Life-threatening injuries are tragic when they strike families with young children, but the tragedy feels magnified when the accidents and injuries could have been prevented with a few simple precautions. As a parent, one of the smartest things you can do is take the necessary steps to make sure accidents like these don’t come into your life. You can’t control everything, but you can do a lot to stay safe. Think about these tips as you plan your home and care for your child:
Falling From a Window
A screen isn’t enough to keep a child from pushing through an open window and falling, even if it’s securely attached. They’re ultimately too flimsy, and they aren’t designed to do anything but loosely sit in a window frame and let air pass through. Even on the ground floor of a home, falling out of a window can be a life-threatening injury for a child. To avoid this situation, you’ll need to install high-quality window guards and locks designed to keep children from tampering with window openings. Window locks usually attach to the edge of the window frame and keep the window from being opened past the lock point, so you can keep the window from opening more than, say, three or four inches if you want to. This lets you open the window to let in air without having to worry about leaving a gap wide enough for a child to pass through. A window guard looks like a lot like a pet door guard, and it has bars that extend across a window opening that prevent a child from exiting through an open window. They’re childproof, but are still removable by adults in emergency situations.
It’s estimated that several dozen children die heat-related deaths every year after being left in hot cars. It’s never OK to leave a child in a car, even for a few minutes. The lack of air and the oppressive heat — in any weather — can overpower even an adult, leaving kids totally defenseless. Being absent-minded isn’t OK, either. To make sure you never leave a child in the car, always open your rear door and check the back seat when you arrive at your destination. This might sound goofy — how could you forget if your child was with you? — but it’s a worthwhile habit. Similarly, do mirror checks of the back and give everything a once-over every time you arrive at a destination to make sure you’ve got everybody.
While you’re at home, your kids might want to play in your car, not knowing how dangerous it can be. Always, always lock your doors and make sure your kids can’t get to the keys when you’re home. Your kids should never be able to access your car without your presence and permission.
Pool and swimming safety is another area that requires solid supervision. Almost 10 people per day die from unintentional drowning, two of those 10 are kids under 15, and children between one and four years old have the highest drowning rate. It’s a major cause for concern, especially since so many life-threatening situations could be prevented. Be smart when it comes to how you and your kids interact with the water. Swimming lessons are wise, and you should always supervise all swimming activities, even if it’s a tiny inflatable pool in your backyard. Floating accessories (foam noodles, water wings, etc.) can help kids stay afloat, but these are not safety devices, and it’s not OK to think that the presence of these toys can mitigate disaster. Always, always watch your kids when they’re in or near the water.
Bumper Pad Suffocation
Crib bumpers were intended to protect against injury while sleeping, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says that bumpers don’t do anything to prevent injury and in fact pose a major risk for suffocation and entrapment. Infants don’t have the motor skills necessary to turn their heads or untangle themselves if they become stuck in the bumper pad. Other types of bedding, and even some mesh bumpers (which are more breathable), are much better alternatives and will keep your baby safer.
Seat Belt Accidents
Car accidents are, unfortunately, impossible to predict. You can do everything in the world to be a better driver, but you can’t control other people or tell when one of them might cause a wreck. To that end, it’s vital that you properly secure your child in your car when you’re driving so that, should an accident occur, they’ll be safely belted in and not at risk for serious injury or death. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a great resource for parents that goes over car seat basics, proper fit, seat evaluations and more. There’s also The Car Seat Lady, which has a wealth of tips, tricks, slideshows and other breakdowns of the latest in child safety protocols. For example, many parents make the mistake of fitting a lap belt across a child’s belly, when it should go snugly across the lap. It holds the body down, not back, putting strain on strong leg muscles and not weak stomach areas and internal organs.
The real lesson here: Plan smart, do your homework and keep a close eye on your kids. The saddest injuries are the ones you could have prevented.