stuck in a nostril, like small stones, chewable vitamins, pebbles, and peas.
• Cuts and scratches caused by sharp fingernails (either your baby’s own or some other child’s), pets, sharp object, and encounters with stick and other pointed objects that are found in your yard.
• Fractures and sprains caused by hard falls and, as your child enters the toddler years, by playing energetically. Children tend to break bones more easily than adults because they have soft areas near the end of each bone called growth plates.
• Contusions – bruises under the skin – caused by bumps and falls.
• Insect and bee stings
• Muscle strains, which occur most often when a child starts a new sport or activity.
• A pulled elbow, caused by picking up your child by one arm, jerking his/her arm forcefully, or swinging him around by the arms. The forearm bone actually slips out of the elbow joint and will sometimes slip back without medical attention.