As parents, we do all we can to ensure that our little ones are secure and protected from the perils of injury. We take measures both at home and as much as possible, outdoors, to safeguard our kids from hurting themselves. But sometimes, it is impossible to pre-empt what can cause an unexpected injury.
According to UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, childhood injury is a leading cause of death among children under the age of 18 years, worldwide. Unintentional injuries account for 90 per cent of such cases in children aged between 0-14 years and drowning, road accidents, burns, falls, poisoning are the most common unintentional injuries in kids. What is scary is that many of these accidents happen in the confines of our homes, where we feel children are the most secure. However, it’s possible to prevent such hazards with a little bit of forethought and some simple measures.
Apart from the more common reasons for injury, there are some unusual hazards children may be exposed to, which many of us often ignore. Read on to find out what these are --
1. Choking on Toys/Household Items
Babies and toddlers love exploring and often have the habit of putting objects, which they find on the floor, into their mouth. It is their way of finding out the texture and taste of different things. While this activity is absolutely normal, it puts them at risk of choking or poisoning. Parents and caregivers need to always be alert to small toys and regular items around the house, within the little one’s reach, which can pose a safety hazard. Plastic labels, stickers on playthings and other household items such as uninflated balloons, coins, pen caps, screws, watch batteries, jewellery and small foam toys can all be a choking hazard.
What you can do: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any toy or item that is smaller than 2 ¼ inches and can fit into a 1 ¼- inch circle is unsafe for children under four years. Organise the house in such a way that objects, which are a choking hazard, are kept out of reach of babies and toddlers. If you have older kids, ask them to put away their toys after playing, away from the reach of their younger siblings. Check under cots and sofas for potentially risky objects.
2. Falling objects
Often children get injured at home by falling objects, which have not been properly stored. Heavy objects such as appliances or pots, kept at a height, can tip over and fall on your little one, causing grievous injury. As children grow older, they are also curious to examine and explore objects inside their homes, so make sure that household items are put away neatly and safely. Wobbly furniture, rickety wardrobes and cupboards, and a heavy household item that has a tendency to topple over should be avoided in a home with small children. If kids are tempted to shake or climb any of these objects they can get badly hurt from a fall.
What you can do: Make sure shaky items such as empty cupboards, lightweight tables and similar items are nowhere near your little ones. Even older children can get hurt if heavy objects fall over them. One way to avoid such mishaps is to weigh such objects down with heavy items such as books.
3. Getting suffocated
Since infants are not able to raise their heads and can’t move freely, they are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This happens when a child is not able to breathe because of blockage of the air passage when her nose and mouth get covered. Loose blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, rugs and any soft bedding or clothing can be the cause. Toddlers and preschoolers are also vulnerable to suffocation when they accidentally stuff constricting objects such as soft toys and plastic bags into their mouth or get trapped in toy chests, trunks, cloth baskets and so on.
What you can do: Parents have to be alert and well-organised to protect children from the dangers of suffocation. Never make a baby sleep face down; the safest sleeping position for him is on his back. Make sure the bedding is firm and not too soft. Don’t leave loose blankets, pillows and soft toys in the crib/baby cot. Make sure the baby’s mattress fits correctly in the cot and is not loose. He should not get caught between the bedding and the cot.
4. Being trapped in a car
When going shopping for groceries with your child, she may throw a tantrum when you reach the store and you may be tempted to leave her inside the locked car, while you make the purchases. While this can happen with many parents, it is not a good idea to leave a child in a car, alone. There is a risk of the child being affected by heat stroke and this can be fatal. Sometimes in a hurry, a parent might forget his child inside the car or allow children to play in the vehicle. According to an article on car safety measures in www.seattlechildrens.org, the temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and it doesn’t have to feel hot outside to be dangerous inside a car. Moreover, the body temperature of a child rises three to five times faster than an adult’s.
When parents are very tired or sleepy, there are chances they may unknowingly leave the child locked in the car. Therefore, always check the back seat before getting out of the vehicle. Keep the car doors locked when not in use and never allow children to play inside the car.
5. Getting injured by washing machines/microwave ovens
Having a toddler or preschooler at home means you have to be careful about keeping her away from the washing machine or microwave ovens. There is a risk of the child getting burnt or suffering fractures while trying to explore a machine while it is on. Microwave ovens can get really hot, which can cause serious burns, if you leave your little one unattended near a microwave and they open the appliance door.
What you can do: Many washing machines have child lock facility, which you can activate when a child is around. This will stop the door from opening if he meddles with the switches and will also prevent other mishaps. Also, keep the washing machine as close to the wall as possible to avoid the child getting trapped behind it. Keep the microwave at a height so that your baby cannot reach it. When not in use, put off all the appliances and unplug them.
6. Tripping over wires/door stoppers
While this sounds unusual, both adults and children are at risk of serious injuries caused by tripping and falling indoors. Door stoppers and loose wires from television, music players and other electronic equipment are the biggest culprits. Toddlers, preschoolers and even older children can suffer major injury due to such falls. Other reasons for tripping and falling include cluttered floors and splashing of liquid.
What you can do: Small children in the house warrant a clutter-free and organised floor space with enough room for them to walk freely. Steer clear of tangled wires lying about, because children will not only get their feet entangled in these and fall, they may receive an electric shock if the equipment with the wire is turned on. Keep doors with stoppers against the wall as much as possible and ensure proper lighting in all rooms.
7. Ingesting medicines
Children are naturally curious about what lies inside a box or in a handbag. Since babies and toddlers put things in their mouth to explore the taste and texture of various things, keeping medications and other potentially poisonous items lying around in the house is not a good idea. They may be curious to open medicine boxes or your handbag, which may contain medications among other things. Swallowing prescription medication can cause mild to severe symptoms in children including sleepiness, difficulty in breathing, seizures and unconsciousness.
What you can do: If you suspect your child of having swallowed some medicine, look out for the symptoms. Try to make her vomit immediately, so that the syrup or tablet is thrown out of the body. Also consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Few other hazards to look out for:
1. Burning from a lit diya/incense sticks
2. Drowning in a water-filled tub/bucket
3. Choking on plastic bags
4. Getting bitten by a dog/or other creatures
5. Falling from worn out high-chairs and strollers