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Child Safety at Home


By Alexander Libreri FInstCM FIDiagE FRSPH


The growing child is an energetic, curious and creative person, and as such would be likely to take an interest in his/her surroundings and would enjoy exploring things.


While this creative approach should be encouraged to boost the child’s intelligence, it definitely creates problems for the parents as the child becomes prone to causing injuries to himself/herself and others.


The most dangerous places in the home are definitely the kitchen and the tool shed, here the child should be constantly monitored and should never be left alone. Some preventive measures that the parents can use are by installing child-proof locks on all drawers and doors.


Most common injuries to the child are caused by suffocating with plastic bags, swallowing marbles, pins and needles amongst other objects, or inserting objects like beads, buttons, button batteries, dolls’ eyes etc. in their nose, ears or private parts, ingesting or inhaling poisonous or corrosive chemicals, swallowing medicines, burning or scalding themselves with fire, hot objects or boiling cooking oil, steam or hot water, piercing themselves with pointed objects, cutting themselves with knives, tin openers or other sharp objects, bruising themselves by falling, injuring themselves by falling from ladders, injuring themselves with broken glass, breaking or fracturing bones or even electrocuting themselves.


Some dangerous objects which can be found in the kitchen include boiling oil in pans or boiling water in a kettle, household chemicals (like shoe polish, metal polish, detergents, bleaches, acid), stools and chairs (which the child may climb upon to reach high objects or to play with), kitchen appliances (where the child may injure his/her hands with), drawers and cupboards (which the child may shut his/her fingers on), matches and gas or cigarette lighters (which the child may burn himself/herself with), and electrical cords or sockets which the child may tamper with.


Electrical dangers may be caused by the child inserting a metallic object in a socket, cutting an electrical cable with pliers, a knife or scissors or even chewing an electrical cable.


Cables should be kept as short as possible and out of the way to avoid the child tampering with them or pulling them, maybe bringing down appliances on himself/herself. It is of utmost importance that all unused sockets be protected by a child-proof cover.


The dining room, while seemingly harmless, may also pose other dangers to the child, like a table cloth (which can be pulled with objects falling on the child), chairs, cutlery etc.


Needless to say, the tool shed is full of dangerous items like paints, paint thinners, solvents, ladders, tools (including hand tools and power tools), etc. It would be advisable that the child be kept away from the tool shed until he/she is old enough  to be safe in these surroundings.


There are other hazards which the parents may oversee, these can be in the bath where a child may slip and hit his/her head or swallow water (the use of a non-slip bath mat is recommended), the toilet bowl where a child may get his/her foot stuck in, the bed (or playpen) where the child may climb and fall, wet slippery floors where one may slip on, mats where the child (and even adults) may trip on etc.


There is also the possibility of someone tripping on toys which are left scattered on the floor or other obstructions like buckets, brooms etc. which may be left in the room while cleaning.


And of course, one must beware of the staircase, the child may find it enjoyable to climb the stairs (or may even be tempted to ride or slide on the handrail) where he/she might fall – here, a protective gate should be installed both at the top and bottom of the stairs. One must also protect the child against the possibility of falling from between the stairs balusters.


Windows, balconies, and the roof can prove to be very dangerous for the child where he/she might fall from to his/her death. One should ensure that all outside doors and windows are securely locked with the keys kept away from the child.


The garden, being a place of entertainment for the child also has its hazards, where the child might climb trees and fall or injure himself/herself with the lawn mower or other garden tools. Swimming pools pose a very grave danger, where a young child may fall in and drown. While swimming the child should always be constantly supervised, a child may drown even in very shallow water.


Also one should beware of wells – these can be a death trap for the child where he/she might fall down seriously injuring himself/herself and even drowning. Should a child fall into a well it would be nearly impossible to rescue without professional help – in such a case the emergency rescue services should be called in.


Then there are the dangers which are caused by appliances like electric irons, sewing machines, spin driers, washing machines, cookers, electric fans, toasters, electric or gas heaters, fireplaces, etc. These may all cause serious injuries to the child if mishandled.


Parents must also be on the alert as to what sweets (or food) the child consumes, some sweets containing nuts or peanuts, may cause the child to choke.


