Stories about: Home safety

One patient’s story: my toddler’s head injury

Kate Gray is the mother of William, an active toddler whose serious fall almost ended in tragedy.

I call William my spirited child. Like many 3 year-olds, he loves to run and jump, and does it without the slightest sense of fear. His boundless energy has always been one of his most endearing features, but in a split second, it also almost took him from us forever.

Up, up and away! Like many toddlers, William is a ball of energy

A few days before Christmas, my husband Mark and I had some last minute holiday chores to do so we decided to beat the rush by heading out early in the morning. As we walked out the front door William and I were standing side by side, just inches from each other. Suddenly, he turned to go back towards the door and somehow lost his footing. He fell backwards off the steps and hit the back of his head on the brick walkway as he landed. As I scooped him up to quiet his crying, I didn’t see any sign of injury. No goose egg or bump, not even a scratch. In less than five minutes he had stopped crying and we had begun our busy day.

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Swallowed magnets attract negative press

Most of us remember magnet sets as toy box and classroom staples when we were growing up. Their ability to engage and teach young users about polarity, electronic currents and positive and negative reactions made them educational as well as fun—a fantastic combination for toy makers looking to market the sets to children and their parents.

But just like those of us who played with them, magnets grew up over the years.

In the later half of the 2000s, a new breed of magnet hit the shelves. Marketed as “desk toys” for adults, these small, extremely powerful earth magnets could be arranged in any number of intricate or interesting sculptures. This new take on an old favorite proved to be a hit with the public, and the desk toys began selling like hotcakes. Even though these were meant for adults, the small, shiny and incredibly powerful magnets also were enticing to young children and quickly began finding their way into the hands of toddlers.

And as any parent will tell you, what finds its way into a toddler’s hand will eventually end up in his or her mouth.

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Are parents’ prescriptions poisoning kids?

Every parent knows how hard it can be to keep their prescription drugs safely away from their children. But with the increase in adult prescription drugs in the home, that problem is getting harder to manage. Today, more and more young kids are accidentally taking their parents’ pills, and more and more teens are intentionally raiding the medicine cabinet. This has led to rising rates of poisonings in children, according to a study

published in the July 2013 issue of Pediatrics. (Adult Prescription Drug Use and Pediatric Medication Exposures and Poisonings)

Two of the study’s authors, Lindsey C. Burghardt, MD, and Florence T. Bourgeois, MD, MPH, became interested in the subject based on their real-life experiences as pediatric emergency medicine doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital. Burghardt reports that they noticed what seemed to be an increase in children and adolescents coming to the emergency room who had been poisoned by prescription medications. “When we began to research the problem of pediatric medication poisonings, we learned that adult prescriptions are also increasing.  We began to wonder if these things were related.”

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Weathering the storm with children who have chronic illnesses

As Boston prepares for Hurricane Sandy, many people are buying last minute supplies: canned goods, water and extra batteries.  But for families with chronically ill children, disaster preparedness is more complicated. Many of these children require steady access to medication, clean water, electricity and often need significant help getting from place to place, so having a strategy in place to provide those items after a catastrophe can be crucial.

“The immediate loss of support resources for kids with medical needs is the biggest obstacle these children and their families face after a disaster,” says John Murray, PhD, RN, CPNP, CS, FAAN, director of Nursing Research in Surgical Programs and the Emergency Department at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Families should be prepared for the worst case scenarios. That way, if they do happen, they won’t be caught completely off guard.”

Disaster plans should cover the basics like safe meeting spots and access to stored supplies, but should also address the specific needs of chronically ill children, like having access to electricity that can run a respirator or having plenty of water to clean feeding tubes. To be best prepared, Murray suggests parents call local electricity and water providers, alert them to your family’s specific situation and ask about their emergency support services. This is especially important for electrical devices, as power outages can go on for some time after larger-scale disasters. “If your child needs steady access devices requiring electricity, you need to have a back up generator in case there’s a prolonged blackout,” he says. “Your local electric company or organization that supplies your medical equipment should be able to provide you with one based on your child’s needs.”

If your child needs steady access devices requiring electricity, you need to have a back up generator in case there’s a prolonged blackout.

Murray also suggests having an emergency information form that contains contact information for medical providers, friends and family, which could be incredibly important if parents and children are separated after a disaster. Depending on the child’s needs, detailed information about his condition and care should also be readily available. For instance, instructions on medicine dosage or techniques for managing a breathing tube may be particularly useful if the parent and child are separated after disaster strikes.

“Try to make the instructions succinct, because you don’t know under what situation they’ll be needed,” he says. “It’s possible the person reading them won’t be used to this type of situation or have access to everything you normally would. The notes in your disaster kit should take account of that.”

(Click for a copy of the American Academy of Pediatrics Emergency Information for Children with Special Needs Form, or create your own based on your child’s requirements.)

It’s also important to remember that major disasters can cause young children significant stress. To help alleviate some of their worry, you might consider involving your children in the creation of your family’s disaster preparedness. Engaging them in activates like trips to the grocery store to buy emergency supplies, or showing them how you contacted power companies to alert them to your family’s particular medical situation, can be empowering and help them feel safer. (Read our expert’s tips on lessening anxiety in children worried about natural disasters.)

“Knowing there is a disaster preparedness plan in place is going to help relive a lot of stress for kids,” Murray says. “Having them be involved with the preparation just drives home the point that your family is ready should something happen.”

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