According to the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami (www.injuryfree.org), unintentional injuries are the number one cause of death for children ages 1-12 in Miami-Dade County, many of which can occur in the home. The good news? These types of injuries can often be prevented with a bit of thought and preparation.
While it’s inevitable that your kids will take an occasional spill, there are things you can do to minimize the risk of serious tumbles. Install approved safety gates, guard rails and window guards where needed, and securely anchor TVs and furniture to walls using the appropriate hardware to prevent tip-overs. Infants and toddlers should always be strapped in when in high chairs, carriers, swings and strollers; carriers should be placed on the floor – not on a counter, table or other furniture – before putting baby inside.
Child poisonings aren’t always due to the usual suspects, like household cleaners, detergents and over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Vitamins can be toxic too, as can makeup, grooming products, plants and art supplies. Stash them behind safety locks if they’re stored in cabinets, closets or drawers that kids can reach; move anything potentially hazardous up high and completely out of your children’s sight for even more security. And be sure to post the toll-free national poison control center number (800.222.1222) on your fridge and in your bathroom, as well as program it into your phone.
Burns & Scalds
Use back burners when cooking, keep pot handles turned inward so little hands can’t reach up and pull them down, and don’t hold your child in your arms as you stand at the stove working. Be aware of appliances that heat up quickly and take time to cool down even after they’ve been turned off, like irons, flat irons and hair dryers. Use safety covers on all outlets, and never leave anything electrical turned on and within reach of unattended children.
Install smoke detectors on every level and in every sleeping area of your home and check the batteries once a month – working smoke alarms reduce the chance of death in a house fire by nearly 50 percent. Teach kids not to touch matches or lighters, and if you have either in your home keep them tucked away where your children can’t find or reach them. Establish a fire escape plan in case your family ever needs it (you can download a handy checklist at www.safekids.org) and practice it with your kids until they know exactly what to do in an emergency without even thinking about it.
Florida leads the nation in child drownings, and in Miami-Dade County they’re the number one cause of death for children under age 5. Enroll your child in formal swim and water safety lessons as early as possible – they reduce the likelihood of child drowning by 88 percent. Parents and caregivers should learn CPR and basic water rescue skills, too. “Swim for Jenny,” a YMCA of South Florida (www.ymcasouthflorida.org) drowning prevention initiative, offers five days of free swim lessons to both children and adults at various locations, and this year takes place March 25-29. The USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” program can link South Florida families with low- and no-cost swim lessons and water safety education year-round. Visit www.usaswimmingfoundation.org for details.
Written by Elisa Chemayne Agostinho with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Safe Kids Worldwide, the USA Swimming Foundation and the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami.