November is Child Safety and Protection Month, which makes it the perfect time to shine a spotlight on unexpected threats to kids’ health and safety. Here are 14 ways kids could be endangered, with suggestions for protecting them.
1) Poisoning – Even though they taste terrible, lots of kids swallow household cleaners, medications and even insecticides—especially if they smell like lemon or another pleasing fragrance. What should you do? Put child safety locks on all cabinets that contain toxic household products. Keep anything toxic on high shelves that are totally out of the reach of kids. And keep the number for the Poison Control Center readily available in case you have an emergency. It’s 1-800-222-1222.
2) Lead poisoning – Lead poisoning is in a category all on its own. Kids can get lead poisoning by living in homes painted with lead paint, by chewing or sucking on toys painted with lead paint, or by drinking water from pipes held together by lead solder. Once poisoned, they can suffer a wide variety of neurological disorders and may even suffer in IQ loss. What should you do? Have your home tested for lead paint if it was built before 1978. Buy toys that are certified lead-free (which will often mean they should not come from China). Get advice from the Lead Safe America Foundation on other lead poisoning threats your kids could face and how to protect them.
3) Kitchen burns – Kids see flames or a red hot stove coil and may want to touch them, which could lead to a nasty burn. What should you do? Stay by the stove when you’re cooking or baking to keep kids safely away. Keep pot handles turned towards the back of your stove so kids don’t accidentally reach for the pot and pull down a boiling hot mess. Rather than put hot pots and casserole dishes on the table, either serve kids from the stove or transfer the cooked food into cooler serving dishes.
4) Iron burns – I still remember the day my little sister put her entire hand on the hot iron my mother had left for a minute when she went to answer the door. My sister’s reaction? She screamed bloody murder. What should you do? Never leave a hot iron unattended or in a spot where a child could touch if if you’re not looking. And if you or a child does get burned, plunge your fingers or hand into an ice water bath as soon as possible.
5) Water burns – Any of us can get burned when the water coming out of the tap is too hot. Kids may not be able to react in time if they’re in the bathtub and turn on the hot water faucet. What should you do? Keep your hot water heater set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough for a nice warm shower but reduces the risk of scalding. But most importantly, never leave a young child alone in the bathtub or shower so they can’t turn on the water themselves.
6) Choking –Kids constantly put things in their mouths. It’s not that they want to eat everything, but they do want to explore its texture and function, and chewing on it lets them do that. Unfortunately, once kids start chewing on something, they may think they can just go ahead and swallow it, and that can lead to choking and even suffocation. What should you do? Keep coins, latex balloons, paper clips, small toy pieces and hard round foods where children cannot see or touch them. Read the warnings on toy boxes to make sure you’re not buying a toy that is not age-appropriate for your child.
7) Suffocation - Babies can die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome if they don’t get enough oxygen when they’re sleeping. What should you do? Put babies to sleep on their backs. Don’t place pillows, blankets, comforters or soft toys in cribs with babies to reduce the risk that they’ll get tangled up in the fabrics. If you think your child might be cold, dress him or her in an extra sleeper at night.
8) Car accidents – Motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old, and one study showed that about a third of kids who died in crashes were not wearing the proper restraints. According to car advice columnist AskPatty.com, a child needs to be at least 57 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds to safely rid in a car with just a seat belt, meaning no car seat or booster seat. What should you do? Keep your child in either a car seat or booster seat until he is big enough to ride safely with a seat belt. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recommends that kids ride in the back seat at least through the age of 12. Note that booster seats can reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent compared to seat belts alone, as they protect kids that are too big for a regular car seat but still too small just to use a seat belt by itself. By the way, SafeKids.org recommends parents tug on their kids’ car seat where the seat belt goes. If it moves more than 1″ at the base, it needs to be tightened up.
9) Carpooling – One in five parents whose children carpool say they “bend the rules” when driving and let children ride without seat belts, car seats, or booster seats. What should you do? Make sure when you drive the carpool to buckle everyone up. Talk to other parents who may be driving your kids to make sure they are doing the same. If not, find a different carpool.
10) Dry drowning and secondary drowning – Most parents are on the look-out when their kids are swimming or in the bath tub to make sure they don’t stay underwater too long and drown. “Dry drowning” and “secondary” drowning can happen hours after a child has toweled off. How does it happen? Suppose your child gets water in her mouth when she gets dunked. The water may never reach the lungs. But breathing it in can cause a child’s vocal chords to spasm and close up, shutting off airways and making it difficult or impossible to breathe. Secondary drowning is a bit different. Your child’s airways open up and let water into the lungs. As the water builds up, it causes a condition known as pulmonary edema. The end result is trouble breathing. Dry drowning usually happens right after an incident in the water, says WebMD; secondary drowning may start anywhere from 1 to 24 hours after the child has been in the water. What should you do? Keep roughhousing in the water to a minimum. Look for symptoms like coughing, chest pain and trouble breathing. Get the child to the emergency room as quickly as possible if any symptoms occur.
11) Playground accidents – It’s normal to take a tumble on the playground, but some falls can be more serious than others. I once watched my child climb on to the top of a tall slide. I expected her to sit on her bottom and slide down, so I ran around to the bottom of the slide to catch her. Instead, she took a step backward and fell. Fortunately, another parent was standing guard and caught her. Otherwise, she could have been seriously hurt. Let your kids have fun, by all means. But evaluate the risks in the moment, and tag team with other adults so kids can have fun and be adventurous without putting themselves in any danger.
12) Gun shots - More than one third of all U.S. households harbor a gun, and often they’re loaded, notes the Globe Life Insurance Company. Too many accidental deaths have occurred because kids want to play “cowboys and Indians” or “cops and robbers” and find a loaded gun they can shoot. What should you do? Don’t keep a loaded gun in your home. If you have a gun, keep it locked and keep the ammunition locked in a different spot. Ask parents whether they have guns in their home before you permit your child to visit. Teach your child to leave the scene immediately if he or she sees a gun and to call you at once. If your child can’t reach you, s/he should know to contact the police. You can program your phone number and the number of the police into their phone if they have one.
13) Head concussions – Head injuries have gotten increasingly common in a variety of school and club sports, but also just in the course of playing around. What should you do? If your kids play soccer or football, make sure their coach has adopted some of the newest techniques for reducing head injuries. If your child bicycles or skate boards, require her to wear a helmet. If you get any report that your child got knocked in the head or fell down hard on his head, have him checked for a concussion and remove him from the sport or activity until he has completely recovered.
14) Secondhand smoke – Kids can inhale tobacco smoke almost to the same degree of the adults who are smoking them. “Secondhand smoke can be especially harmful to your children’s health because their lungs still are developing,” reports HealthyChildren.org. “If you smoke around your children or they are exposed to secondhand smoke in other places, they may be in more danger than you realize. What should you do? Quit.
What other safety hazards do you worry about? How else do you protect your kids? Please share.