Safety Experts Say
Keeping Kids Safe at Home
By Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH
Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Boston Principal Investigator
Staff physician, Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Windows, stairs, bathtubs, toilets.
To the average person, these are essential parts of a home. However, as a pediatric emergency medicine physician, I see all of these as potential hazards, especially to young children, because I see injuries from these common household fixtures every day.
Most of the time the injuries are minor – cuts and bruises. But some injuries in the home can lead to serious brain injury – for example a fall from the window or down the stairs.
Falls are one of the most common causes of injury among children. Although every parent is excited when their young child starts to walk, with this mobility comes more potential for injuries. Stairs are a common site for falls in the home, even for the older toddler or child. Thankfully, stair gates are very effective in preventing falls. At the top of the stairs, these gates should be mounted into the wall to ensure stability. Pressure-mounted gates can be pushed over; and therefore, they are not adequate for safety at the top of the stairs. Gates at the bottom of the stairs can be pressure-mounted, although they should be routinely checked to make sure they are not coming loose.
And every spring, I know we will see several children in the emergency department who have fallen out the window of houses or apartments. After a long cold winter, families are happy when spring comes and they can open up a window to let in some warm air. However, window screens do not protect children from falling out of windows. The best way to prevent young children from falling out of windows is to use window guards. Or, if your window can open from the top, just open the window down from the top half. Also, make sure there is no furniture, like a bed or chest, onto which the child can climb to reach the window.
Bathtubs must always be used with constant supervision as they can be a serious drowning threat for infants and young children, even in just a few inches of water. Young children don’t have the knowledge to move their head out of the water if their head falls into it. A young child should NEVER be left alone in the bathtub, even for a short period of time and even if you are using an infant tub. The best prevention against bathtub drowning is constant supervision. Children can also fall with their head into a toilet and drown. Again supervision is important, but also making sure the door to the bathroom is closed or even using toilet seat locks, can protect a young child from this type of injury.
So although home related injuries are common, especially in young children less than five years old, taking care to put safety equipment in place and close supervision are effective strategies to prevent these injuries.
Hidden Hazards in the Home
By Nancy A. Cowles
Kids In Danger
The danger of recalled products was brought home recently when two young children were trapped in a recalled hope chest and suffocated. The chest was made decades ago and a recall was announced in 1996, providing a new latch that could be opened from the inside. Yet, nearly 20 years later, dangerous products such as this hope chest remain in homes, posing dangers to children.
This story is close to our hearts here at KID, as our founders’ 16-month-old-son, Danny, died in a recalled portable crib that was still in use at his childcare facility. A state inspector missed the recalled crib just one week prior to Danny’s death. Recalled products don’t have broken parts or obvious flaws that are easily visible to consumers – only by knowing of the recall can families protect themselves.
A product is recalled by the government, usually the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when it is found to present a reasonable risk of serious injury or death. Sometimes a product is recalled only after a child is injured, but other times, CPSC or manufacturers catch a flaw or hazard prior to injury and are able to announce the recall before an injury takes place.
You might be surprised to learn that most recalled products remain in use. Many people are never aware of the recall, and others never get around to responding even if they hear of it. This means there could very likely be recalled products in your home.
To keep our children safe, regulators and manufacturers – and the public -- need to do more to get recalled products out of use.
To begin, products must be made as safe as possible from the beginning stages of innovation. The CPSC now requires testing to strong standards for most children’s products including toys, cribs, bassinets and more. Look for new products that meet these updated standards.
But to remove hidden hazards from our homes and childcare facilities, parents and caregivers should inventory the items they use with their children and check them against the list at CPSC.gov or visit KidsInDanger.org on your mobile device to search for recalls.
Right now, the only way to be sure manufacturers contact you directly when a product you own is recalled is through product registration – sending in the card that comes with your product or registering online. Learn more about registering products on the Product Safety Vigilance Program page on this site.
Then, help others learn about the recall. Share information on social media, download a monthly Recall Digest to post any place parents and caregivers gather and never donate or hand down recalled products.
Together with these steps, we can help make our homes safer.
Go-To Guidelines for Grandparents – Product Safety Standards Continue to Evolve
By Laura Nikolovska
Kids In Danger
More than 2 million grandparents have assumed the role of primary caregiver for their grandchildren, and all grandparents at some time care for their grandchildren and occasionally purchase children’s products. Yet a recent study by the United States Census Bureau found that many grandparents do not know the newest safety guidelines for children. The survey focused on appropriate sleep position, crib safety and car seat use. Below are the most recent safety guidelines for children in regards to these three areas:
- Babies must be put to sleep on their backs to help prevent SIDS.
