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Kitchen Safety for Families: Do You Know What to Do If…?

Steaming tea kettleTypical, isn’t it? You’re flying between cooktop and cutting board, prepping dinner while the kids finish homework. In a moment of distraction, you grab a scorching saucepan handle or slice the tip of your finger with a paring knife … or the budding young chef in your family does. Whatever the kitchen slipup, chances are the remedy is within arm’s reach, says Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency medicine specialist at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Here is her advice for treating everyday kitchen injuries.

1. Cuts
Food prep simply can’t happen without a sharp knife or two, not to mention a cheese grater or potato peeler — hence the packet of plastic bandages in every cook’s cabinet. In the event of a cut or abrasion, run plenty of tap water over the wound to rinse out dirt and bacteria — the source of infection — that may have been on the instrument or your skin. (Don’t use hydrogen peroxide: The solution kills contamination but can also destroy the clotting and healing cells the blood carries to the wound). Bleeding will likely stop on its own. If not, apply gentle but steady pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or bandage and keep the wound elevated. After bleeding stops, apply antibacterial ointment, and bandage the cut securely. Seek medical attention if the cut is deep, you can’t get dirt out of the wound or blood spurts from the wound or continues to flow after applying steady pressure for more than five to 10 minutes.

Watch out for swelling or redness. The wound could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

2. Small Burns

We’ve all touched the back of our hand to an oven’s heating element, accidentally placed fingers near hot steam or been splattered with sizzling oil. If the burn covers the palm or crosses over a joint, seek immediate medical attention. The same holds if the burn — even a small one — is on the face. A trip to the doctor may help prevent scarring. Otherwise, you can treat it at home.

First, run the affected area under cool tap water for a few minutes to stop the burning process and remove any bits of burnt skin. Smooth on a layer of antibiotic ointment to create a barrier against infection and wrap loosely with gauze or a small bandage. Be sure to rinse the wound with water and change the dressing twice daily for a few days, says Avegno, so that it remains covered and protected until the scab is gone.

Watch out for increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. The burn could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

3. Scalds

Burns from scalding water tend to cover larger areas, such as arms, feet, legs and stomach, which may make them harder to treat at home. And if the scalding is to a child, whereby a large percentage of the body is affected, call an ambulance or go to an emergency room immediately. Otherwise, start by treating the affected area the way you would a small burn: run under cool water (or use a wet towel) to stop the burning process and to clean the area, layer with antibiotic ointment, and dress with gauze or a large bandage as best you can. Even a clean and loose-fitting white T-shirt over the burn area will add some protection if you don’t have large enough bandages. Blistering is to be expected, but avoid popping the blisters, as doing so adds entry points for infection. These burns are often more painful than smaller ones, so take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If that doesn’t block the pain, seek medical care.

Watch out for continued or worsening pain, or signs of infection (see above). In these cases, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Injuries to the Eyes

Lovers of spicy food know the painful power of capsicum, or cayenne pepper: Contact with the eyes causes a strong burning sensation. Flush out any material in the eye with water and then splash milk in the area to stop the burn. Steam, pokes to the eye or spattered oil are more serious and can cause eye damage. Rinse the eye right away to cool the area and clean out debris.

Watch out for pain, oozing or a change in vision after a few minutes of blinking and rinsing, any of which might indicate damage to the cornea. Seek immediate medical attention.

Given the increased risk of infection with cuts and burns, Avegno advises a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in five to 10 years. Even a shot administered within a day or two after the injury will be effective, she says. Of course, when extreme injuries happen — especially when small children are involved — emergency care is critical for preventing even greater harm.

Food Allergy Fears – It’s Ok For Your Child To Try Something New

Cute little girl sitting in the mother lap and smearing peanut butter on bread.Do you remember the last time that your allergic child tried a new food? If the answer is no, you are not alone. It’s a difficult task for both parents and children with food allergies. There is always the thought of “What if” no matter what the new food is. Every new ingredient, every new spice, every new menu item that your child might want to try to have a larger variety of foods to choose from is seen as a possible threat. The fear is very real and very understandable so how does an allergic family get over this bump in the road?

Always have medications within reach

Even with my second child, I always made sure I had any necessary allergy medications for immediate use when we decided to try a new food. In the past, antihistamines were the first line of action but to date, research and countless food allergy tragedies have proven that this may actually not be the case. First and foremost, having the correct items will ensure that those seconds could be spared. The most typical items that should be on-hand are two doses of epinephrine, some form of antihistamine and an inhaler (if asthmatic or your child has a history of needing a rescue inhaler).