One should also mention the dangers that exist from child molestation – the child should be taught never to accept sweets or gifts from strangers.  The child should be made aware that strangers may harm them in many ways – they should be warned not to open the main door to unknown persons.


Another health hazard which children are frequently exposed to is passive smoking. Adults should refrain from smoking at home or near children as the toxic cigarette smoke can cause respiratory and other health problems in children. Also children should not be allowed to consume alcoholic and energy drinks. These are two bad habits which one, with some effort and will power, could do without for a healthier living.


The television and internet are a rich source of educational information for the child, but unfortunately they may also contain scenes of violence, hate and sex which may morally and psychologically influence the child.


Nowadays, children spend a lot of time on the computer and online chatting with unknown persons. This can be dangerous and the child or adolescent should be advised to never give personal information about himself/herself. Increasingly, adolescents arrange meetings with unknown persons over the internet; this is a very dangerous practice and should be discouraged.


Of much importance, one must realise that the child can cause serious (and even fatal) injuries to himself/herself and others. It is not so uncommon that a child may cause a house fire – here the child should not be allowed to play with candles, matches, fireworks or the cooker. Playing with gas cookers may lead to a gas leakage and may cause an explosion


Keeping children away from hazards can prove to be stressful to parents. Children may react with temper tantrums when they are not allowed to play with kitchen utensils, tools, appliances etc. Parents should keep calm and try to distract the child from these temptations.


Children like to help their mothers to cook or wash the cutlery, but allowing children to help around in the kitchen should only be undertaken under strict supervision.


An alternative way for children to imitate their mother would be by acquiring replica kitchen toys for them, like a toy cupboard, toy cooker, toy food mixer, plastic cutlery etc.

This way the kids can imitate their mother in cooking or washing up - but in a safe way.


The same goes for playing with power tools, replica car engines would enable the children to imitate their father while he is working in the tool shed or workshop.


It is very important that kids are allowed to imitate their parents in their everyday work; this would enable them to develop the necessary life skills.


It is essential for parents to share their time with their young ones and communicate and play with them. This is of utmost importance for the intellectual development of the child.


Other dangers which exist (but are usually ignored) are pets. The pet, if annoyed, may become aggressive and may react by scratching or biting the child. The child should be taught to treat his/her pet with tender, loving care and refrain from annoying it in any way. Taking food away from a dog, while eating, can be very dangerous with the possibility of the dog biting the child.


As the child grows older, and would be able to understand the consequences of misdeeds, he/she should be made aware of the consequences that his/her actions may have on the safety of himself/herself and the whole family.


It would be wise for parents to do a risk assessment for hazards in the home and to put appropriate preventive measures in action. As has been seen already, there indeed are many things in the home that may prove to be dangerous; some basic changes in the home would make the home safer for everybody.


One must make sure that medicines, chemicals, tools and firearms are safely locked up in a secure cupboard and the keys kept away from the child.


Firearms pose a grave danger to children, as they may handle or play with the firearm and can shoot somebody dead. There have been cases, abroad, where children have taken firearms to school. Firearms pose a great responsibility on parents and as such these firearms should always be kept secured.


It would be an advantage for the parents to take basic training in health and safety, fire safety and first aid. These basic courses would make them aware of the dangers that may arise in the home and to deal with any accidents should these occur.


Finally, parents should be well informed on how to deal with cooking oil fires and should be able to use a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher.  A cooking oil fire can put the whole family in danger, and may even cost them their lives. Here, smoke and gas detectors are a must in the home, giving all day security and especially at night while the family is asleep.


It is essential to know the emergency services telephone number (112 in Europe, 911 in USA and Canada and 000 in Australia.) and how to relay the necessary information to the operator. It would be important to give accurate information such as the exact place of the accident, contact telephone number, the type of injury or accident, age and sex of the injured person, and in the case of accidental poisoning or drug overdose which poison or medicine was taken etc. One should NOT terminate the call until the operator tells you to hang up.


When holidaying abroad, one should always ask the hotel receptionist to give you the emergency services telephone number.


The list of dangers seems endless – but this should not discourage us from letting children play and explore their surroundings. We must always be present to supervise and most important of all to think a step ahead of them and anticipate what might happen.

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