Seven Childproofing Mistakes

Article Categories: Other & Pregnancy and Reproduction

Working in a pediatric practice can be fun…and also challenging. Helping parents learn to keep their babies and toddlers safe is a never-ending responsibility. Each day, you have the opportunity to help parents protect their children from unintentional harm. No matter how obvious it seems to you, there is much more to do besides getting outlet protectors.

Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines unintentional injuries as “predictable and preventable when proper safety precautions are taken; they are not “accidents.” Parents diligently use car seats and install carbon monoxide detectors. Yet they can oversee important safety measures.

What are some of the most common mistakes that parents make in childproofing?

1. Leaving children alone in the bathtub. Never leave a child unattended in the bath, even to just answer the phone. In less than two minutes, about the time it takes to answer the door, a baby can lose consciousness in the water. After four minutes, brain damage is permanent. Don’t think that safety devices, such as bath seats, are protection.

2. Not putting safety latches on toilets. Pediatric ICUs admit toddlers who thought playing with the water in a toilet was fun…and fell in. There is no way for a child to get himself or herself out of the water. Closing bathroom doors is a good start, but sometimes adults forget and the child has access to an ever-present source of water.

3. Serving food that can choke. It’s fun to help children learn to enjoy new foods, but choking injuries are serious. When food is gummy, sticky, or round, it can block the airway. Common culprits are grapes, carrots, hot dogs, marshmallows, popcorn, and gummy candies. Food should be cut in tiny pieces and children should sit when eating.

4. Soft bedding for babies. Suffocation is the number one cause of unintentional death in children under age one. Babies can wedge their tiny faces into blankets, stuffed toys, or quilts, covering their mouths and noses. Keep the sleeping area as bare as possible.

5. Drinking coffee while holding a child. No matter how much you think you need caffeine, wait until you have put the baby or child down. Even a beverage that is not too hot to drink can scald the tender skin of a baby. Angela Mickalide, PhD, Program Director for the National Safe Kids Campaign, adds, "If you were carrying baby and take-out coffee and started to trip, your natural tendency would be to squeeze that paper cup, splashing the hot beverage all over your baby.”

6. Purchasing latex balloons. Balloons are part of many celebrations and latex balloons are inexpensive. But when balloons pop, toddlers can put them in their mouths. Latex easily sticks in the throat, accounting for 44% of toy-related choking deaths. Buy Mylar balloons; they last longer and slowly deflate.

7. Turning the car seat around too soon. Babies are safer in rear-facing car seats until they are one year-old and weigh 20 pounds. Many babies can reach 20 pounds before their first birthday, but head development is not complete. In a crash, the baby’s head would be forced forward, damaging the neck and spine.

Childproofing goes beyond the home environment. Help your patients understand that their children need protection in many ways. They will be grateful and you will be satisfied that you have done your best.

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