Make this summer emergency free! It takes only a few minutes to fit a bike helmet or to lock the gate to the pool, but these precautions can save you a trip to the emergency room.
Keeping kids safe takes thought and preparation. From curious toddlers to devil-may-care teens, children encounter safety hazards and accidents-waiting-to-happen throughout the house, the yard and even on vacation and in the car. Take some time to consider the following safety issues to keep your family safe.
Since we spend so much time in cars, teaching our children proper auto safety is a must. In 1992, 77 percent of all children ages 10 – 15 killed in motor vehicle crashes were not restrained; 66 percent of children 5 to 9 weren’t restrained; and 56 percent of children 4 and younger weren’t restrained. Children under 4 years old must be restrained in a car seat. Children over 4 as well as adults must wear seat belts – no matter how short the trip.
Infants less than 20 pounds should be placed in an infant/convertible car seat, facing the rear. Toddlers from 20 to 40 pounds should be in a convertible/toddler seat facing forward. Children from 40 to 60 pounds who have outgrown a convertible car seat should be placed in a booster seat.
Rear-facing car seats should never be placed in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. In case of an accident, air inflating bags can hit the back of the car seat causing head injury to the child.
Before your child can safely ride her bicycle, make sure it fits. Bicycles that are the wrong size can cause your child to have an accident. Take your child with you to properly fit the bike. Don’t buy one that’s too big for her to “grow into.”
Next, find the right size helmet – they come in sizes from small to extra large. Use the different thicknesses of padding that come with the helmet for a secure fit. Then adjust the straps for snugness. The helmet should cover the top of the forehead, sit level and not rock around.
More than 1,100 people die each year while boating – 80 percent of them were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs). All occupants of boats are required to wear them. Young children’s should have a collar and crotch strap. Never substitute flotation devices such as air mattresses, water wings or plastic rings for a PFD.
Other boating safety rules include: Make passengers stay seated when the boat is underway. Attach a safety harness (in addition to the PFD) to toddlers or young children on the deck of a sailboat or cruiser. In shallow water, practice with your children what to do if the boat tips over. Take a boating safety course with your children.
The fourth leading cause of accidental death in children under 3 is choking. To safeguard children against choking: Do not give small children small round foods such as grapes, hot dogs, nuts, peanuts, raisins, raw carrots, hard candies and popcorn. Tell children not to put toys in their mouths. Keep small toys such as Legos, marbles, puzzle pieces and other small items such as buttons, pins and beads out of the reach of little hands. Do not allow your child to bite balloons or eat while running or walking.
Carbon monoxide detectors are as important to home safety as smoke detectors. At least 1,500 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. Portable heaters, gas appliances, grills used in enclosed areas, auto exhaust and leaking chimney flues are some of the sources of carbon monoxide in the home. At least one detector per household, located in the sleeping area, is recommended.
Sooner or later, your child will experience a dental emergency – your child may crack, break or knock out a tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that when a tooth is knocked out completely, it should be rinsed and replaced in the socket as quickly as possible. If the tooth cannot be replaced in the socket, float it in milk, water or the child’s mouth to preserve the tooth while driving to the dentist. If the tooth is cracked or broken, your child should be seen by the dentist as soon as possible. Broken teeth can usually be rebuilt with color-matched bonding material.
When eating, guard against the possibility of food poisoning by checking the dates on food products and not buying items that are broken, bulging or leaking. Thaw frozen food covered in the refrigerator. Never leave it uncovered and out on the counter. Never use the same unwashed utensils and cutting boards to cut meat and then other food. At a buffet or picnic, keep food on ice until ready to cook or serve. Don’t keep main dishes at room temperature for longer than two hours.
Each year, more than 1,200 children are killed by home fires – the second-leading cause of accidental death among children. More than 11,000 children are injured by it each year, 66 percent of them under the age of 5. The majority of fires occur in homes without smoke detectors.
Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, including the basement. Experts also suggest having one in each sleeping area. Test your smoke detector once a month and replace batteries once a year. Practice escape routes from your home and pick a meeting site in case you get separated. Purchase a fire extinguisher and keep it in the kitchen. Be sure to teach all family members how to use it.
A first aid kit is a family must. The American Red Cross suggests these basic supplies: adhesive or gauze wrappings or pads, bandages or surgical tape, sterile gauze, absorbent cotton, adhesive tape, tweezers, sharp scissors, cotton-tipped swabs, an ice pack, disposable gloves, soap, an analgesic such as aspirin or acetaminophen, syrup of ipecac, antiseptic solution such as hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic cream such as Neosporin and anesthetic cream such as Benadryl.
