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COVID-19 has drastically changed all of our lives, and for parents of children, trying to create and sustain daily schedules, manage virtual school work and activities, juggle telehealth medical visits and therapies, and uphold our children’s (as well as our own) physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness during this unprecedented time has, of course, been challenging. With more children at home and many requiring significantly increased caretaking needs, it makes it that much more imperative that parents and caregivers ensure the safety of their home and children’s activities.
Home safety: Millions of poisonings occur each year. Because they are naturally curious and eager to explore their environments, children younger than 6 years of age comprise nearly half of all poison exposures. Common household items, such as cosmetics and personal care products, cleaning substances, medications, and foreign bodies/toys, lead the list of the most common substances implicated in pediatric exposures. Because over 90% of poisonings occur in the home, parents and caregivers should take the following steps to prevent unintentional poisonings:
- Periodically survey the home to evaluate all injury and poison hazards
- Purchase the least toxic products available and avoid storing large amounts of toxic products in the home
- Keep harmful products, including medications, cleaning and laundry products (i.e., laundry detergent pods), paints/varnishes, wood cleaners, antifreeze and pesticides, in their original containers, and up out of a child’s sight and reach
- Use safety latches or locks on drawers and cabinets where you keep dangerous items, and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home
- Ensure all dangerous substances have a childproof cap and always replace the safety caps immediately after a product’s use
- Never leave alcohol or electronic cigarettes/nicotine refill cartridges within a child’s reach
- Secure and check key fobs, heart monitors, watches, greeting cards, musical children’s books and toys; these products may contain button batteries, and if ingested, can cause severe internal injury
- Keep high-powered magnets, such as Buckyballs, out of the home and office; if multiple magnets are swallowed, severe injury, such as intestinal perforation and death, can occur
Bicycles: Each year, more than 125,000 children seek medical care for bicycle-related injuries. Falls and collisions with stationary or moving objects cause most bicycle injuries, such as cuts and scrapes, broken bones/fractures, abdominal injuries and brain injuries. Because most bicycle deaths are associated with not following the rules of the road (such as riding against the flow of traffic, riding into the street without stopping, etc.), it is important for parents to:
- Ensure bicycle helmets are appropriately sized and ALWAYS worn
- Dress children in reflective/light-colored and protective clothing (especially at nighttime)
- Discuss and enforce road safety rules
- Map out safe bicycle routes prior to leaving the home
- Continuously monitor young children while on bicycle rides
Hoverboards: Similar to skateboards, ripsticks and scooters, hoverboard-related injuries are common and typically caused by falls and collisions. Abrasions, lacerations (deep cuts that may need stitches), sprains/strains, fractures, and head and face injuries account for most hoverboard-related injuries, but more severe injuries, including death, may also occur and are often the result of head, chest or abdominal injuries from a collision with an automobile. To prevent injuries, parents should:
- Dissuade children from performing risky or dangerous tricks, and never allow more than one child at a time to ride the hoverboard
- Ensure the indoor riding area is free of toys and furniture and never allow children to ride their hoverboards near stairs or on uneven surfaces
- Confirm children are wearing properly-fitted, safety-certified helmets, wrist guards, elbow/knee pads and reflective/light-colored clothing
- Avoid areas with wet, oily, bumpy, uneven and/or crowded pathways and riding areas
- Continuously supervise hoverboard use, especially on or near public roads, sidewalks and parking lots
Pools (and, any container/receptacle of water in the home): Drowning can happen quickly and quietly and anywhere there is water … even in less than an inch of water! To prevent in-home drowning, parents should remember to:
- Immediately drain and empty all bathtubs, buckets of water (typically used for cleaning), and ice chests
- Keep toilet seat covers down and latched
- Ensure pools are surrounded by 4-sided pool fences (with self-closing/latching gates) and covers and alarms are installed and used around home pools or hot tubs
- Continuously supervise and remain within an arm’s length of young children, especially those younger than 4 years, in or near water – even if other parents/caregivers are present
- Teach children to never go near or in water without adult permission
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to water emergencies
Children do not typically drown during periods of prolonged negligence, but usually occur during brief lapses in supervision. Even brief distractions, such as phone calls, friendly conversations and meal preparation, can be deadly if they displace the parent’s attention away from the children.
Trampolines: Each year, trampoline-related injuries result in nearly 100,000 emergency department visits! Falls (on the mat and off the trampoline), collisions (with other jumpers, on the frame/springs or with surrounding hazards), and unsupervised flips and stunts are the leading causes of trampoline-related injuries. Some of the most common injuries include bruises and cuts, lacerations, sprains/strains, fractures, concussions and other head injuries, and neck fractures and spinal cord injuries. If allowing children to jump on a trampoline, parents should remember to:
- Constantly supervise children of all ages and/or keep younger children off the trampoline or in a designated area separate from older, bigger kids
- Ensure only one jumper is on the trampoline at a time
- Prohibit pushing, rough housing, flips, somersaults and stunts
- Check and replace/repair home trampoline equipment
Most common childhood injuries are PREVENTABLE. Maintaining awareness, implementing key safety features in the home and during physical activities and engaging in age- and developmentally-appropriate supervision will help keep children safe!
Because accidents and injuries are unexpected, parents should always keep emergency contacts, such as the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222), your pediatrician, or a nurse’s help line, updated and in a central, easily accessible location. For emergent care, Texas Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Centers at the Medical Center, West Campus and The Woodlands are open 24/7 for acute, pediatric injuries and illnesses.
For additional tips to help safeguard your home, watch this video.