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Part 5: Keeping Your Child Happy and Safe  >  Prevention Of Accidents



Most Accidents Can Be Prevented

I do not like the dictionary definition of an accident being an unexpected event or an event that happens by chance. It is true that sometimes an accident can take place in spite of all precautions taken by us, but this is not usually the case. An accident is often a harmful event that could be avoided by a little careful thought.

Accidents do not always happen by accident. This child did get a head injury from a moving fan on another occasion
Accidents do not always happen by accident. 
This child did get a head injury from a moving fan on another occasion

Follow The Basic Rules Of Road And Automobile Safety
Teach your child the safety rules to be observed while crossing the road. Some cities are fortunate to have classes  for school children run by the traffic police in specially designed parks for road safety. Mumbai has such a facility. Take advantage of such facilities. Train your child never to leave your hand and cross the street. Do not allow your child to ride a bicycle without first briefing her on road sense, rules and responsibility.

Letting a baby sit in the front seat of the car is risky. Avoid it
Letting a baby sit in the front seat of the car is risky. Avoid it

Wearing a seat belt can dramatically improve a child’s chances of survival in a car accident. Seat belts in most cars are unsuitable for small children. For this specific reason, never let your child sit in the front seat of a car. And make sure you lead by example. Always fasten your own seat belt.

Never let your child put her hand or head out of the window. Irreparable damage may result.

Make sure your child is wearing a helmet if she is on your two-wheeler. Also put a helmet on her if she is riding a horse. 

A carrier is a good investment
A carrier is a good investment

Do not drive with your toddler in your lap. Do not be tempted to pile your whole family onto a single two-wheeler. I was once forced to draw the attention of a scooter driver to the fact that his 3-year-old daughter, clutching his waist, was half-asleep. 

Do not let yourself be distracted on the road. According to a report in 1999, cellular phones in the US accounted for 984 automobile collisions, 2 deaths and 317 injuries each day.

When you go out, use a carrier that straps your baby to your chest or your hip. Till you get a carrier, learn how to use a shawl or a thick cloth sheet to serve the same purpose. Many mothers in the hill areas of our country use this simple device with great ease.

In children, the common causes of burns are spilling of hot water, oil or other liquids, crackers, fire from a stove or any other source, and electricity.

All of us need to be careful about placing stoves or heaters on a platform at home, out of our children’s reach.

Diwali Dangers
In general, I am against crackers. However, I appreciate parents who help the child buy the right type of crackers and allow them to play with them under supervision.

Burning oil lamps and candles are other sources of burns during Diwali.

The Loss Prevention Association of India offers useful suggestions to minimise deaths and injuries due to fireworks.

  • Buy fireworks from authorised/licensed dealers. Make sure the packet is intact and instructions for use are printed clearly.

  • Have an adult around when children are handling fireworks.

  • Never light fireworks inside the house or in confined spaces. Use open, clear grounds, away from congested localities.

  • Do not bend over fireworks — light them from the side. Move away quickly once they are lit and do not return to them. They may explode in your face.

  • Never throw lighted fireworks. You may injure a bystander.

  • Wear close-fitting cotton clothes.

  • Keep a first aid box and cold water handy.

  • Pour water in case of burns. Do not smear ointment, butter, ghee, grease or any other oily substance on wounds. If the burns are serious, see a doctor.

Make Your Home Safer
While an electric heater or immersion rod (to heat water) are convenient appliances, they can prove very hazardous to a small child in the house. Bare electric wires, an electric iron, and open electric sockets placed within the reach of a crawling infant or toddler can be very dangerous.

Go about your house to see how you can prevent accidents waiting to happen.

  • Do you see matchsticks lying around?

  • Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen? Make sure all adults at home and older children know how to use it. Has it been tested lately to ensure it is in good working condition?

  • Do you have tablecloths on your table that a toddler can pull at and have a full teapot or hot dishes come down on her?

  • Do you smoke in bed, or in the presence of children?

  • Do you hold your child while sipping hot tea or while boiling water in the kitchen?

  • Have you told your children what to do if there is a fire in the house or in the building?

The point that I am making is that you can anticipate danger in order to minimise the risk of burns. 

Teach children what to do in the case of fire as soon as they are old enough to understand.

  • They must crawl towards the exit if there is smoke in the room.

  • They must never take the elevator (lift) if there is a fire in the building.

  • They should not run if their clothes catch fire. Instead, they should be trained to stop, drop and roll on the ground. Remember —stop, drop and roll.

Lightning Strikes
Also train your child about the dangers of lightning. Approximately a third of all lightning strikes are fatal. Deep burns, brain injury and cardiac or respiratory arrest can arise from lightning. To prevent the same, teach your child not to take refuge near hilltops, riverbanks, hedges, telephone poles and trees during a big thunderstorm.

Instead, the safest shelter is a closed home, while a closed automobile, cave, ditch or even lying on the ground, curled up with hands pulled in together, are relatively secure.

Only you can determine whether or not your child will be in danger from improperly stored medicines and poisonous items like insecticides, kerosene, acid for use in the bathroom, and drugs. Nurses are trained to read the label of a medicine 3 times before giving it to a patient. Let us learn this principle from them.

Lead Poisoning
Children can be victims of lead poisoning if they eat wall scrapings or chew on furniture having unsafe amounts of lead in the paint or if they have toys painted with similar unsafe material. Surma applied to the eye may also have lead in it. Lead poisoning can cause anaemia and brain damage. Most paints, especially those of yellow colour, have a dangerous amount of lead. White paints are relatively safer. 

Careful planning in the placement of furniture can prevent many of the accidents that involve children falling out of windows and from balconies. Never play with babies or children near open windows, on balconies or terraces. Also ensure that you have grills or bars installed on all window frames, and that the child’s head and neck cannot get stuck in them.

Make sure that proper guards restrict access to the stairs till the child is able to navigate them safely. 

Children playing ‘hide-and-seek’ should not be allowed to hide in open cupboards lest they lock themselves in.

Door handles of bathrooms should be at a higher level so that a small child cannot lock herself in.

It goes without saying that you should not take children to beaches that have been declared unsafe— like Aksa beach in Mumbai.

But more positively, take the time to teach your child to swim, or to make sure that she is well versed with the need to wear a life jacket when she enters the water or goes on a boat ride. It makes sense to carry your own if the boating facility does not provide it. Young children can also drown in bathtubs and in stored water which is kept uncovered. Never leave an infant alone with even a bucketful of water; she may put her head into it and ‘drown’ herself. Keep wells in and around the house covered. Make sure that lifeguards are always on duty at private swimming areas or pools. A child below 3 years should not be allowed to learn swimming. He can play with his parents in the water. 

Safety device in place during a boat ride
Safety device in place during a boat ride

If you are a dog lover, you must have made sure that your dog is regularly vaccinated against rabies and other diseases as advised by your doctor. But what about the stray dog which is seen around your building? Have you made sure that, that dog is also vaccinated? Have your children learnt to stay away from stray dogs and not to tease them or hit them?

Children are often inspired by teleserials like Ramayana and Mahabharat to play with bows and arrows, which can lead to major eye injuries. Some toy guns available in the market also release dangerous projectiles. 

Sometimes, we do not realise that sharp objects like knives, scissors and blades lying around the house can be dangerous for our kids.

Also be careful while closing and opening room doors or car doors. Severe injuries can be caused to fingers being caught between doors if we are not cautious enough.

Plastic shopping bags lying around the house can prove hazardous. An infant or a toddler playing with a bag may put it on his head and then not be able to remove it. Small children can also choke on the scraps of balloons that have burst. Peanuts, tamarind (imli) seeds, buttons and beads are often aspirated by unwary infants and toddlers or get pushed into their nostrils. A child may also choke on a thin, raw carrot that he has bitten off. Never allow a toddler to have foods like nuts while he is playing, talking, laughing or running around because he is more likely to choke on them. 

There is also a possibility of suffocation when a child tries to put a rope around another’s neck, or when he tries to wear a tie around his own.

Infants do not need pillows to make their heads rounded or for any other reason. If you want to raise a child’s head, put the pillow under the mattress. I am in favour of small infants sleeping with the parents. I have never seen a baby crushed because of this. However, if the mother is drowsy because of some drug or alcohol, then the child should not be made to sleep with her.

May I also add that I am against an umbrella-type device to protect an infant from mosquito bites, because this may close automatically and suffocate the child. A net covering the whole bed is preferable.

Smaller children should not be allowed to handle coins and small objects like safety pins and needles. Small, round objects without sharp edges may smoothly pass out of the stomach and intestines, but others may get stuck and cause problems.

Infants and toddlers should not be allowed to play with games or toys having small parts that they can swallow or aspirate. Some parts of Lego, for instance, may not be safe. Watch out also for stuffed toys with buttons used for the eyes or the nose, which can get detached and be swallowed. Toys with sharp edges could cause injury. Even expensive toys may not always be safe.

Only toys that meet the Bureau of Standards specifications should be available for sale. I have noticed that toys made by village craftsmen from unpainted wood or mud are often (though not always) quite safe.

Flying kites is fun, but quite a few children cut their fingers (or even neck) on the sharp thread used for flying the kite. Similarly, it is not uncommon to see children forgetting all safety measures while running around in a street or on a terrace to catch a kite. Caution your child against this.

I am against ‘walkers’; they are not good for the sequential development of the child’s milestones and can also result in serious injuries.

If you are at the scene of a road accident, rush the patient to the nearest hospital. A course in first aid is helpful to revive a child who stops breathing or to know exactly what precautions to take while transporting the patient to the hospital. Go to the casualty department of the hospital.

Some children (and I would say even some adults) are more prone than others to get involved in all sorts of accidents. Similarly, there are children who have the habit of putting everything into their mouth. All such children need extra attention, to ensure prevention of accidents.

The persistently hyperactive child or the child prone to attacks of epilepsy should also be kept under supervision in special circumstances, when there could be the possibility of an accident. For instance, a child with epilepsy can go swimming, but only under the watchful eye of a guide or his parents.

Parents who allow their child to touch a hot object and yet make sure that he does not harm himself in this process are educating him about prevention of accidents. Parents who let a child climb a tree after having made sure that he is old enough to do it and that the branches of the tree are strong are giving the child confidence to learn new activities. But a child who is suddenly pushed into water to learn swimming may remain afraid of water throughout his life. No purpose is served by it. It may do permanent harm to his psyche. 

7 March, 2016

Part 5
Keeping Your Child Happy and Safe
Healthy Habits
Family Issues
Prevention Of Accidents
Keeping Children Entertained
Spending the Holidays Together
Guide to Child Care
1 Pregnancy, Childbirth ...
2 The Growing Years
3 Feeding Infants, ...
4 Keeping Your Child Healthy
5 Keeping Your Child Happy
About Dr. R. K. Anand

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