If you ask the average person what summer means to them, they’ll tell you about sunny weather, lazy days at the beach, and vacations with the family. If you ask a pediatrician, we’ll tell you about the boy who broke an arm while jumping off a dresser doing his best Superman impression, the girl who burned her thigh while making a cup of noodles for lunch, or the siblings who were competing to see who could swallow the biggest coin (all real cases, by the way). All over the country, schools are coming to the end of the academic year. Our children are looking forward to weeks of rest and relaxation, but they also tend to have accidents and incidents during their summer adventures that can land them in the doctor’s office. Keep reading for a refresher course on what you can do to keep your kids safe this summer.
If you haven’t done so in a while, do a childproof checkup. Even on your best day as a parent, it’s still really hard – and sometimes, despite even the best efforts, accidents can happen, but do your best to mitigate risk. Luck can’t be a strategy. Instead, take the time to look around your house now to see whether there are any holes in your safety strategy. Is the pool in your backyard secured? Is your TV securely attached to its stand? Have the bullets been removed from the firearms in the house and are they locked away? Do your windows and doors have safety guards? Have you checked the batteries on your fire alarm and carbon monoxide detectors? It’s about minimizing the exposure to potential risk.
Store cleaning supplies carefully. Hand sanitizers pose an especially high risk to children right now because people are using them more often. Though some hand sanitizers may smell like candy, most contain at least 60 percent alcohol, potentially causing serious injury or even death if a child drinks it. Hand sanitizer should be kept out of reach of young children in a locked cabinet when not in use. The same goes for all cleaning supplies which also contain chemicals that can cause severe illness or death if ingested.
Move medication (including vitamins) out of kids’ reach. With kids bored at home and looking for ways to entertain themselves, don’t make it easy for them to find danger. Keep medications away from children, ideally in a locked cabinet, or away from high-traffic areas like the kitchen counter. Also, keep all medication in its original container, so that it’s clear what is inside to avoid mix-ups.
If you find your child with a substance that may be toxic, assume he or she has ingested some. Take the container away and check the mouth for residue. Remove any extra from the mouth with your fingers. Do not make your child vomit since this can lead to more problems. Call the emergency room (ER) and be prepared to answer some basic questions about your child’s health – what he or she might have ingested, what time, and how much of it they might have had. It also helps if you bring the ingested agent with you to the ER.
When it comes to infant sleep safety, the rules haven’t changed just because our daily routines have. It’s important to continue to make safe sleep choices for your baby. Though it may be tempting to let your baby fall asleep in a swing or inclined bouncy seat, so that you can fit in some housework or supervise another child, it’s as important as ever to place your baby to sleep in a safe space, such as a bassinet, crib, or play yard. Infants should sleep alone, on their backs, unrestrained, on a firm, flat surface that’s free of soft bedding and padded bumpers. Any other setup puts infants at risk for suffocation.
Anchor furniture and remind your kids that they are not props for acting out their superhero fantasies. Tip-over injuries are extremely common and a TV or a piece of furniture can cause catastrophic injuries if they fall onto your child. Many times, tip-overs happen when a child climbs on a drawer or simply opens multiple drawers. Small dressers can be just as deadly as larger ones. You can’t tell simply by looking at a piece of furniture whether it’s stable, so if your furniture isn’t already anchored to the wall, now is the time to do so.
Supervise their culinary exploits. Kids love to show off their independence by preparing meals and drinks on their own. While doing so can be empowering for them and convenient for you, it’s important to establish ground rules to ensure their safety. Let them know that they should always ask permission before entering the kitchen to prepare anything. Teach them to properly wash their hands to avoid spreading diarrhea-causing germs. Have them clean up spills and messes as they go to avoid slip and fall accidents. Show them to use a towel or pot holder to handle hot plates and cups. Invest in kid-friendly plastic knives and cooking utensils.
If your child gets hurt and it isn’t a life-threatening injury, call your doctor rather than rushing to the hospital. There may be a lot that a healthcare provider can do over the phone, via video, or at the doctor’s office. If, however, your child needs immediate medical help or is having trouble breathing, call the ER right away. Remember, your pediatrician is a valuable resource for helping you raise happy and healthy kids. If you’re ever unsure of what to do when your child sustains an injury, don’t hesitate to reach out.
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in New Providence, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.