This month’s Health Corner by Tracy Hannigan, a local osteopath, is all about Child Safety. Just a couple weeks from now, the Child Accident Prevention Trust will be sponsoring Child Safety Week (June 3-9th).
Child Safety Week is an annual tradition of education and inspiration put on by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT). The CAPT has the laudable mission of raising awareness of child accident risks and how to prevent accidents from happening to children.
There are many kinds of accidents which are preventable in children, but this article goes over two that are quite common in the summer.
Did you know that one of the most dangerous things for small children is something you find in your junk drawer or down the back of the sofa seat cushion?
Inquisitive children can also find them inside common household items within easy reach: like the TV remote or even their own toys.
Button batteries (or coin batteries) can injure or kill a child within hours. They are a choking hazard, and can get stuck in a young child’s throat. However, when a button battery is in contact with saliva the chemicals in the battery form caustic soda — drain cleaner — and can cause severe internal bleeding.
It might not be obvious to you if your child has swallowed a battery. They might drool a lot, act like they are choking, or like they have something stuck. However, if it has been fully swallowed, they may feel tired, nauseous, point to their stomach, or vomit. Of particular importance is vomiting fresh bright red blood.
If your child has symptoms like these or if you even suspect they might have swallowed a battery, do not delay or wait for symptoms to appear – go to A/E immediately.
Even flat batteries can cause these problems, so properly secure and appropriately recycle them.
A second common accident is most common in the summertime: drowning.
Did you know that children who are drowning do not behave like they do in the movies: drowning children (and adults for that matter) are silent.
Because of this, a lot of child drownings happen within reach of an adult with them in the water, and are entirely preventable. Half of drownings occur where someone didn’t intentionally go into the water (this is common in under 6’s, where they fall into a body of water) – and another large proportion of people could have been saved by the use of a life vest.
Young teens, which represent a large proportion of drowning deaths, do not often learn to swim – nearly 45% do not know how to swim when entering KS2. And another proportion are pre teens or young teens who are newly confident swimmers and get less supervision from an adult as a result. But these swimmers do not have the experience or maturity to predict or cope with unexpected events in the water.
There is an accidental drowning in the UK every 20 hours.
So if drowning doesn’t look like it does in the movies – with someone screaming and yelling for help and waving their arms – what does it look like?
Things to look for:
- Face straight up out of the water, not looking for anyone
- Eyes not focussed, maybe closed
- Being vertical in the water, not horizontal
- Head bobbing up and down out of the surface of the water
- Arms to the side, pressing down so as to raise their mouth and nose
- Might be trying to move in one direction but not making any progress
- Not responsive to people yelling and giving them commands
There is an excellent explainer video by Slate on Youtube below. It uses a graphic representation of a person, rather than a real person, to demonstrate what this might look like.
Adults can maintain this for 20 to 60 seconds – but children for less time than that. You might think that your child will yell for help if they are struggling, but if they are drowning they will not be able to. Never let your child out of your sight near or in the water and know what to look for.