- The crib should be bare – with only a snug mattress and tightly- fitted sheet. The survey found that almost 50% of grandparents thought soft bedding was safe for the child, but in fact, soft bedding poses a suffocation hazard.
- Children should remain in rear-facing car seats until two years of age. This is the safest possible position for children in the event of a crash.
Further, caregivers might be tempted to re-use old cribs and play yards, but it is important to know that there are tough new regulations for these products. By visiting the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website at CPSC.gov you can learn more about these new safety standards and how they will help keep your grandchildren safer.
Kids In Danger (KID) has also developed a handy Yard Sale Safety Checklist that grandparents can bring with them as they shop for their grandchildren. The checklist is full of great advice for buying or using secondhand products, but here are our 3 favorite tips:
- A product with missing or broken pieces might seem like a good deal and an easy fix, but even if you can repair it that doesn’t ensure the product will be safe for your grandchild. Avoid buying items that will need repair.
- Do not waste your money on dangerous products like bath seats, baby walkers and crib bumper pads. Don’t think bargain when you see these items, think beware!
- We all attach sentimental value to things we’ve saved from when our own children were kids. But before you pull them out for the grand kids, remember that they may pose real hazards. For example, you shouldn’t use, buy, or sell cribs made before June 28, 2011 because they do not meet tough new federal standards. Even if your grandkids will only be using the product for a short time, they are still not safe to use.
Kids In Danger (KID) is a nonprofit organization focused on protecting children by improving child product safety. Our Debby Sayah Grandparent Outreach Program seeks to help grandparents protect their grandchildren from dangerous children’s products by providing lifesaving information on how to identify and remove these items from homes and other settings. The program was named in honor of Debby Sayah, grandmother to twins Andy and Jake. In 2001, Andy was killed by a foam sleep positioner when he was just 2 months old.
For more information, please visit www.KidsInDanger.org.
Furniture Tip-Overs – A Hidden Hazard in Every Home
By Lisa Siefert
Founder and President
“Love you,” I had said to my baby boy, Shane. “Love you,” he said back from his bed as I closed the door to his bedroom for his afternoon nap. Later, I went to wake my baby from his nap as my husband came in from yard work. My husband heard a sound that was unrecognizable - my screams. My baby’s dresser had fallen on him. Shane had just turned two years old when he died.
This story would be quite different if we had known the safety hazards associated with the dresser. Or better yet, if my son’s dresser/changing table had come with a strap to secure it. As we would later find out, some new furniture and TVs include a safety strap or anchor, but many items, even nursery and youth furnishings, do not.
A new U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data report issued December 2012 shows that one child dies every two weeks and over 25,000 injuries are reported each year to children under 18 from TVs, furniture or appliances toppling over onto them. 2011 had the highest one-year number of fatalities reported.
Tip-overs are “one of the most dangerous hidden hazards in the home” according to the CPSC. While tragedies involving falling furniture or televisions are not uncommon, there are measures that can be taken to remove the risk. If safety straps are not included with the furniture you purchase, they only cost a few dollars and are not difficult to install. Low-cost anchoring devices are effective in preventing tip-over incidents. In addition to securing the furniture and televisions in your own home, be mindful of anywhere your child spends time, such as grandparents’ homes, day care centers or even your gym’s nursery. Be sure to not overlook short furniture as it is just as dangerous as larger pieces. The changing table/dresser that took Shane's life was only 35” tall.
To help prevent tip-over tragedies, CPSC recommends the following safety measures in homes where children live or visit:
- Anchor furniture to the wall or the floor.
- Place TVs on sturdy, low bases, or anchor the furniture and the TV on top of the base, and push the TV as far back on the furniture as possible.
- Keep remote controls, toys, and other items that might attract children off of TV stands or furniture.
- Keep TV and/or cable cords out of reach of children.
- Make sure freestanding kitchen ranges and stoves are installed with anti-tip brackets.
- Supervise children in rooms where these safety tips have not been followed.
For more furniture safety tips, please visit www.ShanesFoundation.org
How to Shop for a Crib that is Right for Your Baby
By Joyce Davis
Keeping Babies Safe
A new baby brings happiness and some challenges to a family. Before bringing your new baby home, make sure that you’ve taken every step possible to ensure that he or she is safe and secure.
Purchasing a crib is an essential part of this process, and it can be a little daunting. After all, the crib is the only place you leave your baby unattended.
When choosing a crib, we recommend that you purchase a new crib that meets the stronger safety standards that were enacted in June 2011. The standards require stronger parts and hardware and prohibit the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs.
