Each year, hundreds of children are injured, some fatally. Often, this happens in or around the house, while the parents or caretakers are present. A few simple precautions can prevent many of these accidents.
Electricity is dangerous. Children love to stick objects into exposed electrical outlets. Use dummy plugs to cover unused outlets. If these are not readily available, simply buy a new plug and insert into the outlet. Avoid leaving long lengths of power cords exposed as a child can pull these and cause an appliance to fall. Make sure, too, that all power cords are in good condition, without being frayed. Avoid using multiple extensions since these can overheat and cause short circuit or fire. If you are having a new home built, ask the electrical contractors to install an Earth Linked Circuit Breaker (ELCB), a device that instantly shuts off the electrical supply if it detects an earth leak, such as when someone accidentally gets an electric shock. All outlets and switches should be installed at a height above the reach of the average toddler.
Many household accidents happen in the kitchen. Children love to play with fire — do not leave matches around where a child can get hold of them. Teach children about fire safety from an early age. Also, do not leave pots and pans on the gas or range unsupervised. Ensure that the handles of saucepans or other vessels are placed where it’s hard for a toddler to reach up and could tip the contents over himself. Keep all knives, forks and other sharp objects out of reach, same with all kitchen and other household cleaners, preferably under lock and key. Same thing applies to kerosene, if it’s used in the house.
Keep all cleaning agents, such as acids and detergents in a locked cabinet. Many of these compounds are highly corrosive and can cause serious damage if ingested. Adjust the temperature control on your geyser so that it is not too hot — you should be able to hold your hand without discomfort in the hot water stream.
Many foods can be dangerous for small children since they can aspirate the items, resulting to blockage of the breathing passages. The air passages of children are relatively small and are easily blocked, as the danger poses when they talk or laugh with food in their mouth. Children under five years should not eat hard items like crackers and hard candy. Nuts are especially dangerous. Popcorn (which is light) can easily be aspirated into the lungs. Teach children not to put too much food into their mouths and also not to talk with food in the mouth.
Many toys can be dangerous. Make sure that the toy is age-appropriate. What is suitable for an older child may be unsafe for a younger child. Watch out for toys with sharp edges and small parts — children below three years can aspirate small parts and choke. Avoid toys that have paint that peels off, which can be ingested when a child puts it into his mouth. If a toy uses button cells, be very careful since toddlers can swallow them.
Ensure that there are no sharp edges exposed that can hurt a child around the house. Keep all medicines out of reach of children. Tablets that may look like candies, whether iron tablets or vitamins, are dangerous to toddlers. Leftover medicines prescribed on a previous occasion or for others may be both inappropriate and dangerous. Do not allow children to play unsupervised on balconies or rooftops. Most p arapets are not high enough to prevent a child from falling over.
Be extremely careful around stairs — infants and toddlers can easily fall down and injure themselves. If you have open stairs in the house, have a carpenter make a temporary safety gate until the child is old enough to use the stairs without assistance. Do not place chains around a child’s neck. These can get caught on objects and strangulate the child. Keep any burning objects well away from children as they may get fascinated looking at the glowing tip and get burns on the face. Do not allow children to play with or handle plastic bags as these can suffocate a child if placed over the head.
Two wheelers: No one should ride a scooter or motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Since paediatric helmets are not available, ideally no child should ride on a two-wheeler. Children are much more prone to head injuries than adults because the size of the head is larger relative to the body and therefore children fall headfirst. Even a very low speed accident can cause serious or fatal injury. More than two people should never ride a two-wheeler.
Car Travel: Ideally, all occupants in a car should wear seatbelts — even low speed accidents can cause serious injury to passengers not wearing seatbelts.
Children should not sit in the front as the child will be thrown forward and can sustain serious head injuries by hitting the windshield or dashboard if the car suddenly stops.
Similarly, do not keep large, unrestrained objects in the passenger compartment — these can be thrown out and injure occupants during a sudden stop.
Let safety become our way of life.