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Happy 15 Year Anniversary Pediatric Safety!

July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday PedSafeCan it possibly be 15 years since Pediatric Safety published its first story? It feels like just yesterday…yet so much has changed since then, and is continuing to change every day.

Back in 2009, our goal was to create a place where everyone who cares about children’s health and safety could get together to stay informed on all the topics that have the potential to affect them and the children in their care. We wanted to make a difference. It didn’t take long to realize that we couldn’t do it on our own.

So we reached out – to parents and doctors and nurses and emergency responders and teachers – to child safety experts around the world – and we asked them for help. And some truly amazing people stepped in to share the journey with us: a pediatrician, a character development and bullying prevention expert, a cybersafety specialist, a family dentist, an EMS safety expert, a child psychologist, a kids and canines specialist, a special needs parenting expert, and a food allergy specialist – all volunteered their time to help make this site a community where you can find answers and hopefully give answers to others when they need them.

We were also fortunate to be offered the opportunity to include NHS Choices articles on Pediatric Safety. NHS Choices is the UK’s biggest, most comprehensive health information website. The articles they have shared with us span the full range of child health and safety issues: from living with disabilities to surviving childhood bullying; from adoption and fostering to puberty and talking about sex; from asthma and allergies to health and fitness.

All told, Pediatric Safety has published almost TWO THOUSAND posts and over TWENTY THOUSAND tweets about child health and safety. And there is more to come, along with some major changes to the site, so please keep coming back and letting us know how we’re doing!

For now, we’d like you to invite you to join us as we celebrate our 15 Year Anniversary

PedSafe girls Square Button FinalWe’re going to take a “look back” at the stories you’ve told us are your favorites – the ones you’ve told us have had the biggest impact on you and your family.

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Finally we’d like to thank all of you who have taken this journey with us. At its heart, Pediatric Safety is a place where people can support each other – the village needed to raise a child. If we’ve been able to accomplish even a little of that, then this has been 15 years well spent. We look forward to sharing the days ahead. – with love and gratitude from all of us here at Pediatric Safety

Top 10 Fireworks Safety Tips – Straight from the Experts

It’s that time of year again: time to get together with friends, host backyard barbecues, cook up some hotdogs and hamburgers, sip a cool beverage and end the day gathered around watching fireworks. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, according to the National Fire Protection Association in 2018 alone, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 people for fireworks related injuries and more than one-third of the injured (36%) were less than 15 years old.*

How and Why Do These Injuries Occur?

  • Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into peoples’ faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing; and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range.
  • Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
  • Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely – even sparklers! Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. But facts are that sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals and enough to cause a serious burn
  • Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
  • Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to talk doom and gloom when it comes to 4th of July fireworks. It really can be the perfect ending to an already perfect day…providing we’re careful and follow these key fireworks safety rules:

Top 10 Fireworks Safety Tips:

  1. Use fireworks outdoors only. Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  2. Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks including sparklers. Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
  3. Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  4. Be careful when lighting the fuse. Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back up to a safe distance
  5. Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  6. Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter them or combine them. They can kill you!
  7. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap. After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  8. Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
  9. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”
  10. Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy, fun and safe 4th of July

References

  • Fireworks Safety” – National Fire Protection Association
  • Fireworks Safety” – US Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Safety Tips” – The National Council on Fireworks Safety
  • *Data referenced updated 6/30/24

Summer Camp Health Tips – a Pediatrician’s Point of View

Summer camp experiencesLetting go of your child for a day, a week or even a month of camp during the summer is often a very difficult thing for parents to do, and initially, might be very difficult for the child. Most children, however, when they return from such an experience almost invariably have enjoyed themselves and gotten the first taste of living without parents. This can be an extraordinary experience for your child as he or she learns to live and be accountable for certain rules and restrictions.

Of course, you as a parent will worry the first couple of times your children go off “by themselves”. It may help to know that every camp is equipped with fairly up to date equipment and at least a very experienced nurse or Doctor. I myself did this (physician for an overnight camp for a 6 week period) just as I completed my Pediatric Residency and prepared to enter the Air Force. It was a rewarding experience for me and my family.

Most incidences of a medical nature are minor although very rarely a serious issue may occur. When you first apply for the camp for your child they will ask for a complete medical history including chronic or serious conditions that your child may have and any and all allergies, medication or non-medication related. This is an extremely important bit of information so try to be as specific as possible.

Teach your child ahead of time about the importance of such simple things as the proper use of insect repellents and sun blocks as these constitute the causes of the majority of the “problems” in the camp setting. They must also need to be taught the importance of reporting to the nurse or physician any issues they are worried about or are experiencing, as some children will do all they can to avoid seeing these people. If your child has a chronic disease such as asthma, he or she must be aware of the problems they can experience as a result of their illness and report such occurrences to the medical staff. Of course, the medical staff will also be familiar with such individual problems. They should also know about how to self-medicate (inhaler, etc.) if necessary.

Poison Ivy is also a very common occurrence as children spend more time outdoors, they should be told what it looks like and feels like so they can see the medical staff when necessary.

Other “problems” are injury-related and should be brought to the attention of the medical staff – fortunately the majority of these are also of a minor nature.

Finally, they will likely be taught about insects and other critters that can be encounter in the wild during the first days or weeks of camp; snakes, small mammals, spiders, etc. The camp staff will be very particular and complete when describing such encounters and will err on the side of conservatism while they are in charge of your child.

Wishing you and your kids a happy, healthy, and safe summer.

Water Workouts: Fun for Kids, Great (& Easy) Exercise for Parents

I am not one of those moms. Not the one who has an endless repertoire of educational and enjoyable crafts activities. Not the one who is genuinely excited about the endless games of trains or Candyland. Not the one who invites 10 5-year-olds over to make designer cupcakes from scratch, with matching hand-cut doilies, after the personalized pedicures. And I never really enjoyed watching many children’s TV shows or movies, with the exception of Lazy Town when my kids were little.

Let's go swimming for the first timeSadly my motivation for watching Lazy Town was not very pure. A truly wonderful show which encouraged an active lifestyle, exercise, friendship and kindness, I admit that I let my kids watch every afternoon when they were young because the star was a hunk and in those early days of sleep deprivation, baggy and stained clothing, my rear and stomach wobbling and sliding south and what felt like zero physical appeal it was like watching mom porn. Fit! Active! Positively Perky!

And then I found the answer. The pool. Not swimming laps, because I’d manage maybe 10 minutes of that before I was recalled to active mom duty, but in the best possible way that also played to my mom-strengths – teaching my kids to be safe while we all had active fun in the water. I got my mojo back (and my figure), which made me a much better mom who happily did some crafts and games and always made time for our beloved story time when my kids were happy and worn out from being in the water and we’d snuggle together.

Not that long ago, I wrote about how parents are the first lifeguard on duty for your child, which means you need to be in the water with less confident swimmers and arms-length from non-swimmers. I promised my tried-and-true fun for kids, great easy workout for mom or dad, so here it goes! Repetition is key, as many times as your child is enjoying the exercise and every time you go in the pool. Think of how many times you say ‘look both ways before you cross the street’ as your inspiration. The goal is to teach your child to not panic, to be able to possibly save themselves if they do find themselves in water unexpectedly, or at least give you a couple more minutes to find your missing explorer, and to give them a positive and enjoyable introduction to water.

Humpty Dumpty’s for upper body. Sit your young child on the side of the pool (mine started when they were 4 months old). Recite the nursery rhyme and when Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall, lift your child and ‘fall’ off the wall, gently forward with their head always above water, then say the same words every time ‘turn around and hold on’ and place their clenched little fists against the wall. As your child gets older they will learn to turn and hold the wall on their own, they will be willing to have their head go under water as they ‘fall’, and eventually you can spot them while they fall, turn, and climb out themselves.

Monkey Hands for a full body workout. Hold on to the wall with your hands and have your child do the same. You are vertical and your feet will be against the wall helping to move you. Use ‘monkey hands’ to scoot around the pool to the ladder or steps. Start with a short distance, expand to the entire side or around the entire pool as you and your child build strength and endurance. You are teaching them to get to a place where they can climb out safely and building their confidence and muscles.

Helicopters for core and arms. Hold your child under their arms and twirl them around in the water with their feet in the water and their head and shoulders held well clear of the water. Children love the feel of the water rushing against their legs, and it’s better than a thousand crunches for you.

Coral Reef Dives for legs. When your child is old enough to dive under, stand with your legs wide and have them dive between your legs without touching. You can start with lifting one leg and then the other to give them more space. For my son, the budding marine biologist, he knew that coral is sharp and if he rubbed the coral and was cut it would attract sharks, which increased his determination, but that might be too much information for many children, so use your judgement. Fun, not fear is the goal.

