Stories about: safety

Keeping children safe around grandma’s medicine

Grandmother-and-grandaughterMulti-generational parenting is becoming more common, as the number of children living with grandparents—or receiving regular care from them—continues to rise. And according to reports, this generation of seniors is healthier, better educated, living longer and more financially secure than those of the past.

In other words, today’s Nana and Granddad are ready for the job.

But, as shown in this report from Safe Kids Worldwide, when grandparents become more active in child care, it carries a safety concern: increasing kids’ access to the grandparents’ medication and pills, and potentially serious cases of medication poisoning.

Safe Kids data shows that almost 64,000 emergency department (ED) visits in 2012 were related to a child swallowing medication not meant for her. That’s an ED visit once every 8 minutes, for an accident that is completely avoidable.

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Weathering the storm with children who have chronic illnesses

As Boston prepares for Hurricane Sandy, many people are buying last minute supplies: canned goods, water and extra batteries.  But for families with chronically ill children, disaster preparedness is more complicated. Many of these children require steady access to medication, clean water, electricity and often need significant help getting from place to place, so having a strategy in place to provide those items after a catastrophe can be crucial.

“The immediate loss of support resources for kids with medical needs is the biggest obstacle these children and their families face after a disaster,” says John Murray, PhD, RN, CPNP, CS, FAAN, director of Nursing Research in Surgical Programs and the Emergency Department at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Families should be prepared for the worst case scenarios. That way, if they do happen, they won’t be caught completely off guard.”

Disaster plans should cover the basics like safe meeting spots and access to stored supplies, but should also address the specific needs of chronically ill children, like having access to electricity that can run a respirator or having plenty of water to clean feeding tubes. To be best prepared, Murray suggests parents call local electricity and water providers, alert them to your family’s specific situation and ask about their emergency support services. This is especially important for electrical devices, as power outages can go on for some time after larger-scale disasters. “If your child needs steady access devices requiring electricity, you need to have a back up generator in case there’s a prolonged blackout,” he says. “Your local electric company or organization that supplies your medical equipment should be able to provide you with one based on your child’s needs.”

If your child needs steady access devices requiring electricity, you need to have a back up generator in case there’s a prolonged blackout.

Murray also suggests having an emergency information form that contains contact information for medical providers, friends and family, which could be incredibly important if parents and children are separated after a disaster. Depending on the child’s needs, detailed information about his condition and care should also be readily available. For instance, instructions on medicine dosage or techniques for managing a breathing tube may be particularly useful if the parent and child are separated after disaster strikes.

“Try to make the instructions succinct, because you don’t know under what situation they’ll be needed,” he says. “It’s possible the person reading them won’t be used to this type of situation or have access to everything you normally would. The notes in your disaster kit should take account of that.”

(Click for a copy of the American Academy of Pediatrics Emergency Information for Children with Special Needs Form, or create your own based on your child’s requirements.)

It’s also important to remember that major disasters can cause young children significant stress. To help alleviate some of their worry, you might consider involving your children in the creation of your family’s disaster preparedness. Engaging them in activates like trips to the grocery store to buy emergency supplies, or showing them how you contacted power companies to alert them to your family’s particular medical situation, can be empowering and help them feel safer. (Read our expert’s tips on lessening anxiety in children worried about natural disasters.)

“Knowing there is a disaster preparedness plan in place is going to help relive a lot of stress for kids,” Murray says. “Having them be involved with the preparation just drives home the point that your family is ready should something happen.”

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Spring and summer safety tips

Tree climbing can be dangerous and should only be done under close supervision

The warm weather is finally here, which means many kids will be spending more time outside. Playgrounds are a great way for children to get exercise, but while there they should be watched closely to make sure the running and climbing doesn’t end in injury. To keep kids safe while playing outside:

  • Make sure an adult is always watching
  • When possible, visit playgrounds built on a soft surface like rubber, bark chips or sand
  • Dress them in safe play clothes. Scarves, hood draw-stings, necklaces and other dangling accessories can get caught on play equipment. Also, helmets should only be worn during the activity it was designed for. Playing and running with a helmet could cause an accident because it could limit the child’s range of vision.

Riding a bike, skateboard or scooter is another great summer activity, but only when done safely. Most accidents involving children and bicycles, in-line skates and skateboards happen because the child broke a traffic or safety rule. If your child uses a wheeled toy be sure he or she:

Knows the rules of the road:

  • Always ride on the right side of the road, going the same direction as traffic
  • Use hand signals to let others know which way he is turning
  • Stop at all stop signs and red lights
  • Look both ways before crossing a street or sidewalk
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Playing it safe in the heat

How hot is the metal at your child's favorite playground?

Slides, seesaws and jungle gyms remind us of carefree childhood days, but as we get older, the allure of playgrounds becomes much less simple. These outdoor havens are great ways to encourage physical activity in kids, but strong summer heat can also cause them to become danger zones. Here, Lois Lee, MD, MPH, director of trauma research at Children’s Hospital Boston, breaks down summer playground safety and suggests ways to keep your outing safe.

Recent reports of children who have burned their hands and feet on hot playground gear underscore the need for shady spots in playgrounds. “Ideally, it would be great for kids to have access to shaded playgrounds to keep cool and out of the sun, but it’s not always realistic,” says Lee. She recommends making sure kids have sunscreen on their faces and bodies, dressing them in lightweight, protective clothing and keeping them out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is most intense.

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