Grills spell danger for children. In fact, outdoor flame burns account for 70 percent of all burns to children ages 5 to 12. Backyard barbeque grills are the source of many outdoor summer fires. Never substitute gasoline for lighter fluid on a charcoal grill. Keep children away from the grill area. Have sand and/or a bucket of water available to douse the fire. Do not use a grill in an enclosed area such as inside the house or garage – toxic gases build up.
Guns must be kept locked and stored safely away from children’s reach. If your children will be around guns, educate them in the proper handling of firearms. Make sure that children understand the difference between real life and the use of guns in the movies.
Each year, more than 10,000 children are hospitalized for scalds – 4,000 of which are caused by hot tap water. With 140 degree hot water, it takes just three seconds for a child to sustain a third degree burn, which would require hospitalization and skin grafts. Safety experts recommend that water heaters should be set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This not only keeps children safe, but saves energy as well.
Insects are everywhere in the summer. Use insect repellent when outside, especially at night. Do not use repellent on very young children’s skin, but spread it on their clothing. Avoid wearing strong fragrances and bright clothing, as these attract insects. Take along an insect bite stick on treks through the forest to use immediately after the bite for best results. On trips, take along Benadryl for itching.
For wasp or bee stings, remove the stinger if visible. Do not pull it out, but use a scraping motion with a credit card or fingernail.
A child may have an allergic reaction to a bite or sting, experiencing itching and hives, nausea, vomiting, wheezing or swelling of the throat and tongue. Call the doctor immediately and use an ice compress on the bite area to reduce the pain as well as the absorption of the venom.
Jellyfish and other creatures live at the beach. To avoid getting stung by aquatic life, educate yourself about possibly infested waters. Watch where you step when you’re in the water or on the beach. Even a jellyfish lying on the beach can still sting you. If you’re stung by a jellyfish or stingray, you will experience redness and burning for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
The American Red Cross suggests that you rub the area with sand and soak it in salt water or vinegar. A salt water
or vinegar bath will stop the stinging cells of the jellyfish from firing. After a thorough soaking, make a paste of water and baking soda or meat tenderizer to apply to the wound.
Seek medical attention for any sting that blisters or stings on the face and neck. If you or your child experience other symptoms such as weakness, nausea or feeling hot, seek emergency medical attention.
Here are some tips to keep the kitchen safe: Store cleaning products, plastic bags, tooth picks, knives and other hazardous materials in a locked cabinet or out of children’s reach.
Do not allow appliance cords, pot handles or hot dishes to dangle over the edge where children can grab and pull them down on themselves. Don’t allow children to remove the lid or covering from microwave-heated food – the steam can scald. Equip cabinets with safety latches. Keep matches out of children’s reach.
Lawn mowers have dangerous blades that rotate more than 53 times a second, and they are responsible for more than 75 deaths and 25,000 injuries each year. Never give children rides on riding mowers or tractors because the most common way children die in these accidents is by falling off and being run over. Don’t allow children to operate a lawn mower or tractor. Keep children inside while mowing because rocks, sticks and other debris can shoot out from underneath a mower. Always check when backing up or going around corners, trees or bushes.
Lead-based paints are the leading source of lead in the home. Other sources include pottery and china, lead leached from old lead piping and dirt contaminated with lead from gas emissions. Even low levels can result in delayed learning, impaired growth and behavior problems. To help prevent lead poisoning, use a home testing kit to check paint chips and tap drinking water. Your pediatrician can test your child for lead.
Bites from the deer tick may produce Lyme disease. Humans are more likely to be infected from May through September. Pregnant women are especially at risk; if they are infected, the baby may be born with birth defects. Untreated, it may cause heart, joint and nerve damage. Lyme disease is characterized by a “bull’s eye” type rash that lasts two days to five weeks.
When venturing out in an area infested with deer ticks, wear light clothing with long sleeves and long pants tucked into boots. Upon returning, check each family member for ticks. To remove a tick, grab it with tweezers at the point of the bite and firmly pull it off – don’t twist or jerk. Disinfect the wound and save the tick in a jar. Take the child and the tick to the doctor to determine whether the deer tick was carrying Lyme disease.
Medical emergencies can arise at any time. Parents are often unsure when symptoms are bad enough to go to the emergency room. Here are some situations that warrant a trip to the emergency room: difficulties in breathing, profuse bleeding, very high fever, prolonged diarrhea, loss of consciousness, change in skin color or behavior, extreme lethargy and a fractured or broken limb.
When going to the emergency room, be sure to take a record of your child’s immunizations and allergies, your pediatrician’s name and phone number and your insurance policy number.
Never Talk to Strangers
Never talk to strangers is still excellent advice for kids. Other stranger danger tips include: Teach your child his full address, including the state and phone number. Avoid dressing your child in clothing that has his name on it. Encourage children to buddy up and go in pairs to parks or stores. Designate who is allowed to take your child home from school or child care. Work with your child to pick a code word and instruct to never go with anyone who doesn’t know the word. Teach your child to tell a trusted adult if any stranger wants to give him a present, take him for a ride or touch him in inappropriate places.
One of the hardest things that children have to learn is who a stranger is. Teach your child to understand that a stranger is someone he does not know very well; however, it might be someone he has met before. In many instances, when an adult tells a child he needs his help finding his puppy or locating a friend, a child will willingly go with the stranger to help out. Insist that children get your permission before they go off to help anyone.
Safety hazards abound outside in your yard. If you have a sandbox, make a lid, as local dogs and cats tend to use them for a litter box. Change the sand every year.
Playsets must be checked frequently for firm anchors and supports as well as missing, broken, damaged or loose components. Wooden structures must be checked for splinters and should be periodically sealed or refurbished. Metal sets should be checked for rust and cracking as well as weakened connections. Also, check the materials under your playset. Wood chips, mulch, pea gravel, rubber mats or sand should be underneath playground equipment to cushion falls. Material should be six-to-eight inches deep.
Check the plants in your yard to make sure none of them are poisonous. Teach your children not to put leaves or other materials in their mouths. Common poisonous plants include English ivy, lily of the valley, rhododendron and azalea. While you’re at it, check the yard for poison iv.
Keep gardening supplies such as fertilizers, pesticides and sharp tools out of children’s reach.
If you have a pool or spa at your home, safety is imperative. Each year, more than 300 children under the age of 5 drown in residential pools. Build a fence around the pool at least four feet tall with slats less than four inches apart. The gates should be self-closing and self-latching. If the house opens directly onto the pool area, the door can be fitted with an alarm. A childproof pool safety cover that hooks to the edges of the pool (so your child cannot get trapped underneath) can provide some protection against a child falling in. For above-ground pools, steps and ladders leading from the ground to the pool should be secured, locked or removed when not in use. Never leave a child unattended near a pool – flotation devices are not a substitute for supervision.
Accidental poisoning in the home is preventable. Keep medicines and household products in child-proof cabinets. Make sure all medicines have child-resistant caps. Never refer to medicine as candy. Immediately after you’re done with a hazardous product (even if you have to leave the room just for a moment), return it to its proper storage spot. Leave products in their original containers with their proper labels. Call your doctor or poison control if you suspect that your child has ingested a hazardous substance.
The phone number for poison control should be right next to your phone. The metro Nashville poison lifeline number is 936-2034. Also, keep syrup of ipecac on hand, but do not administer until told to do so by a doctor.
When you have questions about your child’s safety, contact the National Safety Council. It offers A Parent’s Guide to Child Safety. Single copies of this 32-page book are free by calling 800-621-7619.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more than 30 pamphlets available on children’s health and safety. For a free list, write:
American Academy of Pediatrics, Dept. C:
Parent Resource Guide
P.O. Box 927
Elk Grove Village, IL 60009-0927
Rollerblading, skateboards and scooters are very popular with kids. Make them safe by buying the proper size and style of equipment for your child. Secure long shoelaces inside skates. Examine the brakes frequently and replace when worn (it usually takes about eight months of use to wear down a brake).
Children should ride only on smooth surfaces without vehicular or pedestrian traffic and should always wear a helmet and protective padding (knee and elbow pads and wrist guards). The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children under 5 should not use skateboards.
When kids start playing outside, parents must teach them street smarts. They must learn to stop at the edge of the street and look left, right and then left again. Never run out between cars. Use the sidewalk. Where there is no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic. Cross roads at the corner where possible. Watch out for cars backing out of driveways and parking spaces. Carry a flashlight when walking at night and wear reflective material on your clothes.
If your child won’t keep a seat belt buckled, here are some tips for keeping it on: Always use the seat belt no matter how short the trip, and if a child unbuckles it, stop the car and insist that your child buckle up or you cannot continue the trip. If children are comfortable, they are more likely to keep it on. Cover vinyl seats with a blanket or towel to keep them from getting too hot in the sun. Place children over 40 pounds in a booster seat so body straps don’t dig into their necks. Always set a good example by wearing your own seat belt properly. The most common reason children unbuckle their belts is from boredom. Keep them busy with books, toys and snacks and frequent attention by talking and pointing out interesting things along the way.
When there’s an emergency, children must know how to reach help with the telephone. They must learn early to call 911 in the event of an emergency. They should know their address and phone number (or keep it posted by the phone). Role play to practice what the emergency dispatcher might ask.
Several months each year, conditions are ripe for tornadoes. Here are some tips to help your family prepare: Select a place in the house where the family should gather. It could be a basement, center hallway, bathroom or closet on the lowest floor – away from windows.
If your child is caught outside during a tornado, instruct him to go to the lowest point available such as a ditch or stream. Children should never try to outrun a tornado, whether on a bike or in a car. Assemble a tornado safety kit containing a flashlight, first aid kit, battery-powered radio and extra batteries. When leaving the house after a tornado has passed, be careful for fallen electrical wires and damaged homes and trees.
Traveling safety – When you’re on vacation, make sure your child knows the proper safety rules: Use dead bolts and security latches on the hotel door. Designate a place to meet if you become separated. Employ the buddy system. Check your hotel room for child’s-eye-view hazards such as open electrical outlets, toiletries within your child’s reach and drapery cords. Parents should carry a recent photo in wallets or purses. Teach your child the name of the hotel where you are staying. Young children might need a bracelet listing parents’ names and an emergency phone number. Also, review stranger rules.
Budget Inns offer “KidSafe Tips for Today’s Family Travel” brochure. For a free copy, call 800-428-3438.
Protect your child’s skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The two types mainly responsible for sun damage are ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVB light turns skin red quickly, causing sunburn. UVB also causes changes in skin cells that can lead to skin cancer. UVA light (once thought to be harmless tanning rays) also contributes to the development of skin cancer. It can cause sunburn and is mainly responsible for the aging effects of sunbathing.
To protect skin, wear sunscreen. Most experts suggest a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. The SPF tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun before burning than if you hadn’t used sunscreen. For example, SPF 15 means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer than without protection before burning. An SPF of 15 filters out UVB light and some UVA.
For added protection, stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (11 a.m. – 3 p.m. during daylight savings time) when the rays are strongest. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside so that the active ingredients will have enough time to be absorbed. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and face, tightly woven fabrics and long-sleeved shirts. Apply sunscreen under sheer clothing or clothing that will be getting wet. Reapply sunscreen often, especially after you swim or sweat.
Be particularly vigilant with young children, as research indicates that one or more blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can double the risk of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) later in life. Infants should be kept out of the sun as much as possible in the first year.
It is also important to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays – especially in the summer, as it can increase the risk of cataracts. Look for sunglasses that shield ultraviolet rays. Most sunglasses block 99 percent of the UVB only and protect eyes in moderately bright sunlight. UV-blocking sunglasses block 99 percent of UVA and UVB, protecting eyes in intense sunlight and reduce glare.
Many video stores, including Blockbuster, offer safety and self-improvement videos for free or reduced rental. A recent trip to the video store offered titles such as CPR: Ways to Save Lives; Skin Cancer; How to Save Your Child’s Life and Home Alone: A Kid’s Guide to Playing it Safe. Most public libraries also offer community safety videos.
To keep children safe around the numerous pools, lakes and spas around town, teach them water safety rules such as: Never swim alone. Children should always be supervised while swimming – no matter how good a swimmer they are. Never dive head-first into strange waters. Learn CPR.
Children don’t just drown in pools and lakes. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water, and those under the age of 4 are particularly vulnerable. Never leave a child unattended in the tub or in the bathroom (children can drown in toilets also) – not even to answer the phone or get a towel. Children can also drown in buckets of water – keep children away from them or drain them.
Should your child require an X-ray at an emergency room or dental office, make sure her lower body is completely shielded by a lead apron. No matter how safe the equipment or how recently it has been inspected, always insist on the lead apron. If you must sit and hold your child for the X-ray, shield yours as well. If there is a chance that you are pregnant, be sure to tell the technician.
Yellow jackets live in subterranean hives and are often disturbed when the lawn is cut. Yellow jacket stings are very painful for a few minutes, but unless you are allergic, they usually just swell and itch. The best treatment is to remove the stinger by scraping horizontally with a plastic card or fingernail. Use cold compresses or ice to reduce the pain and swelling. Calamine lotion or a paste made of baking soda and water can also help soothe the sting. Wasps produce a similar sting but don’t deposit a stinger.
Zinc oxide is a sunscreen that is particularly popular for use on lips, nose and ears. Many manufacturers are now producing zinc oxide in florescent colors. Kids can then protect themselves and look cool at the same time.
Peggy Middendorf is a mother and freelance writer.