Finally, anything you do in the water, whether it’s walking at the edge of the surf, walk in the water holding a baby, catching your child as they practice big jumps – it’s going to the gym times two because of the resistance of the water. No matter how you move in the water, it’s going to make you stronger, healthier and in much better shape. But you probably already knew that if you watched Katie Ledecky or Caeleb Dressel, or maybe you were a secret Lazy Town viewer like me.

Stimming and Special Needs: The Good, The Bad and the Flappy

child making stimming motionsHow do you react when when your dog greets you at the door with a wagging tail or your cat cuddles up to you and purrs loudly? You might think it’s cute or that the animal is just expressing its feelings. Do you ever get angry? do you ever think your pet is acting weird? Of course not, it’s just the natural way they use body language or their voice box.

Now think about how most people react to a child having a tantrum, kicking and screaming. How do people respond when a child with special needs is flapping their hands, spinning a toy car’s wheels or banging their head against a wall. Some people get downright angry about these behaviors, especially when they happen in public. But the child is just expressing his or herself, using the body language and sound that come naturally. While some of these may be harmless, many of these behaviors may be considered annoying or distracting and others can be downright dangerous.

Let’s go back to our beloved pets. A puppy naturally needs to chew, so it finds a shoe and chews it to bits. The puppy isn’t trying to destroy your property or do anything to harm you personally, it is just a teething baby that needs to chew. A good pet owner will simply hide all the shoes and introduce chew toys, substituting a more appropriate way to fulfill the puppy’s need to chew. A cat needs to scratch, it is simply instinct as well as a way to mark territory and sharpen claws. Unless the human wants shredded furniture it’s a good idea to provide a scratching post and train the cat to use it instead of the couch to satisfy its need to scratch.

So how can we allow our special needs kids to express themselves without getting injured or doing damage to themselves or to property? Just like with our animal companions, we substitute a more appropriate behavior that satisfies the same need.

  • If a child seems to need to jump, a small trampoline might be just the ticket.
  • If a child needs to chew, fashionable chew-able accessories are available.
  • As for hand-flapping, if it is an expression of happiness or excitement and it is not injuring the child, anyone else or anyone’s property then why change it?

Photo provided by Kfagan6; CC license

How to Keep Kids From Getting Bit Helping with Dog Training

As a professional dog trainer for many years, there are many things I have had to learn to do differently when working with the dogs around children versus what I would normally do.

Things that I would not typically think twice about, I must when kids are around…. Because they tend to copy everything – and some things may be quite dangerous for them to copy without the know-how and quick reflexes.

Some commands are simple to teach, and for those, the children can be around without encountering any issues, for example:

Sit….Stay….Down….Off

All of those commands are simply taught using some treats and simple leash work. Not only are they simple – they’re predominately safe – meaning if your child is practicing this with the pup later on, and he or she hasn’t mastered the art of “sitting”, it is highly unlikely (unless it a 180 lb mastiff and sits on your 3 year old) that there’s a hospital trip in your future

There are however, other commands that I would highly suggest teaching the dog when the children are NOT around, and show them the after-results – such as:

  1. Corrections of negative behaviors
  2. Drop It
  3. Leave It

There are very specific reasons these aren’t taught around children, and I will explain these in detail below. However, the one reason above all that I want to emphasize is that we train our dogs because it keeps our whole family safe, including our pup. The 3 commands I mention above (correcting negative behaviors, Drop it and Leave it), while not particularly complicated, have the potential to endanger your child if they attempt them on their own (ranging from simple emotional distress to a bite).

Correcting negative behaviors

I typically avoid teaching this when working around children because sometimes a pup may require firm quick corrections on a leash – which can cause problems for children:

  • A more sensitive child can get upset when a negative behavior such as jumping on people or guarding a toy or food requires a quick, firm correction with the leash. They do not always understand that corrections of bad behavior are just as imperative as praising the positive, and that we are not hurting the pup or dog.
  • On the flip side of that, a more confident or bold child may try to emulate what we are doing, but in the process may unintentionally hurt the pup or dog because they do not yet know or understand the amount of pressure required on the leash to make the correction yet not hurt the dog in the process.

Drop It and Leave It

These two commands are typically not taught around children for safety reasons. Kids do much better working with these commands after your pup has mastered them.

I also want to clarify here that when I say ‘teaching these commands’, I am not just referring to specific focused moments of training, like when you’re with a trainer, or even when you plan a specific time to work with your pup. I am speaking in general. Any time training takes place – because impromptu training takes place ALL THE TIME. You feed the dog, you want him to sit before he eats, you’re training.

You need to be careful though with impromptu “Drop It” and “Leave It” training. Remember – kids copy everything. Take for instance a dog that just grabbed the TV remote.! The dog has obviously not taken it to switch channels, so chances are it’s taken to become a new chew toy! And they are not cheap to replace! That is when our ‘protect the item’ Instinct kicks in.

Usually the first thing we do is call them to us. We are never thrilled in these moments, so the call unintentionally gets done in an angry voice (“COME HERE!!”) which clearly told Fido you are not happy with him! Of course, now that he knows you are angry, not only does he ignore your call, but he took off in the opposite direction! So what happens next? We jump up to chase them and retrieve the item back.

It is at this point that one of two scenarios ensue:

  1. The kids join the chase… it becomes a big game to both kids and dog, and you end up with more aggravation and pandemonium on your hands, or:
  2. You ran to chase the dog (which was loads of fun for the dog, as he now has your full attention and is playing the “You can’t catch me” game!) and when you finally get him, your kids see you reach in and grab the item from his mouth.

Now some time passes, and you may have forgotten all about this incident…. But your kids haven’t. So the next time Fido grabs something he should not have, such as one of their toys, your kids repeat what you did… only now the dog also remembers it, and also remembers once you caught him, you took the item away, so this time he is more possessive and guarding the item. This is behavior your child did not see last time, and the next thing you know, they reach out to grab the item back, and the dog strikes out and bites. Impromptu Drop It training gone really wrong.

So how could all of this have been avoided? We start with PLANNED Drop It training when the kids aren’t around.

The “Drop-It” command is a simple task to teach, and can be accomplished using one of their simple rope toys:

  1. Get them interested in a toy by playing with it with them.
  2. Once they are engaged in the play, bring the hand holding the toy closer to your body to stabilize it and hold it still…. This ‘discontinues’ the ‘tug’ action of the game.
  3. Grasp the toy with your free hand right in front of their mouth, and start creeping your hand forward, all the while saying, “Drop-It”. This forces them to lose their grip on the toy.
  4. As soon as they do, praise them, and begin again.

Essentially what this does is show them that you are not just taking the item away from them (which can create some ‘possession aggression’) but rather that the game can continue…. but only if they drop the item when you tell them to.

Now, let’s revisit that scenario. To start with, during the early training stages with your dog, the leash needs to be a vital part of his everyday life. Leash equals control.

  • Dog grabs remote, but since the leash was on, you can step on it and then reel him back in!
  • You have already taught the dog the ‘drop it’ command so the kids never see you reach into his mouth to retrieve the item.
  • You can calmly tell the dog to drop it, they do, you praise them, and the moment is done.

Now, the biggest difference between “Drop-It” and “Leave-It” is that Drop It is used when they already have the item they are not supposed to have, while Leave It teaches them not to pick it up in the first place! To teach “Leave-It” we use desirable ‘training traps’ (things that your dog loves to grab) and the leash. Throw the item on the floor, and when they run to grab it, give a quick, firm tug on the leash and say Leave-It!”. Continue doing this until you can drop the item and they do not lunge forward to get it.

Leave-It is especially important for the safety of BOTH the kids and the dog…. if you accidentally drop a pill on the floor, with the Leave-It command, they will not lunge for it. Also, if your child is eating and they drop a piece of food, using the Leave-It command will avoid the dog racing to grab it, and more importantly, the child reaching into their mouths to get it back!

My last piece of advice…. If you have not had the option to teach them yet what ‘Drop It’ or ‘Leave-It’ means and how it is done, and Fido gets ahold of something you do not want him to have, Distraction is always a great alternative. Grab a very high-value treat (a piece of cheese, a piece of hot dog, etc.) something they do not get often, but they will choose over a tasteless remote. Start off standing still and show it to them, and if they do not come immediately, take tiny steps backwards (movement is very interesting to dogs and gets their attention quicker… moving away from them means they should follow or they may miss out on that treat) Try to make it a treat or an item that they can’t gobble up in one bite, giving them ample time to return to the discarded item faster than you can. What you do not want is a race back to the original item…. I can pretty much guarantee they’ll get back there first.

I also want to note that this last piece of advice should be used as an emergency back-up plan, and not a go-to plan of action. The reason being we do not want the dog to learn that if they want a good high-quality treat, all they need to do is grab something they re not supposed to have, and we’ll replace it with something awesome!!

Being one step ahead of a potential disaster is always preferable to the alternative! So teaching your dog these basic manners when the kids are not present will keep everyone safe, happy and healthy!!!

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