April 27, 2020

Being vigilant and preventing at-home injuries during COVID-19

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With time on their hands, children are more apt to explore and find trouble. Here are tips from an injury prevention expert to prevent at-home injuries.

Schools are out and children are spending their time at home with varied routines and under less supervision. Parents are trying hard to maintain a balance working from home, managing their new normal and homeschooling their kids. This is an unfortunate recipe for at-home injuries rising.

“As kids get bored they start getting into things they shouldn’t be getting into because they have nothing else to do,” said Purnima Unni, M.P.H., Injury Prevention Manager for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “Their curiosity gets the better of them as they start exploring the house and this, in turn, will get them into trouble.”

To protect kids from at-home injuries, Unni offers these key safety tips for parents:

Lock up your medication and cleaners

Many items around the house can be poisonous or harmful. This includes cleaning supplies, medicine, laundry detergents, toiletries, alcohol and more.

Due to COVID-19, there is a major focus on household cleaners. Cleaning and sanitizing your home can help you prevent COVID-19, but cleaning products can be poisonous. Some of them might have bright colors or smell like orange or lemon, which can cause small children to confuse them with drinks. Stop poisoning from happening to your children and take extra steps to tuck away harmful chemicals. Medication is another worry because kids can search through purses or bags or find medication bottles on lower shelves. Lock up your medication or go through a quick inventory assessment to toss out any that are no longer needed.

Some reminders to prevent childhood poisoning:

  • Don’t leave dangerous items out: As soon as you’re done using a cleaning product or medicine, put it away.
  • Put them up high and out of sight: Place hazardous materials on a high shelf so small children can’t reach them. If you keep medication in a purse or bag, hang the bag on a hook to keep it out of reach.
  • Lock them away: If you do put medications in a closet, use a lock to keep children from getting to them.
  • Know the right numbers: Unni recommends storing the number for Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) in your phone and posting it somewhere in the house.

Cook safely

Parents may be cooking while simultaneously watching kids, or trying to get work done. Older kids might be taking on new responsibilities during the day, including helping with meal prep. Remember these tips and maximizing safety.

  • Baby-free zone: Teach little ones to stay at least three feet from the oven/stove. If they’re too young to understand, place them in a high chair or find another safe way to secure them where you can still see them while you cook. Remember not to carry or hold a child while cooking.
  • Use the back burner: Keep kids from pulling hot food or liquids onto themselves by using the back burners when cooking and turning pot handles away from the edges of counters.
  • Use caution with the microwave: A common cause of burns that bring kids into the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital emergency department is scalding that occurs when taking hot food out of the microwave. Prevent scalding burns from happening to your children by helping with this step, especially when microwaves are overhead. Remind kids to slowly open containers that have been in the microwave, as steam can burn fingers and faces.

Lock your firearms

If you have a gun in your home, securing it from children and teenagers can prevent death by unintentional shooting or suicide. Follow these measures to make sure your guns are far out of reach to your children:

  • Keep guns unloaded when in the house.
  • Lock guns away.
  • Lock ammunition away in a different location.
  • Make sure kids don’t know where the keys to gun or ammunition cabinets are located.

Secure heavy furniture and prevent falls

Heavy or tall items can potentially tip over onto children who climb onto them or pull on them, causing serious injury or death. This includes appliances, furniture or televisions that aren’t mounted to the wall. To prevent a tip-over:

  • Anchor heavy or tall objects like bookshelves and televisions to the wall.
  • Don’t put toys, videos, books and other items up high. Children might be tempted to climb onto a tall object if they see an item that they want resulting in a tip over.
  • Strap them in. When placing babies/toddlers in highchairs, strollers or swings, be sure to secure them with the straps. Install approved safety gates at the top AND bottom of staircases. Follow the installation instructions.

Remember none of this is easy! Give yourself grace during these hard times. We are all just doing our best.