It is prudent to take steps to protect children from avoidable injuries

So you think your home is the safest place for your child? Think that over: children tend to fall, put their body parts into electrical sockets, pull things over themselves, run onto the road and do many other things. Since it is the nature of a child to do all of the above and more, let’s make sure we keep our homes as safe as possible for them.

“Kids are not mini-adults,” explains Indira Jayakumar, Senior Consultant, Emergency and Paediatric Intensive Care at Apollo Children’s Hospital. “They are going to fall, slip and tumble. It is part of being a kid and growing up, and we would not want it any other way.” However, parents and guardians should ensure that kids avoid serious injuries that put their life in danger.

“We have treated kids with severe life-threatening head injuries following fall from balconies, kids who have been rushed in after they pulled television sets onto themselves, kids with burn injuries, and we struggle to keep them alive,” she says. Besides the emotional trauma, there is a mad scramble to find finances to fund the hospital expenses.

Bala Ramachandran, head, Department of Intensive Care & Emergency Medicine, Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, says, “Each year, hundreds of children are injured, some fatally. Many of these incidents happen in or around the house, often while the parents or other caretakers are present. At the ICU, we see a lot of kids coming with clearly avoidable injuries.”

There are ‘traps’ in every room of the home, the halls, the bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms. There are electrical sockets in every room, and some of them were not planned with kids in mind; the huge conventional television set mounted on a table, unless properly seated and plugged in, can be pulled off by its wires.

Dr. Ramachandran says buckets with even a small quantity of water can be dangerous if a toddler falls in headlong. Children can be scalded if they turn on hot water taps. People sometimes store cleaning liquids at accessible places in the bathroom; children are known to open these containers and take a swig, or pour substances over themselves. Burns and scalding are also common among children, who run in and out of kitchens. Kids travelling in cars without seat belts or child seats are prone to accidents.

Adult supervision is probably the key to avoiding these problems, but simple things like closing unused sockets with dummy plugs, emptying buckets, leaving toxic substances above the reach of children, and not cooking at the stove with a child on the hip are some practical precautions one can take, says Dr. Indira. Apollo Children’s Hospital recently released a 10-point guide to prevent serious child injuries at home.

“Medication errors are common. Parents give ‘drops’ doses, mistaken for ‘syrups’. Paracetamol drops, for instance, are more concentrated than syrups. This mistake can even cause permanent liver damage,” Dr. Indira adds.

Dr. Ramachandran advises parents to conduct a home safety inspection regularly; “the number of things that can be corrected with very simple techniques will surprise you.”