Small or not at all

Our family has made it a habit of trying a small amount of anything new rather than having it as an entire meal. This may seem a like we are being a bit over protective but it makes perfect sense. The smaller the amount of allergic food ingested, the easier it should (hopefully) be to get the reaction under control. If you are allergic to peanuts and wanted to try an almond, would you eat a piece of an almond or an entire loaf of almond bread? Everything in moderation.

Stay together

I have never, ever given my allergic child any new foods and then sent him away or to bed for the night. Ever. If an allergic reaction occurs, you want to be with your child to make sure you can treat them properly, to watch for the specific signs or symptoms that came from that food and you want to show your child that they are not alone in having to deal with food allergies. It’s a silent support system but if you have seen that very distinctive, frightened look in your child’s eyes as they begin to react, you know that the best thing to do would be there with them from start to finish as much as possible.

No Mixing

This is very important! For the sake of your child and to avoid additional food allergy tests, always test out one new food item and no other new foods with that food item for at least three to five days. Will it take a longer time? Yes but you also want to make sure that the sandwich that your child took a bite from doesn’t contain so many possible allergic foods that you will be deeming a handful of foods as unsafe when really, most of them could have been eaten. Trying new foods is to expand your allergic child’s food options, not to limit them further.

Check your phone

Have a telephone ready and waiting. This means having it in your hand, in your pocket, on the table or somewhere that you can use it right away if you need too. Also, make sure it’s fully charged if it’s not a landline. Update your telephone list with current physician information and even print out a list of emergency contacts to have a fast and easy place to access. When an emergency happens you may not have time to think or react so the more you plan to be prepared, the faster you can deal with the situation as needed.

Support your child’s fears either way

As a parent, it is always difficult to know what the best thing to do is, especially when it’s dealing with food allergy concerns. You may feel that if you don’t encourage your child to try new foods that it makes you too laid back. Or, if you insist that your child try a food and they have a reaction, they will remember that event as a negative part of your parenting. Be open and discuss your own fears with your child- let them know that you are fearful to, that there is no way of telling what could happen and that the most important thing for them to know is that you are there with them.

When in doubt, step out

Many food allergy families prefer to do any and all food testing in their physician’s offices. Although this is recommended with most people, this is a personal decision within each family. Only your family can decide if you feel comfortable enough to test out new foods at home rather than under a physician’s watch. Consider all aspects, analyze any previous allergic reactions and make sure you ask your child what he or she also feels most comfortable doing.

New foods may always cause fear but so can many other things in life. Give your child the opportunity to know how many different foods are out in the world and how many they may have never tried had it not been for their food allergies. Teach them that their fears should be about what they don’t know what to expect, not from what they do know. Conquer your foods, conquer your fears but never let either be a part of what stops you from continuing.

These 5 Steps Help Teach Your Children How to Call 911

little girl practice calling 911Calling 911 sounds simple, but put yourself in the place of a child is being told to do this under an extremely stressful situation or the child of an unconscious parent that does not know what to do or say?  Not so simple now is it? Teaching your child how and when to call 911 is an extremely important lesson for them and will make it more comfortable for them should the need arise.

  1. Teaching your child how to call 911 should start with a simple understanding of the phone and the three buttons.
  2. If you are referring to 911 around your children as nine eleven, please understand how this can confuse a smaller child that may look for an eleven button, so make clear to the child there is no eleven button, it is three pushes of the buttons, 9-­‐1-­‐1.
  3. Next should come the lesson of where you live,the address and apartment number. It is surprising when doing fire demonstrations how many children do not know their address or phone number. These are things that will help the 911 operator thus speeding up the arrival of the responding units. Some areas of the country have expanded 911 which allows the operator to trace the call in case a disconnection happens. But knowing it by memory is the best answer.
  4. Children often feel they will be in trouble if they use the house phone or call 911. Teach your child to be honest with the 911 person and to calmly and clearly answer the questions they are being asked. For example, what is your address? Is the person awake? Is the person breathing?
  5. Defining what an emergency is and when to call 911 is the next step. Having your child understand that major things like fires, seriously injured people and intruders in your home are real emergencies and things like a missing toy or a flat bike tire are not.

A test run should be in order when the child is ready. You can try an old phone or simply unplug your phone and have the child dial and answer the questions and see how well they do. Obviously the older the child the easier it will be and this may take more time with younger children but we have all seen the stories on the news of very your children calling 911 and saving a life. I hope and pray your child will never have to call 911 but always teach them that if there is ever any doubt that they should call. Better to be safe than sorry.

