Kids Love Dr. Barton

Household Hazards

by Dr. Douglas Barton, M.D., Pediatrician 06/02/2009

The recent death of boxer Mike Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter, after her neck apparently got caught in a treadmill cord, is a stark reminder to take safety around the house very seriously. While I certainly can’t claim to know all the details, it certainly is eye-opening that such a thing can happen. This tragic accident should remind all parents to look around the house with a different eye to the myriad of things that kids can get into.         

Accidents are THE leading cause of death in children and adolescents. They are also a huge cause of life-changing disabilities. A quick tour around the house should reveal all sorts of things that kids can get into.

Physical accidents are the most obvious. Things fall on kids all the time. TVs, dressers and bookshelves tip over very easily and can crush children. Children fall off of things all the time. They climb up onto bookshelves, counter tops, table tops, stools, and beds. Especially when the floor beneath is hard, these falls can potentially cause serious injury. Tripping over cords and hoses while running is another common cause of falls.

Poisonings are very common. Toddlers have no clue what that clear fluid in the big bottle in the laundry room is, nor do they understand the concept of rat poison.

Suffocations also are unfortunately common. Window blind cords, electrical cords, jump ropes, plastic bags, and now, treadmill cords, are all causes of strangulation and suffocation. Infants placed in cribs with soft pillows or blankets can turn their face into the object and suffocate. Sleeping in bed with a parent is an unnecessary cause of death by suffocation, when the parent accidentally rolls toward the infant or toddler. Don’t forget that a toddler can fall into a bucket or toilet and be unable to extricate themselves before drowning.

The pool requires special mention. Many studies have been done to look into how to make pools safer. The only safety measure ever proven to keep kids from drowning in pools is a fence on all four sides of the pool with a gate that closes and latches automatically so that kids can’t get in without a parent opening the gate.

Likewise, guns require special attention. While the statement that “guns aren’t dangerous, the people that use them are” is certainly true, when children get their hands on a gun, curiosity over takes any knowledge they may have. Lock the guns in a safe and lock the ammunition somewhere else.

Cars are an especially heart-breaking cause of injuries. Every year, you hear tragic news stories about babies who are forgotten in a car in the scorching heat (or freezing cold). Children, while playing around a car, may not be noticed as a parent pulls out of the driveway. And, of course, children tend not to look both ways as they cross the road to their neighbor’s house.

This is just a very short catalogue of the things I’ve seen and heard about in my years of pediatric practice. A good rule of thumb that I give to all my parents is that if you can’t see them or hear them…assume the worst, until you find out otherwise. When it comes to the safety of our children, we CAN’T be too careful.

Dr. Douglas Barton draws patients from Wentzville, Lake St. Louis, O'Fallon and the surrounding areas.




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