Kids get into everything – and nothing seems to be off limits in their minds. All it takes is a split second of opportunity for your seemingly childproof home to become a danger zone.
“Injuries are the leading cause of death of children younger than 4 years of age,” says Kelly Levasseur, division and fellowship director of pediatric emergency medicine at Beaumont Children’s.
“It’s an important thing for parents to realize that it doesn’t take very long.”
But education is key to preventing major injuries before they ever occur. “You just don’t know when an accident is going to happen,” stresses Dr. Levasseur, who cares for children in the specialized Beaumont Children’s pediatric emergency departments in Royal Oak and Troy. Here are the potential hazards she recommends parents watch for both inside and outside the home.
1. Falls. “Just because you’re indoors doesn’t mean that your child can’t fall – especially younger kids.” That means down stairs, off balconies and even rolling off of surfaces like changing tables and couches. Parents have to be aware, even if they think their house is “totally childproof,” she says.
2. Furniture tip-overs. Your little one might decide to climb the dresser to reach the TV set. These scenarios result in heavy furniture tip-overs and lead to about three injuries per day, and about one death every two weeks, the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes. Levasseur suggests anchoring furniture to walls to avoid these mishaps.
3. Firearms. Kids find guns, and even if they don’t intend to cause harm, they could end up shooting themselves, a sibling or a friend, Levasseur says. The current recommendations from HealthyChildren.org state if you choose to have a gun in the home, keep it unloaded, locked up and store ammunition separate from the gun.
4. Burns. Burns are especially a risk in the kitchen. Scald burns, like from hot liquids, can be a problem if a child decides to reach up and pull hot coffee or soup off the counter. “If cooking something or making something with hot liquids in the kitchen, make sure that the kids are always supervised.”
5. Poisonings. All medications – even seemingly harmless drugs like Benadryl and Tylenol – should be put out of reach and locked away to avoid poisoning. Little ones could overdose, and even older kids who don’t know how much to take can do the same. Vitamins are included in this category as well, Levasseur says. Those with iron are very dangerous for little ones because they can cause iron poisoning when taken in excess. Potentially one prenatal pill can lead to toxicity..
6. Drowning. Water and pool safety is vital when heading outdoors in the summer. “As parents and as anyone who watches kids, we can never be careful enough with kids around water,” Levasseur stresses. “It only takes 2 inches of water for infants to drown” – and a drowning can take just seconds. Make sure somebody is always watching the kids and minimize distraction by staying off of your phone while kids are around a pool or lake. One of the most dangerous times is when there are a lot of people around the water, everyone thinks that the other people are watching the kids and no one is really paying attention.
7. Bug bites. Sometimes they’re itchy and a little bit red – and that’s OK. If there’s any swelling, use a cool compress and Benadryl. But keep an eye out for skin infection, if the site turns very red and hurts when touched. See a doctor if there’s any pain or fever. In the event of a bee sting, if there’s any swelling in the lips, around the eyes or tongue, rash or trouble breathing, it could be an anaphylactic reaction and they need to be seen immediately in the ER.
8. Extreme temperatures. If your child is playing in the heat and starts experiencing spasms or cramps and a little bit of a headache, he should sit in the shade, rest and drink some fluids. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are serious concerns in the summer with symptoms of confusion, they stop sweating and potentially seizures. During the colder months, parents should be aware of frostbite, Levasseur says. If your child has really cold, numb fingers or toes, warming them up and then re-exposing them to the cold is “one of the worst things they can do for their fingers and their toes.” If there’s any sign of frostbite – tingly or blue fingers or toes – “they just need to stay inside and really warm up to get that circulation going.”
9. Outdoor play-related injuries. During both warm and cold seasons, kids playing outside on bikes and sleds should be wearing proper safety equipment like helmets, and know the rules. On playgrounds, ensure your child is playing on age-appropriate equipment that is in good shape and that the playground has a soft ground covering like woodchips or rubber padding.
Remember: Any of these accidental injuries can happen unexpectedly. Make sure you know to which hospital you’ll take your child in the event of an emergency, Levasseur says. The Beaumont hospitals in Royal Oak and Troy have Oakland County’s only pediatric emergency units attached to hospitals providing pediatric inpatient care.
Unsure of when it’s time to go? During the day, call your pediatrician’s office and they can help you determine. Overnight, after hours or if you think it’s a true emergency and it’s something you want checked out, “I would say come into the emergency department,” she adds. “It’s better to have somebody look at them and be reassured than potentially missing something serious.”
For more information on the Beaumont Children’s emergency department – and other Beaumont pediatric services – visit beaumont.edu/childrens. For a referral to a Beaumont Children’s doctor, call 855-480-KIDS.