November is National Child Safety and Protection Month. Throughout the month, Parenting Now is featuring blog posts, written by local doctors, on a variety of child’s safety issues.
Home is where children are most at risk of suffering minor AND major injuries. Whether it’s the battery in your television remote control that is swallowed, a toy that is choked on, or a flat screen TV or tall piece of furniture falling over, things that we have in our home can harm or even kill kids of any age. This post covers some of the objects in your home that can cause harm.
Coin shaped lithium batteries (also called “button batteries”) are found in hearing aids, remote controls, flameless candles, calculators, cordless decorations, and in many toys. They are bright, shiny, and the perfect size for little hands. When swallowed, they can cause severe damage to internal organs, or even death.
How to prevent injury: Keep anything with these batteries in it out of reach of little hands. Tell your family, babysitters, and friends about the danger.
What to do if your child swallows a battery, or something that MIGHT be a battery: Go to the emergency room. Tell them you know or suspect your child swallowed a button battery. Expect an X-ray to see whether it is a battery, and, if so, where it is in your child’s body.
Televisions and furniture
Top-heavy furniture, such as dressers, shelves, and flat screen TVs, are prone to falling over. Often, children will pull these onto themselves by pulling on cords or by climbing.
How to prevent injury: Use television or furniture straps, mounts, or brackets to attach these heavy items to the wall.
Open windows are great during the warm summer days, but a child can be hurt badly even from a fall out of a first-floor window. Children are often able to push out loose or torn screens. Stairs and high chairs can also be a source of household falls.
How to prevent injury: Use window guards or keep windows closed. Don’t trust screens to prevent a fall. Have baby gates at the top and bottom of all stairs. Strap infants and toddlers into any carriers, swings, or highchairs every time.
Most choking episodes are related to food or small toys. These can get stuck in the trachea, or windpipe of a child. A piece of food or a toy that has been choked on can lead to life-threatening breathing problems.
How to prevent choking: Children should never be given nuts, popcorn, or hard candy until at least age 5. Keep small toys out of reach
What to do if your child chokes: Make sure you and your babysitters know first aid, including the Heimlich maneuver or abdominal thrusts for the ages of your children and CPR. Call 911 in a choking emergency.
Small magnets are common in toys, desk decorations (such as Buckyballs), or may even be on your refrigerator. If a child swallows multiple magnets, or swallows a magnet with another metal object, they may be attracted to each other through the organs in the body, and cause severe internal damage.
What to do if you think your child may have swallowed magnets: Bring your child to an emergency department for evaluation.
Prevention is best! Take an afternoon or evening and walk through the areas of your home and think about how you can make your home a place of safety. You’ll sleep easier knowing that your home is a safe place.