All children are fragile and vulnerable – perhaps even prone – to injury. As infants, they are incapable of warding off danger. As lively toddlers and pre-schoolers, their incessant quest for fun and exploration can get them into serious trouble.
As a parent, you might wish you could protect your child forever. But this is neither possible nor practical. Besides, your over-protectiveness may deprive him of the opportunity to discover his surroundings and learn from it.
So, however difficult, you need to strike the balance between safeguarding your child and giving him the freedom to develop. What you can do is to exercise a little foresight and make the effort to prevent potential accidents. This entails removing, modifying or eliminating the obvious dangers, particularly the deadly seven that are described below.
Also, prepare yourself to handle an emergency. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit at home and in the car. Read books, browse the internet or attend a course to find out how to deal with choking, bleeding and poisoning. If you wish, learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Should a serious accident occur, act calmly and swiftly.
In most cases, these preventive and emergency measures would be enough to ensure your child’s safety or, if the need arises, to help save his life.
FALLS & TUMBLES
The buai, a hammock suspended by a spring, can be hazardous. Babies placed inside to sleep have been known to fall out. Also, a loose spring or vigorous rocking have led to children hitting the floor or colliding with nearby furniture. Put your child in a cot; it is safer.
Avoid baby walkers. It is debatable whether these devices will actually help him learn to walk but one thing is for sure – they have been known to cause serious injury. They can tip over and cause your child to suffer bumps, bruises and fractures. Furthermore, there have been painful incidents where the wheels on badly-designed walkers have rolled over children’s toes. Also, some children have rolled to perilous places (like the top of the stairs) only to plunge to an untimely death.
If you live in a high-rise apartment or a multi-storey house, have your windows and balconies barred. Whether your child was just curious about what’s outside or imagining he was Superman, falling can be fatal.
Staircases are equally notorious. Before your child begins to crawl on all fours, put up safety gates at the top of your stairs. As soon as he’s ready, teach him how to climb the stairs correctly – ie by holding onto the hand rails.
Falling can also occur in the playground. So, always check to ensure the safety of the equipment. A rusty handle on the see-saw, for instance, could come off and cause your child to fall to the ground. Never let your child ride the swing, climb the slides or hang on the monkey bars before he is old and strong enough. Even then, be sure to supervise him constantly.
If possible, choose a playground that has a softer surface – like grass turf, sand, wood chips or shredded rubber – to cushion your child should he fall.
When shopping, you might wheel your child about in the trolley. If so, restrain him with a safety belt. Also do not allow him to fidget too much as he could throw the trolley off balance and fall, as a result. Never leave your child in the trolley unattended.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS
Deaths resulting from motor accidents are common among children under age 15. Do not allow your child to venture onto the road by himself. You should always walk on the side of the traffic to prevent him from accidentally going to far out … and into the pathway of a car. When your child grows older, teach him how to cross the road safely.
When in the car, everyone must wear a seat belt. Until your child is big enough, place him in a child car seat. Preferably, place him in the backseat where he’ll be safer. Most important, drive safely. When your child learns to ride a bicycle, make sure he wears a safety helmet.
Infants and toddlers tend to put things into their mouths as a way of discovering or exploring things. Sometimes, this can result in accidental poisoning.
Prevent such mishaps by locking up all medicines. Keep cleaning solutions and chemicals in their original containers (not in soft drink or juice bottles) and place them far away from actual beverages. Beware especially of moth balls and homecare products with colourful packaging; they can look like tempting sweets or chocolate bars. Some plants (like certain mushrooms, berries and shrubs) can be poisonous. Check with the Poisons Centre before you add a new and unfamiliar plant to your garden.
Don’t leave your baby or young toddler alone in the bathtub. Keep toilet lids closed and empty all water buckets.
Your child will probably love playing in water but he can drown, even in a few inches. Never let him out of sight when near water, whether it’s a lake, swimming pool or wading pool. Around your house, keep him away from monsoon drains and make sure sewage tanks are covered.
BURNS & SCALDS
Many burns and scalds occur in the kitchen. When cooking, place pots and pans on the back burners, out of your child’s reach. Turn the pot handles away from the front of the stove so that they will not be accidentally dragged or knocked down.
Before bathing your child, test the temperature of the water by moving your hand through it for several seconds. His skin is a lot more sensitive than yours, so a mild temperature will do.
Keep matches and lighters away from your child’s inquisitive fingers. If possible, install smoke detectors in your house to reduce the risk of fire. At least once a year, check to make sure that it works.
CHOKING & STRANGULATION
With his small airway, your child can easily choke on small objects like buttons, jewelry, beads and small toys. Even small round foods (like grapes and nuts) pose a risk and have to be given carefully.
Secure the cords to window blind so that your child does not gets tangled up or strangled by them. Properly discard or store away plastic bags to avoid him putting them over his head.
Sometimes, the greatest injury a child can suffer is inflicted by those who were meant to love him – his parents or caretakers. The results could range from severe physical and mental trauma, to death itself. If you can’t help abusing your child, whether verbally or physically, seek professional help.