Being cooped up at home due to social distancing could put kids at higher risk of getting hurt. An expert offers tips for avoiding emergency room visits.
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With schools and daycare centers closed, many parents are working from home while making three meals a day, tending to home tasks and taking on teaching responsibilities. High on the list of challenges? Managing it all while still properly supervising rambunctious little ones.
Unfortunately, less supervision might mean more household injuries. And experts like Marie Snodgrass, the injury prevention program lead at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, worries about an increase in pediatric ER cases while COVID-19 continues to spread.
For now, children might be keeping themselves preoccupied playing video games or watching their favorite movies, but as the weather gets warmer and they become bored of being indoors, they may get more creative in what they do inside or outside the house.
It's important for caregivers to actively try to prevent unnecessary ER visits, especially in the midst of this viral outbreak. Snodgrass offers tips for preventing some of the most common pediatric injuries.
1. Furniture tipovers
According to Snodgrass, falls make up the greatest number of injuries their emergency department sees, and a common cause is stairs. When childproofing, parents often place gates on stairs to help prevent these injuries. However, the dangers furniture can pose to young children is too often overlooked. If not anchored properly, bookshelves, dressers and flat screen televisions can fall over and cause serious injury. Even when anchored properly, there's still risk of heavy objects sitting on top of furniture falling over.
"These injuries are preventable with some work on the front end, but reorganizing where you keep certain items could prevent serious injury," says Snodgrass.
2. Leaving medications out
With many home full-time now, it's easy to get in the habit of leaving medication out on counters, especially if it has to be taken several times a day. Unfortunately, young children don't always understand the difference between medication and candy.
"We're trying to figure out what our new normal is and what our new daily routines will involve," says Snodgrass. "Make it a habit to put medications away immediately after taking them."
Keeping all medications and vitamins locked up and away from children where they can't be accessed is vital for their safety.
3. Not wearing helmets
Since kids aren't getting to play with neighbors or friends, parents are opting for family activities like bike riding. This is a great way to get fresh air, but make sure children always wear a helmet -- one that fits and buckles properly. Helmets are important for any wheeled sports, such as skateboards, scooters and hover boards, or really anything with wheels. It's also critical for parents to show children how important this is by wearing helmets themselves.
If you're doing walks instead, you can still be proactive in keeping your children safe by practicing looking both ways before crossing the street and holding hands if they're younger.
4. Climbing play structures
With stricter enforcement of the governor's order to stay at home, it's important not to climb on play structures at your local park to keep yourself and others safe.
If you have your own play structures in your backyard, make sure children are properly supervised when playing on them. Properly secure them to the ground and provide a soft covering under it in case they fall, like sand or woodchips.
"Remember that kids are creative, so don't expect that children will only climb where they're supposed to," says Snodgrass. "They may scale the top of it, which is dangerous."
5. Dangerous trampoline use
As with everything else, adult supervision is key to preventing injuries on trampolines. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only one child should be on a trampoline at a time. If your children are using a trampoline, make sure there's no wear and tear in the material or rust on the frame. It's important to have a net, but it doesn't take the place of adult supervision.
"Acrobatics can result in serious injuries, especially if more than one child is on the trampoline at a time," says Snodgrass.
6. Lawnmower injuries
One of the most severe injuries Snodgrass sees are from lawnmowers. When mowing the grass or doing any major yardwork, keep kids indoors.
"They should never be sitting in your lap on a riding lawnmower. As we come up on our spring and summer months, this will be especially important," she says. "It takes just a quick second for them to fall off and get hurt."
If your children are older and ready to help with the outdoor chores, Snodgrass says not to let them operate a push mower until age 12 and a riding mower until age 16. If not mowing but still outside working, everyone should be wearing strong, close-toed shoes.
7. Disregarding kitchen safety
Older children might be starting to be more independent and make their own meals while they're home and parents are busy with work.
"This is a great life skill to have and provides opportunity to discuss kitchen safety. Be sure to set boundaries for what is safe for your children to do in the kitchen," says Snodgrass.
Children need to be aware of hot items they're removing from microwave ovens and be careful not to burn themselves with hot liquids. Always being careful of open flames on stovetops and not standing too close to the stovetop, no matter who is cooking, is important to remember.
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