If you have an older crib that was made before the new safety standards were enacted, we recommend discarding it. Also, it’s important to check the crib frequently to make sure the hardware is tight and parts aren’t broken or missing. And always stay on the lookout to see if the crib you have has been recalled.
Some things to look for in the crib you choose: slats should be no more than 2 3⁄8” apart due to entrapment risks. All parts should fit tightly. Wood must be smooth without cracked or peeling paint, and surfaces should be covered with lead-free paint safe for nursery furniture. End panels should be solid, without decorative cutouts. Corner posts should be flush with the end panel as posts even 5/8” can be dangerous.
Remember to make sure all hardware, including screws, bolts and nuts, are present as part of your original equipment purchase. Never substitute original parts with something from a hardware store. Do not use the crib if there are any missing, damaged, or broken parts. It’s also very important to make sure the mattress is the same size as the crib so there are no gaps. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, the crib and mattress combination should not be used.
Once you have purchased your crib, these are good Safe Sleeping Practices to implement:
It’s important to place your baby to sleep on his or her back. Adding pillows, bumper pads, quilts, and other soft products, can increase the risk of suffocation. Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering, and make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep. We also recommend that you place the crib in the room with you, but do not co-sleep.
For additional crib safety information and educational videos created in tandem with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, please visit our website, www.keepingbabiessafe.org.
Considerations for Outdoor Safe Play for Kids with Special Needs
By Ellen Metrick
Director of Industry Relations & Partnerships
National Lekotek Center
At the National Lekotek Center, the leading authority on toys and play for children with special needs, we believe accessibility and safety go hand in hand. We all know that children benefit from being outside and playing in nature. After all, what kid can’t use a healthy dose of grass, sand castles and mud pies? Parents and caregivers are encouraged to make an effort to connect their child with special needs to the wonders of the outdoor and use this experience to teach children new skills, to meet new challenges and to develop new capabilities. Go nature, go green, go safe!
Sun exposure needs to be monitored especially if a child has not been exposed previously to intense sunlight. Hats, sunscreen, umbrellas and shade should all be used when appropriate. Keep in mind, children on some medications can be hyper-sensitive to sun exposure. Check recommendations from pediatrician or The American Academy of Dermatology for specific information.
Temperature & Apparel can be tricky when moving from cool air-conditioned space to hot and humid outdoors. Children who have disabilities such as chronic health conditions, sensory processing issues or developmental delays may face higher risks of becoming overheated during the summer weather and feeling uncomfortably cold in winter. Layering apparel is always a wise option so the child is never too hot or too cold. Foot apparel should provide balance, comfort, stability and non-skid soles. For children with visual impairment, eyewear can include security straps for glasses or sunglasses to allow the child to participate in active play.
Balance can be a challenge for some children with special needs so be aware of uneven ground, hard to navigate terrain and footing impediments like wood chips or overgrown areas. Kids who use wheelchairs can face additional navigational obstacles. Research the location prior to your visit to note any potential problems and ensure a successful trip.
Playground Play ideally should always have adult supervision. Ensure outdoor activity centers have ground cushioning or mulch to lessen risk of injury. Make sure outdoor plastic activity gyms and houses are balanced, sturdy and not next to other structures children can scramble or jump on. When climbing, make sure children have a safe way down (with railings to hold on to) if they become reluctant to use slides after climbing up.
Ride-on vehicles, wagons and wheels of any kind need to provide necessary body stability including foot wells or foot rests when needed and body stabilizers when necessary. Helmets are always recommended along with knee pads and other protective gear when appropriate. Children who have intellectual delays may enjoy using ride-ons for a longer period of time. Be sure to check weight tolerances and recommendations on specific products.
Edible, non-edibles and picnic foods need to be monitored and have adult supervision especially if children are still mouthing when around potentially poisonous plants, rocks or small objects. Be cautious of non-edible materials with appealing scents that may prompt children to put it in their mouths. This is also true of play food articles. Additionally, children can be allergic to different types of foods, like peanuts. Make sure they are appropriately avoided. Wash children’s hands before eating finger food and carry antiseptic wipes for clean up.
Fenced in areas are preferred if playing ball, chase or any activity that children can become distracted during and risk running into obstacles or traffic, especially kids who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Bugs and Bees can cause problems, especially for children who are allergic to bee stings. Mosquitoes can also be problematic for children with limited mobility so make sure to take precautions.
Beaches, pools, water and sand always demand adult supervision. Some children who have Pica may eat non-food such as sand, clay and dirt. Throwing sand can damage eyes and sand in clothing can cause chaffing and irritation if not removed.
Swings offer great ways for children with limited mobility to enjoy the outside, just make sure they have back and side support as well as a seat belt. Area should also have soft rubber or mulch base to lessen risk or injury.
Following these tips can help ensure children with special needs have not only a safe, but enjoyable time playing outdoors during the summer months.
Bedtime Basics for Babies – Safe Sleep Saves Lives!
By Kelly Neal Mariotti
Chief Executive Officer
As a new parent, one of the most important decisions you will make is where your baby will sleep. Thousands of babies die in their sleep every year. At this time, there is no known way to prevent all sudden infant deaths (SUIDs), but experts believe 80-90% of these deaths are the result of unsafe sleep practices. The following information will help you keep your baby safe from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), suffocation and accidents during sleep.
Room Sharing NOT Bed Sharing! The safest place for your baby to sleep, for at least the first six months, is in a crib that meets the current safety standards placed near your bed. Adult beds are not safe for sleeping babies! Babies who sleep in adult beds are as much as 40 times more likely to die than babies who sleep on their backs in a safe crib. Soft bedding, such as pillows, blankets and quilts increase your baby’s risk for SIDS and suffocation. Adults or other children in the bed can accidently roll too close to or onto your baby while he sleeps. Babies can get trapped between the mattress and the wall, headboard, footboard or another piece of furniture, or your baby could fall from the bed and get hurt. Bed sharing with your baby is even more unsafe if you smoked during pregnancy or if you or your partner smoke now, your baby is less than 11 weeks old, your baby was born too early or at a low birth weight, or if you or your partner have taken drugs, alcohol or medications that make you sleepy. Falling asleep with your baby on a couch or armchair is very unsafe and other adults, children or pets should never share a sleep surface with your baby.
Create a Safe Sleep Zone. Your baby should sleep in a crib, on a firm mattress covered with only a tight-fitting crib sheet. Use a wearable blanket or other type sleeper instead of blankets to keep your baby warm. Toys, quilts, loose blankets, crib bumpers, wedges, positioners and stuffed animals should never be used in your baby’s sleep area. Always place your baby on her back for sleep! Remember to follow these guidelines even when you are visiting away from home or traveling.
Breast milk is best for your baby’s health. It’s OK to nurse your baby in bed, but when it’s time to go to sleep, be sure to place your baby back in his or her own, separate, safe sleep area!
Offer a Pacifier. Research shows that pacifiers can greatly reduce the risk of SIDS if used during the first year of life. Offer a pacifier at every nap time and nighttime. Don’t worry about putting it back in your baby’s mouth if it falls out after he or she falls asleep. Pacifiers should not be used as a substitute for nursing or breastfeeding. If your baby refuses the pacifier, don’t force him or her to take it. And never use a string or clip (or anything else) to attach a pacifier around your baby’s neck or to clothing.
The content provided above was developed and copyrighted by First Candle and reviewed by a national panel of experts.
Playground Safety Tips to Help Your Child be Injury Free
By Karen Sheehan, MD
Injury Free Coalition for Kids
As an emergency room physician in Chicago, Illinois, I know that when school is out, injuries from playground and other outdoor equipment increase. That’s why we at the Injury Free Coalition for Kids want to provide you with a little information about what you can do to keep your kids safe, happy and healthy as they play during the summer months.
When your children go out on the playground make sure you can see them at all times. It is important to remove all drawstrings from their clothes, and make sure all loose objects like necklaces are taken off. It’s also important to make sure your children do not wear their bicycle helmets on the playground. They should always wear them while riding their bike, but remove them before playing on the playground because of potential strangulation hazards.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year more than 200,000 children are treated in Emergency Departments for injuries they sustained on playgrounds. Most of those injuries are due to falls and nearly half of those are severe. These include fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations, though concussions and other head injuries are much more rare today because so many playgrounds have rubber surfaces.
On public playgrounds, more injuries happen when children are playing on climbers than any other equipment. On home equipment, swings are responsible for the majority of injuries. The type of playground surface children play on is the most important factor in preventing injuries and making them less severe.
Check the playground regularly to see that the equipment is in good condition and free of missing or broken or missing parts, and/or hardware. Wood equipment should be free of rot and splinters and plastic equipment should not be cracked. It’s also important to check the temperature of the equipment. Taking a few moments to examine the places where your child plays will help ensure that they have a fun, safe, happy and healthy summer. Please click here for some playground safety tips to keep in mind over the upcoming summer months.