With schools and many workplaces closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents and their children are turning to activities closer to home. This can be a great opportunity for dedicated family time spent together. But while broken bones, sprained joints, and cuts requiring stitches are all too familiar consequences of outdoor play, parents often forget that the home also can be a dangerous place for children.
Here are easy tips to prevent injuries to keep your quarantine time safe and fun.
1. Cleaning supplies are even more commonplace now due to the pandemic. Detergents, hand sanitizers, cleaning sprays, and other household chemicals are often packaged in bright-colored containers that may look attractive to your exploring child. However, these items can be very dangerous both if children drink the contents, or if the chemicals come in contact with their eyes or skin. To prevent unintentional harm from these substances, store household cleaning products in a locked cabinet or keep them high up on a shelf out of reach of young children. Remember to put products away after each use. Never store chemicals in recycled food or drink containers, as these can easily be mistaken for food items by children and adults alike.
2. Medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, can cause harm if not stored correctly. Using weekly pill boxes or keeping loose pills out on the counter allows children to gain access to medications, which can result in serious injury and even death. To young children, pills often look like candy, or children may try to mimic the pill-taking actions they observe in adults. Older children or teenagers may intentionally take medications inappropriately to get high or to harm themselves. Storing medications in a locked place (such as a lockbox or a locked cabinet) has been shown to decrease both unintentional and intentional medication ingestions.
3. Toys designed for older children may have small pieces that would be a choking hazard for younger children. In addition, magnets and button batteries (both common parts found in toys) can be life-threatening if swallowed. If you are concerned that your child has swallowed magnets or a button battery, or if your child has placed these items in their nose or ears, call the Alabama Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222 or seek care at your nearest Emergency Department.
4. Firearms are a leading cause of injury and death in children. Simply talking to your children about gun safety does not prevent injuries. The “safety” feature on the firearm is also not a reliable way of preventing harm. The safest way to store guns in your home is to keep the guns locked (either with a trigger lock or in a safe), unloaded, and stored separately from the ammunition.
5. Drowning is the number one cause of injury death in children under the age of four. Even strong swimmers can get into trouble. Children should never swim alone. When swimming in pools or other bodies of water, parents should be no more than one arm’s length from children who are not strong swimmers. There should be at least one designated adult watching children swimming at all times. Though pools may be a more obvious drowning risk, drowning can happen anywhere in the home. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Never leave your child unattended in a bathtub.
6. Helmets should be worn while riding bikes, scooters, skateboards, or participating in any other wheeled sport to prevent injury in case of falls.
The above steps can make your home and your child safer, but remember: supervision is key! Talk to your pediatrician or visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website for more information on how to keep your children safe and healthy during their time at home!