Be safe.

 Photo credit: Dan HattonCC license

Mom is Sick. How to Avoid Kids & Dog Taking Charge

Professional dog trainers talk a lot about being the ‘pack leader’ and setting solid rules, boundaries and guidelines for our animals as well as our kids. We discuss the importance of being consistent so that our kids and animals know what to expect and what is expected of them. But what happens when we are not at our best due to illness or injury? What sort of dangers or difficulties may we encounter during these times? Especially when we are the primary rule makers and enforcers?

The number one ‘reaction’ I have repeatedly encountered with both children and animals is Insecurity. The ‘unknown’ can be scary for all of us and can make us worried, fearful, apprehensive, and a host of other feelings we might go through. And as parents, it’s instinctual to want to shield your children from these unpleasant feelings. We try to smile and act like everything is okay, and for a little while, it may work. But no one can hide these feelings forever. You suddenly find yourself short tempered, frustrated, weepy, etc. And often, it is over silly insignificant little things. So, you started out trying to ‘protect’ your kids, and now you are snapping at them and everyone is walking on eggshells.

Now let’s look at the family dog: You can ‘paste’ that smile on your face and tell them that everything is okay, but they can see right through the facade. Or more accurately, they can see, hear, smell and feel right through it. Words have little to no value to dogs. If you said to your dog, “Rex, I’ll let you out in a few minutes, then we’ll go to the park and practice “SIT” and “STAY”, what they heard was…“REX, blah blah OUT blah blah PARK blah blah SIT blah STAY.

Why? Because they don’t understand words like we do (except for the ones they have heard repeatedly.) They communicate through scent, body language, voice inflections, and gestures. A good example is the sentence “What did you do?” If you smile and say it in a happy excited voice, the tail will wag furiously, and they will circle you for pats and love. However, those same four words said with your arms across your chest, a scowl on your face, and in an angry tone will have them running to hide! When your entire demeanor shifts involuntarily, they feel it!! They know when something is wrong.

So, how can this inconsistency affect your household?

I can best answer this question by sharing with you a recent experience I encountered:

I got my dog Reilley at 3.5 months old. He had a few negative behaviors even as a puppy, such as resource guarding his toys and food around other dogs (see my article Recognizing a dog’s body language before your child gets bitten’ to understand what resource guarding is.) I had to work hard to help him overcome this. I run a dog boarding and training business… it simply would NOT do if MY dog had issues that could potentially put a client’s dogs at risk! So we worked on socializing Reilley with kids and with other dogs.

All was going well and according to my plan, until I needed surgery on my leg. And although I did my best to act like the surgery was no big deal, I was scared and nervous. I saw a few subtle changes in my dog’s behavior, but nothing that overly concerned me. When I came home from surgery, I was lying in bed recuperating and I enjoyed having Reilley lying on the bed next to me keeping me company and cuddling with me. My mom had come to town to help and Reilley’s care was taken over by her and my husband. Everything seemed relaxed and my recovery was going well.

It did not take me long to realize that something big had changed for my dog. This dog who had been social and outgoing with every dog and person who arrived here was suddenly standing back, guarded, and growling at dogs and people! I had seen dogs react negatively to change before, but it had always seemed to affect their behaviors (actions)… a previously housebroken dog starts having accidents, or they are not listening to commands they know very well…. But this was a huge change in his personality, and I did not understand it. So I asked for help. I described what I was seeing to my dog trainer friends through the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and sought their guidance. Although their advice made total sense to me after the fact, I must admit I was a bit surprised at first with what they all had to say.

  • Prior to my surgery I was the primary rule maker as well as the rule enforcer. Not that Reilley grew up in a prison, but there were a number of rules we had set that we lived by every day, and they worked for us (e.g. I poured his food and he sat and waited for permission to eat). My husband on the other hand, was a “dump the food in the bowl and walk away” kind of guy.  And Reilley, like a lot of kids who hate rules but in reality, NEED them, didn’t do well when the rules actually went away. My inability to enforce the rules he was used to living by had left my dog feeling insecure and unsure
  • Because I was the ‘pack leader’ in my house, I was the person in charge of welcoming guests into our home – I maintained order. With others caring for me, I was no longer the “leader” enforcing calm and overseeing who had permission to be there. I was no longer the protector. In the absence of my leadership, he became confused and began to question our roles…I was the sick and injured member of the ‘pack’, maybe it was HIS job to protect me and not the other way around.
  • Finally, because dogs can be so child-like in their actions and reactions, seeing his leader so scared and vulnerable made him very nervous and insecure. (Not so dissimilar to a child realizing for the first time that a parent is fallible or does not always have the answers.)

You may be thinking, ‘what’s the big deal, your dog growled at some other dogs.’ But consider this… what if there were children that he was growling at? An insecure or fearful dog can be an unpredictable one.

So what if you, as the primary care-giver suddenly became ill or injured?

How do you help your family (including the family dog) acclimate to this time of crisis?  How do you help them through it when you are in pain or feeling miserable and are temporarily unable to be the ‘enforcer’?

The two most important answers I can give you are preparation and communication.

I. Preparation:  Obviously this applies more so when you have to go for surgery or something similar that you know about in advance. But even though injuries and illness are often unexpected events, there is still some planning you can do ahead of time, so you are ready if the need should arise.

  • Spend time talking with your significant other, or, if you are a single parent, chose one or two family members or friends you trust with the health and well being of your kids and pets.
  • Make a full list of schedules and routines that include……
    • what time the kids get up, head out for school or the bus, get home from school, and when homework is typically done,
    • what time and day each child has an extracurricular activity, what time they eat supper, approved and not-approved snacks, and what time they need to be in bed. You can also include how much screen time they can have, and approved ‘viewing’ items.
    • Make sure you include things in your list like how you personally reward your child for a job well done or correct or discipline your child for not doing what they are supposed to. (e.g. do they earn stickers on a wall chart or cookies with milk?)
  • While it is a child’s job to push boundaries and try to get away with stuff, even though they think they want these ‘perks’, in the end, it can be quite unsettling for them to suddenly get their way because it varies from the normal routine which can again make them insecure and fearful.
  • Remember to update this list frequently, as schedules and routines may change or vary.

Now, as for the dog:

  • Do not assume just because the family pet is like another child to you, that everyone else will feel the same way. Make sure the person who agreed to stay and help with the kids is also okay with taking care of the dog.
  • Create a similar list for the dogs that you did for the kids, with the dog’s regular routine.
  • Include in the list behaviors that you approve of and do not approve of so that they can follow through (ie: allowed on furniture, allowed to jump up on people when greeting people, etc)
  • Do some research on local boarding facilities just in case it is too much for the person caring for the children to care for the dog as well. This way it is a comfortable choice and not a last-minute decision that keeps you up worried.

II. Communication is vital for all parties involved… whether it is being honest with your kids about what is going on (within reason and age appropriate of course) or talking very openly with the person you have entrusted your kids care to. This reduces so much stress for everyone involved…. Including you! The last thing you want if you become sick or injured is to worry about your household becoming an unruly chaotic place. This can cause the kids to act out, and this is especially important if you happen to have a special needs child whose life is all about the schedules and routines they have come to depend on. And since the family dog tends to feed off the emotions of the family, why risk him being on edge and nervous or fearful…. Which can lead to behavior changes ranging from accidents in the house, to all out aggression.

So I will wrap this up with one last piece of advice: If you are on the other end of this, meaning you did not see this list prior to this scenario happening, and you find yourself now dealing with a chaotic household, heed the advice of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music when she says,  “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start”…

Don’t be afraid to go back to basics with both the kids and the dog. 

For the dog, it might be going back to some crate training and basic commands to remind them you are in charge; for the kids, same thing.  😛  Just kidding…for the kids, it may be being very strict about routines. Whatever you did when they were young to have your house chaos-free and running smooth, repeat until you are back there again. It will not be a lengthy process to back-track a bit, but it may be very useful to help get everyone back on track. The ‘basics’ bring with it a familiarity that everyone may need for now.

Home Alone After School? Top 8 Safety Checks for Parents

little boy opening doorWe are now a few weeks into the new school year and along with all the new fresh faces roaming the halls during school, there are fresh faces staying home alone after school for the first time.   Now I’m pretty sure that if you have made the decision to leave your child home alone after school that they are what you deem to be old enough and a responsible person.  Yet even the most responsible adult can run into problems or have emergencies when home alone, so a little pre-planning and forethought can go a long way to your child’s safety and your peace of mind.

