Keeping Children Safe at Home Can Prevent Trips to the Emergency Department

Childhood is a fun and exciting time… full of new adventures and explorations! In order to avoid unintentional and unexpected injuries, parents should always be mindful and attentive to potential safety hazards both in and outside the home.

By Dr. Katherine Leaming-Van Zandt, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician
Texas Children’s Hospital

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for children in the United States. Each year, more than 12 million children are injured seriously enough to require medical attention. Texas Children’s Hospital, in partnership with Kohl’s Safe At Home, provides the following home safety tips:

  • More than 1 million poison exposures among children younger than six years of age are reported to Poison Control Centers each year. Harmful products, such as old and current medications, cleaning supplies, and old-fashioned treatments (i.e., oil of wintergreen, oil of turpentine, camphorated oil) should be properly labeled and kept out of the reach of young children.
  • More than 80 percent of fall-related injuries in children younger than four years of age occur in the home. Remember to never leave a baby alone on any furniture, even if they have not begun to roll over; install and close gates at the top of stairs; avoid the placement of furniture under or near windows; and close windows in rooms where children play.
  • Fires and/or burns can occur in any room of the house, not just rooms with open flames. To prevent burns from fires, install and maintain smoke alarms in the home, create and practice a family fire-escape plan, and use safe cooking practices, such as never leaving food unattended on the stove. Additionally, setting and maintaining the hot water heater thermostat to less than 120°F (48.9°C) may help prevent burns from scalding water.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between one and four years old. Remember, drownings can happen very quickly and in less than one inch of water, so filled bathtubs, swimming pools, wading pools, hot tubs, and even buckets of water and sinks can be dangerous. To reduce the risk of drowning, never leave a baby unattended in the bath; never leave a bathtub, bucket, or other container filled with any amount of water unattended; install toilet lid locking devices and keep bathroom and laundry room doors closed at all times. If you have a pool at home, install four-sided fencing at least four feet high with a self-latching gate that separates the house and play area from the pool area.

Halloween Safety

Unfortunately, costumes aren’t the only thing haunting about Halloween, as it is among the top holidays resulting in pediatric emergency center visits. For a fun and safe Halloween, take these tips into consideration:

  • Children under 12 should always have adult supervision. If they’re old enough to trick-or-treat on their own, be sure to advise them to stay in a group, remain on populated, familiar streets and carry a cell phone.
  • Stick to trick-or-treat friendly homes that are well-lit. Children should always remain outside rather than entering any houses.
  • Choose a costume that is flame-retardant, brightly colored (or has reflective strips) and short enough so that your child doesn’t trip on it. Accessories, such as swords and knives, should be soft and flexible.
  • Consider using non-toxic, hypoallergenic face paint instead of a mask, as a mask can obstruct your child’s vision.
  • Allow your children to eat only factory-wrapped treats after you inspect them. Throw away any suspicious goodies and homemade treats. For younger children, remove all choking hazards such as gum, small toys or hard candies.
  • Use flashlights, stay on sidewalks and cross the street only at designated cross walks.

If an accident should occur in your home, having a list of phone numbers (including your child’s pediatrician, dentist, hospital, and poison control center), current medications, vaccination records, and medical/surgical diagnoses readily available may help “de-stress” an already stressful situation.

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