You’ve been a parent for a while, and you’ve seen your fair share of head bumps, grazes and bruised elbows. You might’ve been in the unlucky few that have seen their children break a bone painfully. You’ve seen the flyers for CPR certification, the Heimlich maneuver, how to remove an item lodged in your child’s throat – but it will never happen to you, right? Wrong. You’ve seen it on all the medical dramas you watch so you have some idea how to get it right? Wrong again.
We’ve all read about some type of serious trouble that someone who knows someone’s child has gotten into in the blink of an eye. The truth is, accidents can happen that quickly, and as much as you probably like to think they won’t happen while you’re around – you won’t always be around, and they will still occur if you are.
Children are walking, talking adventurers. If it’s tall they want to climb it; it is deep they want to swim in it – their curiosity is what lands them in trouble. So your job as a parent is to be prepared for every eventuality. Carry bandaids for small things and know CPR for big things.
So let’s talk about accident prevention and also practical ways to help if the worst does happen.
Standing Water. But it’s just a little splashy puddle, right? Well, yes… but drowning between the ages of 1-4 is the top cause of unintentional injury death. The issue here is that kids that age aren’t the most stable on their feet, and most of their body weight is in the top half of their bodies – especially their little heads. Scarily it only takes 2 inches of water for a little one to drown. Ever nipped out of the bathroom to grab something when you’re little one is in the bath? Big mistake. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip about what you do right and wrong as a parent; it’s just a little heads-up. That few seconds can be the difference between life and death – very literally.
Chemicals are so dangerous. If you have a cupboard where you store your cleaning products like bleach, floor cleaner, and maybe even some of the car things too like anti-freeze for example – it needs to have a child lock on it. It is not enough for it to be ‘a bit difficult’ to get into, it needs to be impossible for them. This goes for any medication you have in your house too; you cannot be too careful. Small children are renowned for using their mouths to explore the world. It is the first port of call for hands, feet, things they find on the floor, toys and even things that shouldn’t be going in there – they don’t differentiate. Most household cleaners tend to smell very sweet or floral, not exactly off-putting is it? Do the smart thing here, make sure it is safely locked away – and have the number for your local poison control center on your pinboard.
How careful are you with the car? Car accidents are the no.1 cause of death for children ages 1 to 19. The problem here is incorrectly or poorly installed car seats because ‘that’ll do’ isn’t good enough here. When you get a car seat, it is worth the expense to have a specialist fit it correctly. Guidelines for the use of car seats and what type is appropriate for what age is regularly updated, keep an eye on what applies to you. Height and weight matter here, so keep track of those details. Whenever you make adjustments to the car seats yourself, check a website like seatcheck.org and head to your local professional fitter to get them checked. Young children have a habit of sneaking behind cars while they are playing, and this has caused many fatal accidents over the years, so if you are heading out but not taking the children – walk around the car to make sure you’re clear. Avoid having toys in the car, in the case of an accident that toy can cause a lot of damage as they effectively become high-speed heavy objects. Finally, never leave your children in the car – not even for a minute alone. In that minute another vehicle could hit your car, and through no fault of your own, an accident has happened.
Love having your windows open in the summer? Well, kids like to lean out the window for a peek at everything below. Falls from windows are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in kids. This one relates more to summertime, as more people have their windows open or balconies accessible. Falling from any height can be fatal for small children, and they are more likely to land on a hard surface like a driveway or paving around the house than a soft landing. An excellent solution for this is calling in a professional to get window guards on anything above second-floor. Discourage children from climbing near windows or for using them to wave or peep out of.
Sleep safely. From the moment our children are born, it becomes difficult not to watch them sleep. Sadly, even though SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) rates have dropped dramatically, 2,500 babies still pass away each year. Accidental strangulation and suffocation due to well-meaning parent is on the increase. Pillows, multiple blankets, cot bumpers with loose ties have all been implicated in the last few years. Falling asleep with your baby on you while on the sofa or in a chair can be very dangerous too. It is all too easy to fall a little bit too deeply asleep. While you might see baby catalogs filled with pretty bumpers, matching blankets, and stuffed toys – make safety a priority. There are many guidelines that can help you make the sleeping area as safe as you can – The Lullaby Trust & AAP.
Hot, hot, hot. Hot water and fire are the second leading cause of unintentional death in 5 to 9-year-olds and the third for 1-4-year-olds. Fire, unfortunately, is very alluring and pretty so children can quickly be burned by reaching up at tealight candles, or at the stove. Children can knock over candles very easily and depending on the age won’t be able to sufficiently tell you what has happened. Fire spreads very quickly so what started out as a small accident ends up something much bigger and much more dangerous. Hot water is also a big problem. Set the temperature of your water to 120F (48 degrees) from 160F (71 degrees). Why? Well, 2 seconds at 160 will give a child full thickness burns, full thickness burns are when the trauma destroys both layers of skin and may penetrate even further. To help prevent fires, make sure you have smoke detectors dotted around the house – more than one. Ensure you get them tested twice a year and change the batteries at least once a year.
Button batteries. Many of these now come with a quantum coating, which makes the cell inactive until squeezed. However, these tiny batteries are purchased in large packs, and often we have leftover strips of the older type too. If these are swallowed, the small round batteries get lodged in the esophagus and slowly burn a hole right through. This may take days for parents to notice, doing some severe damage in the meantime. Treat batteries like a poison and have the high and locked away.
While most childhood illnesses are treated easily and at home, there is a list that should have you considering the hospital for emergency treatment:
After a head bump:
Loss of consciousness, much sleepier than usual, painful headaches, difficulty communicating verbally, confusion, continual vomiting, swelling.
Eyes, mouth, or hands even if it looks mild, white or charred skin, any puss, smelly, fever or vomit, caused by caustic chemicals or electric.
Less than two months with 100f temperatures, children above two months 103F, Lethargic, overly sleepy, not responding, as usual, trouble breathing, refusing food and water, sunken eyes, foul breath and dry lips (signs of dehydration), if it lasts more than three days, febrile seizures.
Things to post on your pinboard:
The phone numbers for your pediatrician, GP, poison control center, any neighbors or relatives that would be helpful to have around to look after your other children, local pharmacy, if you aren’t under 911 and your community has its own number, pin that on the board too.
Make a conscious effort to get some training in CPR, taking care of mild burns, how to wrap wounds until you can get medical care and how to treat a child who is choking. Online training or local classes will all arm you with the appropriate knowledge to help in an emergency situation, not only for your children but if you happen to have playdates, ever spend time in soft play. It might save a life when you least expect it.