Friday, 2 December 2011

Is your home a deathtrap for children?

EIGHT months pregnant and crawling around the floor - not a good image. And way too late - you should baby-proof your home the very second you know you’re going to have a child living with you. 
The first five years of our lives are when the real dangers lie. Delicious poisons under the sink and in the drinks cabinet, just begging to be tasted. Exciting games to be played near a stove bubbling with boiling soups and porridge. 
If you come from a family with a horrified addiction to scéal mór an úafás, you’ll have heard about the toddler that rocked itself in its high chair to the window of a tall Georgian house in Harcourt Street, and plunged to its death, chair and all. That’s why Victorian nurseries had bars on the windows.
Accidents are just waiting to happen. But you can make your home safe, if you think carefully about what the dangers are. 
Child-proofing your home is a matter of common sense, says Galway doctor Sinead Murphy. “Look at everything from the chemicals under the sink to the sharp knives that might be in the top drawer, but still within reach,” she says.
“Look for boiling kettles where the flex is trailing - and the same with other electrical equipment.”
Pad sharp corners and edges - little children racing unsteadily around can get a real crack on the temple.
Tie up the cords of blinds and curtains out of the reach of children to remove any risk of strangling.
  Paddling pools need to be treated sensibly. Dr Murphy warns that you should never  leave the pool full of water when it’s not in use. “And if you’re out in the garden with children playing in a paddling pool, if you have to answer the phone, bring the children with you - or else don’t answer it.” 
If you have a garden pond, cover it, or fill it with pebbles until the children are old enough to be safe with water, when you can gradually take the pebbles out. 
And lock away the medicines, even those innocent headache pills, says Dr Murphy. Ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol and codeine are among the commonest poisons for children. Liquid medicines are also dangerously tempting for toddlers.
Surprisingly, these are not the most deadly poison. More insidious, more permanently harmful, is something far less obvious.
“People won’t think of it as a major hazard, but probably the most serious problem in the home, and the one children are most commonly exposed to, is cigarette smoke,” says Dr Murphy. 
“Depending on the amount of exposure, in some children it can make them prone to respiratory conditions, asthma and recurrent respiratory infections, as well as failure to thrive.”
Dr Murphy also warns against keeping alcohol in unlocked cupboards - a long drink of vodka will do a toddler no good at all.
Always be on hand, and always be watchful, she says. “It’s when you’re off your guard that children are going to do something ridiculous.”

Where to Get Help:
The Poisons Information Centre of Ireland, based in Beaumont Hospital - - has very good seasonal information about everything from jellyfish stings to alcohol hand gels.
An American site with an excellent child-proofing list: 
Published in the Evening Herald in August 2010

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