Be honest. Most of us do not consider the furniture in our homes or even the television to be dangerous to our children. The kids run and play and laugh and occasionally knock over a chair or bump into a desk or fall off the furniture but that seems to be the extent of our worry when it comes to furniture. Well according to a new study furniture related injuries are on the rise and if your kids are anything like mine, we have some work to do.
According to the study conducted by the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, most furniture tip-over-related injuries occurred among children younger than 7 years of age and resulted from televisions tipping over. More than one quarter of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture. Children ages 10-17 years were more likely to suffer injuries from desks, cabinets or bookshelves tipping over. Head and neck injuries were most common among younger children, while children older than 9 years were more likely to suffer injuries to the lower body.
Despite warnings from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of injuries involving televisions and other furniture tipping over onto children has increased in this country since the early 1990s.
“There was a more than 40 percent increase in the number of injuries during the study period, and the injury rate also significantly increased during these years,” said study senior author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “This trend demonstrates the inadequacy of current prevention strategies and underscores the need for increased prevention efforts.”
So what can we as parents do? Parents can minimize risks to children by placing televisions low to the ground and near the back of their stands and strapping televisions and furniture to the wall with safety straps or L-brackets. Purchasing furniture with wide legs or with solid bases, installing drawer stops on chests of drawers and placing heavy items close to the floor on shelves will also help prevent tip-overs. Additionally, parents can reduce a child’s desire to climb furniture by not placing attractive items, such as toys or the remote control, high on top of furniture or the television.
Caregivers and even those of us in the emergency medicine field should be aware that furniture tip-overs are an important source of childhood injury and that education geared towards simple prevention steps will decrease the number of injuries to children associated with furniture tip-overs.”
My son doesn’t want to use a booster seat anymore. I can see his perspective: none of his friends use one any longer and he thinks the seat belts in our cars fit him just fine. So why bother?? Because he’s just nine. And because crash studies and child safety guidelines from experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics indicate that he still needs to be using one. Although he thinks he’s so smart and grown up, he’s just a kid – and I’m the parent. And I actually know what it feels like to be injured in a car crash.
Guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 recommend that kids use a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall (57 inches) and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. This will likely be around the ages of 8-12 years. But it’s the physical dimensions that matter most. Kids need to be large enough to fit properly in the seatbelt – and mature enough to ride without slouching down and defeating the whole purpose of the belts. Focusing on the age of the child to guide booster seat decisions can be misleading. Last spring – at 9-years of age – my son measured in the 75th percentile for both weight and height at his annual pediatric visit (meaning he was taller and heavier than 75% of other nine-year olds)….and he STILL DIDN’T meet the criteria for graduating from a booster seat – he’s not yet 4’9” and weighs only just over 80 lbs. So why are we in the minority in our community in still using a booster seat?
The problem is that many state laws – and therefore local communications about what constitutes safe car travel for older kids – haven’t caught up to these recommendations (click here for a summary of state laws on child passenger safety). Many states – like Alabama, Colorado, Iowa and Nebraska (to name just a few) focus exclusively on age – without the all-important height and weight requirements. This list includes my state of Indiana which allows children over age seven to shelve the booster seat, no matter how big they are. My son’s best friend – also nine – stopped using a booster seat last year. He’s fully THREE INCHES shorter than my son. How can he possibly be safely restrained by an adult seat belt during a crash? And this isn’t just a theoretical issue. Safe Kids USA reports that children seated in a booster seat in the rear of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash as compared to those using a seat belt alone.
While this is bad enough, some states – like Florida, Arizona and South Dakota don’t even have booster seat laws. In these states it is legally permissible for children as young as age 4 and 5 to use adult seat belts. Is there some reason why the children in these states are less likely to be involved in a traffic accident – or that they are somehow more resilient in a car crash?
Let’s face it – the process of proposing and passing laws is complicated and time-consuming. Hopefully all these states will eventually get on par with the guidelines, joining states like Georgia and Maine. However, in the meantime it’s our children riding in the back seat and I would rather base my car safety approach on best-practice guidelines than rely on the timeline and politics of my state judicial process.
So, in our house the 4’9” rule prevails. We even got out the measuring tape recently and determined my son has an inch to go. He’s counting down every day. And he understands that I’m following new expert recommendations to keep him safe – and that his friends’ parents probably just aren’t aware of these guidelines, which is too bad.
Black Friday has come and gone this year but it is only the beginning of the busiest shopping season of the year. Everywhere you go, stores are packed, parking lots are full, and people are scurrying about trying to get the very best deals on all the latest, hottest gift items. If you are an avid shopper, this might be your favorite time to shop and score big bargains on the items on your gift list, but this time of year can also put shoppers at risk for theft, accidents, and other safety threats.
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while you are out doing your holiday shopping this year:
Shop with a friend
There is safety in numbers and not only will it make you less of a target, you’ll probably have more fun than shopping alone.
Take only the bare necessities
Before you head out to the mall or stores, clean out your purse or wallet and take only what you really must have. If possible, skip the purse and carry a small wallet in your front pocket. If you must carry a purse, carry it over your shoulder, across your body, or carry a wristlet purse. These make it harder for a purse-snatcher to access your purse. Plus, if you do have your purse or wallet stolen or if you lose it, you will not have to replace as many cards and can quickly report the ones that were stolen/lost.
Shop during the daylight hours
If possible, shop during the daytime. Once it gets dark, thieves have an advantage of being able to hide in the dark and then attack unsuspecting shoppers when they are walking back to their vehicles with their purchases. If you must shop after sundown, park as close to the store as you can and in a well-lit area. If you feel uncomfortable walking to your car, ask if there is a security guard who can escort you through the parking lot. Have your key out and check around your vehicle before getting in it. Once you are inside, lock your doors and don’t delay in leaving.
If you are approached by anyone in the parking lot or if someone’s behavior seems suspicious, return to the store instead of trying to get to your car. Your car cannot protect you as well as being in the store with other people can. Alert store security or a manager if there is any suspicious activity or if someone did approach you and seemed to be a threat.
Protect your purchases
Thieves know that holiday shopping time is prime time to find lots to steal in the parking lots of malls and other shopping centers. If you have to leave any purchases in your car, be sure to hide or cover them well. Lock them in the trunk of a car or if you are driving an SUV or minivan, cover them with a blanket. Don’t leave anything visible. If you plan to drop off purchases and then go back into the same mall/shopping center, get in your car and drive to another part of the parking lot to re-park. Or take a break, leave the area to get lunch or a snack and come back later. Thieves may be lurking in the parking lot and if one sees you put packages in your car and go back into the mall, your vehicle will be a prime target.
Don’t overload yourself
Leaving a store with arms full of several bags, boxes, and other goodies may look fun and exciting in commercials, but in real life it makes you a target for attackers. An attacker knows it will be harder for you to fight with your arms full and it will be easier to catch you off-guard because you’ll be distracted by trying to carry and balance all your purchases. And remember, thieves often work in pairs. If someone approaches you, be wary of not only them, but anyone else who might be around because they may be planning to pick-pocket or snatch your bags or purse while you are distracted by the one who approached you.
Be alert at all times
Be aware of your surroundings when out in public, not only for possible thieves or attackers, but for potential safety hazards as well. If you are walking through a parking lot, watch out for cars, as crowded and busy parking lots may make it hard for drivers to see you, especially if they are backing out of a parking space. If you are driving, watch closely for pedestrians, especially those who might be paying attention or may be overloaded with packages and bags. Look carefully behind you before backing out of a parking space.
If the weather is rainy, snowy or icy, be extra cautious walking in the parking lot and even when you step into the store, as slick floors may cause falls.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and stay safe!
It’s November. The leaves are changing, temperatures are falling and that means 3 things:
- That it’s time to change your clocks back an hour,
- That it’s time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors in your home and
- It’s time to make an evacuation plan.
Ask yourself when was the last time you checked and changed the batteries in your smoke detectors? If you can’t remember then it has been too long. It is estimated that every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases so having a properly working smoke detector is one of the best and least expensive ways to alert everyone in the home of a potentially deadly fire. Most people who lose their lives to smoke and gas inhalation do so in their sleep. Children and the elderly are especially known to sleep through smoke and other alarms and are at greater risk, so proper placement of your smoke alarms is very important. Protect your family! Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of your home and in and around all bedrooms to best alert sleeping occupants that there is smoke and smoke detector batteries should be checked monthly and changed every 6 months.
Having talked about placing smoke detectors where they need to go, what happens when there is an emergency and the detectors start sounding? Every home should have an evacuation plan known by everyone in the home. We all remember in school having the fire drill where we walked outside to a place and waited to be called back into class, well that is the same thing that should be done in your home. Everyone in the home should have a clear understanding of where to meet and how to get there in case of a fire. The location can be anywhere far enough away from the home to be easy to get to and be safely away from danger like a tree or a mailbox for example. If you have younger children this is a great exercise to do with them as they can map out and color a plan to keep and learn. Some houses will require extra planning and preparation because of things like multiple stories and occupants who may require assistance. Items such as fire escape ladders and window indicator stickers can help occupants evacuate from upper floors safely and help fire crews locate individuals and pets that need help evacuating the home.
With over 75% of all fire fatalities occurring in home fires, the need for proper protection and planning cannot be overstated. The winter months are fast approaching and the risk for home fires increases as the temperatures decrease so please remember to unplug heating devices, not to overload outlets and keep fireplaces and chimney’s clean.
There is a saying that says” chance favors the prepared”. The time it takes to prepare is minimal and working together as a family can be fun and educational…so have fun and be prepared.
Halloween is a fun time of costumes, candy, and carving of pumpkins. Unfortunately, one little slip and that fun could be over and you might be rushing to the emergency room.
Accidental lacerations and puncture wounds to the hands and fingers are common injuries seen in emergency rooms around the country during this time of year due to Halloween pumpkin carving. Some of these injuries require surgery and months of rehabilitation, such as the injury Brad Gruner, starting quarterback for the University of New Mexico, suffered last Halloween when he sliced a tendon in the pinkie of his throwing hand and was out for the rest of the season.
If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin before, you know from experience how slippery and tough they can be. It is all too easy for a knife to slip or for it to go through the skin and out the other side where your other hand might be holding it steady. Do yourself (and your family) a favor and follow a couple of safety tips this year to prevent an accident.
Leave the carving to the adults. Kids under the age of 14 should not do the actual carving or cutting. They can draw on the pumpkin the design they want it to have but let an adult carve it.
Use special pumpkin carving tools instead of kitchen knives. Pumpkin carving kits are easy to find in most stores in the weeks before Halloween. These tools are usually smaller, less sharp, and easier to control than a kitchen knife and less likely to cause a laceration or puncture wound. Make sure to use a well-lit, stable, dry surface to work on. Keep hands and tools clean and dry to minimize slips. While carving, leave the top on so you don’t stick your hand inside the pumpkin and risk cutting it.
Decorate your pumpkins without carving them. There are many ways to decorate a pumpkin that do not require risking an injury. Kids can use markers, paint, and even glue on embellishments to create a fun or scary pumpkin design.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween!