Pediatric Health and Safety Guide

Oaklee’s guest post by Carson Gaffney, Program Associate for Kids In Danger, a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to improving children’s product safety. See our article Pediatric Health and Safety Guide.

Parents, teachers, guardians, and even babysitters are all people who are routinely responsible for the care and well-being of children. Because both infants and children are not capable of making the decisions and taking the actions necessary to keep themselves safe, they are dependent on the knowledge and efforts of those who care for them.

At any point during the day, a child is faced with potential threats from the things around him or her. From the food that they eat to the water that they bathe in, the risk of injury and even death is something that people should always take seriously. Although some adults may instinctively know how to keep children safe in certain cases, they all must learn how to do it in every situation.

Home Safety Guides

A home safety guide is an invaluable tool for the first time parent. A good safety guide will instruct parents on what is necessary to create a home environment for their children that is the least likely to result in injury or death for them. Information will often include what should be done before the birth of the baby and through various stages of his or her life. For example, a home safety guide may discuss playpen safety for infants, and staircase safety for children who are old enough to walk or crawl. It will also advise parents on what changes to make around the home to make it a safer environment.

Neighborhood Safety Information

Children enjoy playing outdoors, and often playtime takes place within the neighborhood in which they live. While parents may feel that playing within one’s own neighborhood is relatively okay, it is important to ensure its safety. One way to do that is to get to know one’s neighbors. By becoming acquainted with the people who live around them, parents within the neighborhood can more easily look out for each other’s children and will be more aware of suspicious people, behavior, and activities.

Children who are old enough to play outdoors should also be given rules regarding where they can and cannot play. Instruct children not to talk, leave with, or otherwise engage anyone without permission from a parent. In addition, they should know what to do and who they should go to within the neighborhood if they need immediate help.

School and Bus Safety

All parents of school-age children should learn and instruct their children on bus safety. While parents of children who do not ride the bus may see this as a waste of time, this is a false assumption. Children are at risk of bus-related injuries anytime they are near a bus, even as pedestrians. There are certain rules that children should obey at all times on and off school buses. These rules will help keep them safe in the event of an accident while on-board and prevent them from accidentally being struck by one.

When riding the bus, parents will want to ensure that their children arrive at least five minutes before its arrival. They should wait for it on the curb and never run, shove, or otherwise play near a bus stop. When the bus arrives, children should stand a minimum of ten feet from it at all times and in a location where they are visible to the driver. While on the bus, children should sit quietly and remain in their seats at all times. When getting off of the bus, they should do so carefully, checking to ensure that there are no cars that are passing on the shoulder.

If a child needs to cross the street in front of the bus, he or she should step out far enough so that they are visible to the driver. This is typically five large steps. It is also advisable that children wait for the driver to signal for them to cross. This ensures that the driver sees them and will not begin to drive forward.

Bus safety isn’t the only area of concern for parents of school-age children. Parents also want to ensure that their children are safe while they are inside the institution. School safety is the responsibility of both parents and teachers. Parents should teach their children what to do when faced with negative situations at school such as bullying. There should also be rules in place to prevent and protect children from violence and injury.

Choking Hazards

Choking is a genuine threat for young children. While food is the first thing that most people think of, there are numerous potential choking hazards around the home. As a parent it is important to keep these hazards out of children’s reach and to know what to do if a child should choke on an object. In terms of food, there are certain foods that represent a greater threat than others, particularly for children who are transitioning to, or who are new to solid nutrition. Common foods that have high choking risks include hard candy, popcorn, gum balls, peanuts, and raw vegetables. Certain foods such as hot dogs are also considered choking hazards when cut into round slices.

While eating, children should never be allowed to play, run, or walk around. A parent or guardian should always prepare food so that they are in pieces that are no larger than half an inch for preschool age children. In addition, an adult should always be present while the child is eating to ensure that he or she is chewing properly. Other than food, items such as buttons, batteries, balloons, coins, and marbles, are all examples of choking hazards that are found in the home. These items can easily become lodged in a child’s throat and lead to death. Additionally, items such as power cords, string, and cords from window treatments can strangle and choke children as well.

In the event that a child chokes, adults must act quickly to prevent damage from lack of oxygen to the brain. A call to 911 must be done immediatly. Action must also be taken to remove the object from the child’s throat. The Heimlich maneuver may be performed on children who are one year or older; however, a different technique is needed for children who are younger than a year. Place children who are younger than a year across the knees and use the hand to strike him or her five times between the shoulder blades.

Travel Safety

When traveling there are certain things that must be taken into consideration depending on the method of travel and the destination. One important factor is the state of the child’s health. Parents of children who currently have or who have recently recovered from an ear infection should consult a pediatrician before traveling by air. Additionally, a pediatrician should also be consulted when flying with an infant who has respiratory or heart problems. If traveling overseas, children should be up-to-date with their routine vaccines and additional ones may be required.

When traveling by car, bring and use a car seat, even in countries where this is not a legal requirement. When using the car seat, ensure that it is always installed properly in the vehicle. Older children who are under the age of thirteen should always ride in the rear seat of the vehicle and use their seat-belts at all times. Cleanliness is also an important factor while traveling to prevent illness. Sanitizing gel can be used in place of water and can conveniently be carried in one’s purse or pocket.

Children should never be allowed to run, wander or otherwise get out of hand while traveling, regardless of the method of travel or where the family is traveling; this type of behavior increases the chances that he or she becomes injured or cause harm to someone else. Parents should be aware of where their children are and what they are doing at all times. This includes holding the hands of small children in crowded and unfamiliar places. For identification purposes, carrying a recent photo is also important.

Water Safety

Water poses a common threat to small children, often resulting in death if left unsupervised. Infants and very young children can drown in amounts of water that are as low as one-inch. Often when these drownings occur, even in larger bodies of water such as pools, it is with minimal sound. A child who is submerged in water may suffer from irreversible brain damage after four minutes have passed, or even worse, they may die.

To keep children safe from the threat that water poses, empty water from buckets, keep toilet seats closed, and drain bathtubs. Don’t leave small children and infants unattended when bathing them, even for a few minutes. Children as old as twelve years should never be left in pools or allowed to swim anywhere without supervision. Fencing of at least forty-eight inches should be placed around backyard pools to isolate them from the house. There should also be a self-latching door to the gate which should be left closed at all times. Other helpful safety measures for outdoor pools include gate alarms, pool covers, and pool alarms.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are often unexpected and an allergic reaction can completely take parents unaware. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, one in thirteen children who are seventeen and younger have a food allergy. An estimated ninety percent of most food allergies, according to Boston Children’s Hospital, are caused by eggs, milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts. The most severe of these allergies, and the ones that typically last throughout a child’s life, are peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, and fish. That is not to say that they are the only food allergies, however.

Parents must be aware of the signs associated with an allergic reaction. They must also be aware that some reactions can be so severe as to cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis requires immediate emergency care and involves throat swelling, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and elevated heart rate. Parents who are aware of the risk of anaphylaxis may be given an epinephrine auto injector for use in the event of an emergency. Outside of this most severe response, parents should look for signs such as hives, rash, lip, tongue or face swelling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, wheezing, shortness or difficulty breathing, and dizziness, to name a few.

Once a child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, adjustments must be made to ensure that their child does not come into contact with it. This means checking food labels, notifying teachers, parents of friends, and carefully checking the ingredients used in foods cooked at restaurants.

Outdoor Safety

Kids love to play outside where they have plenty of room to run, jump, enjoy the sun, or splash in the puddles. While there are plenty of ways for children to have fun, there are also plenty of ways that they can injure themselves. Adults can take steps to reduce the risk of injury by creating a safe outdoor environment. Before allowing kids to play outside look for anything that can cause an injury, such as sharp objects.

If playing in the backyard where potential gardening tools are, adults should ensure that everything is properly stored. In addition, any outdoor chemicals should also be removed and properly stored in a locked storage area. It is also important to be aware of any potentially poisonous plants in the yard. If small children such as infants or toddlers are playing outdoors they should not be left unsupervised. Depending on the age of the children, parents should designate a portion of the yard for play.

Rules will also help keep kids safe when outdoors away from the home. Kids should be warned against playing in isolated areas, or at any place that their parents are unaware of. When outdoors, children should be taught to never speak to or leave with anyone that they do not know, regardless of what he or she says. Children should also never leave one location to play in another without getting permission from his or her parents.

Poison Prevention and Safety

Babies and small children do not recognize the threat that common household items pose. Children often stick things within their reach into their mouths, an action that can result in poisoning and death. Poisonous items can be found in nearly every room in the house. When there are small children in the home, adults should take care to place items in cupboards that are locked or beyond the reach of their kids.

When using items, parents should be certain to close them and put them where they belong immediately after use. Examples of poisonous items found in the home include, but are not limited to, cleaning products, medications, perfumes, laundry detergents, plants, alcohol, cigarettes, and craft supplies. In addition, parents will need to keep the number for poison emergencies by their phones in the event of a potential event. This number is 1-800-222-1222 and calling this number will transfer the caller to the nearest poison control center.