Prevention is best, but what should you do when injuries and accidents take place?
Home should be the safest place for your little one, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is for her to get into trouble, as well. “For younger children, especially, home is the most dangerous place,” Dr Tham Lai Peng would go as far as to say.As the senior consultant at the department of emergency medicine from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, she is sharing from experience. She and her colleagues attend to about 470 young patients for their injuries every day – with about one out of five of them under the age of two. Most accidents occurred at home and could have been prevented.
“An injury can occur in just a few seconds,” reminds Dr Tham, “so it is important that caregivers do not become complacent and get distracted when they are looking after the children.” But that doesn’t mean you should keep her away from play, she says. That’s still important for her development. Just make sure your little one’s play activities are done safely and under a watchful eye.
So, what should you do when accidents happen? Here are four common situations and how you can prevent them.
OMG! Baby rolls off the bed and hits her head.
Keep a close eye on her for three days after she suffers a head injury, says Dr Tham. Take her to the Emergency Department immediately if you notice any of the signs below:
- Changes in behaviour, such as irritability, disorientation and confusion
- Bleeding from the ears or nose
- Unsteady gait
- Weakness of arms
- Unusual eye movements
What you want to rule out are skull fractures and brain injuries that can be serious. While monitoring your baby, avoid giving her medication that may cause drowsiness.
PREVENT IT: Never leave your young child unattended on an adult bed, sarong cradle or other high surfaces, even if you think she is asleep. If you must walk away for a while, always leave her in the cot or playpen instead. Once your toddler moves to her big-kid bed, install bed rails to prevent falls.
Another bedroom hazard: bunk beds. Dr Andrea Yeo, consultant from National University Hospital’s Children’s Emergency, cautions against getting them for kids under six years old. Once your little one can climb, remove furniture or items that you’ve stacked up in the room. This prevents her from using them as “ladder”, Dr Yeo adds.
OMG! She gets a baluku (Singlish for bruise) after bumping into a sharp edge.
Wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the bump on her head. Do this for about 10 to 20 minutes, advises Dr Tham. If the swelling is on the arm or leg, prop it up on a pillow or folded blanket. Then, observe her: is she still in pain? Has the swelling worsened, or is she unable to move her limb properly? When in doubt, always seek medical attention, as it can be difficult to differentiate between a serious bruise and fractures or other serious injuries, says Dr Tham.
PREVENT IT: Have a designated play area in the living or bedroom. It should be clutter-free and safe for your curious one to explore, says Dr Yeo. Remove furniture with sharp edges, or pad up with corner cushions, which you can easily find in nursery retailers, Dr Tham adds.
Don’t forget to sanitise the play area regularly, as well. What you want to prevent is rotavirus, which spreads through contaminated surfaces. Common symptoms of the infection include diarrhoea characterised by watery stools, vomiting and fever. If you have a newborn, ask your doctor about the rotavirus vaccine, which is still the most effective way to prevent the infection. It is given orally and needs to be started before the age of four months.
OMG! Your toddler takes a tumble and cannot move her arm.
She might have a fracture, especially if her cry sounds like a sharp scream when you touch the affected limb, says Dr Yeo. Take her to the hospital for an assessment; she might need an X-ray. Before that, make a sling to support her arm – you can improvise with a broad-fold bandage or a soft towel.
Secure the arm to her body with the sling while on the way to the hospital, says Ambrose Lee, senior training instructor at Singapore Red Cross Academy. If it’s her leg, however, do not move her. There is a chance the broken thigh bone could cut a large artery. Call for an ambulance immediately, advises Ambrose.
PREVENT IT: Never put your little one in a baby walker, warns Dr Yeo. It can tip her over and cause multiple injuries. Baby-proof your home by installing safety gates to block her access to the stairs, and keep the floor uncluttered to prevent tripping, she adds. Wipe spills immediately, and use secure rubber mats in the bathtub and shower areas to prevent slipping.
OMG! Your infant slips and falls into the pool.
Water play is great fun, but it can also be very dangerous. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for young children aged one to four. Pull your little one from the pool and call for an ambulance immediately.
While waiting, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if she isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, advises Dr Yeo. Stop if there is some breathing or a faint pulse. The next step is to continue to monitor her vital signs – breathing and level of consciousness – every two minutes until help arrives, says Ambrose. Start CPR again if her breathing stops. Place your baby on her side to prevent fluids from choking her further. This will also prevent her tongue from blocking her airway.
PREVENT IT: Watch her when she is near any body of water, no matter how shallow it is. Young children can drown in water that is only a few centimetres deep, so always cordon off fish ponds, water features and private swimming pools with a fence or gate, says Dr Yeo. After using an inflatable wading pool, always empty the remaining water and deflate it, she adds.
By Eveline Gan, Young Parents, August 2015