Let’s start with the basic safety checks:

  • Emergency contact numbers, are they known or preprogrammed into a phone or highly visible place near the phone?, Parents, friends, neighbors ,poison  control ?, the best case scenario would be to have someone close to your home whom you trust to be aware of the situation and willing to be on call.
  • Safety gear, Next we can get all of our safety gear such as flashlights, candles, and a fire extinguisher all together and know how to safely use each.  As a little side note, any fire station will gladly teach you how to properly use an extinguisher.
  • Medications, these can be anything from pills that parents take to needed medications for the child like Insulin or any type of med available in the home.  Medications that parents take should be kept locked up and medications the child may need to take while home alone should be clearly taught and understood and closely monitored by the parents upon coming home.
  • Household cleaners should always be locked up if there are  little ones around and if they are not, it should be understood the dangers they present when used and how to take proper precautions, such as opening a window for ventilation and hand and eye protection.
  • Major emergencies, It cannot be understated how important it is to call 911. It should be understood that calling 911 is not embarrassing and should not get anyone in trouble.  It is what we are here for.  Should anything happen in or around the home when your child is home alone that makes them feel unsafe, please instruct them to call 911 right away! ,They could be cooking and accidentally start a fire or smell smoke in an odd place,  hear electrical buzzing, maybe they see or hear someone outside or anything that makes them feel unsafe, please make it ok for them to call 911. If it turns out to be nothing, that is fine. You can talk about it when you get home and everyone is alive, safe and well.

Three of the biggest things we worry about with children that are home alone are Fire, Strangers and Weapons. 

  • In the case of fire, it is a great idea to have an escape plan from your home.  Escaping from a single story window or door may not be hard but a second or third story may require an emergency ladder or alternate route in case of stairs blocked by fire.
  • When it comes to strangers, there is no shortage of bad people. That being said, it is a good idea to have a do not answer the door policy and even a do not acknowledges anyone at the door policy.  If it is at night, the house should be well lit and should the person at the door not go away or make your child feel unsafe then 911 should be the next call. A police officer recently told me it’s a good idea to have a second alarm control keypad in the upstairs area that can be activated with a panic button in case of an intruder or strange noise.
  • When it comes to Weapons it goes without saying that they should be respected and understood.  Your child is home alone and if there are weapons in the home they should be safely stored, locked and secured as to avoid the awful accidents we see on the news every year.   If your child is old enough, trained and certified with a gun, then it is your decision to give them access to it, but be warned because accidents happen.  I would think it would be a better and much safer thing to do the things that deter unwanted guests, such as outdoor lighting, cameras, alarm company signage, a dog, anything that does not put a loaded weapon in your child’s hands.

I hope these safety checks give you something to think about and I hope it keeps all the kids safe.

Checklist for a SAFE Back to School and Sports. Everyone Ready?

Little girl with inhalerIs it August already?  Yes it is! Or soon will be and that means that soon it will be back to school and organized sports and all the things that make the school year so hectic.   As a parent returning one child to school and sending one to his first year of school this is a pretty busy time of year in our house.  Mixed in with all the fun of summer reading lists and back to school shopping, I would like to give you another list of things to make sure are right before the kids return to school and sports.

First and foremost on my list is always making sure that the school is up to date on its CPR and First Aid training.  If you are a parent leaving your child at a school, daycare, or organized sports league you need to inquire and make sure that the staff or at least the staff that will be on hand ALL the time knows what to do in case of an emergency situation, such as an injury or an allergic reaction involving your child.  Does your child have any emergency medicine that they need such as an EpiPen or an asthma inhaler, or any other medication that might be needed in a moment’s notice? , and if so, are they expired, does the school need a new one or even know about them and how to use them should the need arise?   I have seen people forget their own name when confronted with these situations and the right training and preparation can make all the difference in the world.

Organized sports are another area where things need to be checked off before the new season starts. These activities can be at any age and be anything from baseball and football to cheerleading and gymnastics.  Injuries happen in these sports all the time and once again, the coaches, staff, volunteers, and anyone else involved need to be properly trained or refreshed on what to do in case of an emergency.  Most of the centers or parks hosting these activities have automated external defibrillators (AED’s) on site for both participants and parents and need to be trained or refreshed on the use of these devices as well.    When playing organized sports like baseball and football, there are pieces of safety equipment built into the helmets and pads and other parts of the uniforms. If your children have  grown over the summer like mine have then you need to make sure that the equipment they are using fits properly and securely and delivers the maximum amount of safety it was designed for.  Whether its helmets, groin protectors or even shoes, these should all be the proper size for best results.

As always, a little preparation makes all the difference and I wish you all the safest and best school/sports year.

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