January 05, 2005
While generally new year's resolutions bring forth the self-serving question of how one can improve him/herself, there is much honor when you incorporate your most valuable possession, your children. When deciding on a desired change this year, try focusing on actions to improve your children's safety. At the start of the new year, Orange County (OC) SAFE KIDS, led by Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), reminds parents and caregivers that childproofing the home is not just a one-time project. It is an ongoing one. As your children grow, they face new hazards around the home and in the car.
"I would urge parents to inspect their homes for childproofing at least once a year," says Michelle Feczko, OC SAFE KIDS Coordinator at CHOC. "If you have a crawling baby, get down on your hands and knees to see what you can reach and find on the floor. If you have a toddler, look for potential hazards at an adult's waist level."
In 2002, 4.5 million children ages 14 and under were treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered at home, not counting injuries due to violence. Approximately 2,100, (1,500 of those ages 4 and under), were fatally injured at home. Most fatal injuries in the home are caused by fire or heat sources, drowning, suffocation, choking, poisoning, falls or firearms discharged unintentionally.
"There's no substitute for active supervision, but childproofing your home provides extra protection and peace of mind. Parents should cautiously supervise their children in and around water for instance. Even before riding their bikes, parents should remember to save the brain, avoid pain and wear a helmet," exclaims Feczko. "It's easy to eliminate the most obvious hazards. Check your smoke alarms every month. Store any potentially harmful substances out of reach. Put a lock on any low cabinets. Set you water heater no higher than 120 F to prevent scaldings, and check the water temperature before giving a small child a bath. If you have toddlers, put safety gates on the top and bottom of stairs. And keep the floors and furniture clean and free of small objects that can get stuck in a little one's airway."
OC SAFE KIDS at CHOC also cautions parents to remember the not-so-obvious hazards of invisible toxins. "We all know it's essential to have working smoke alarms in every sleeping area," says Feczko, "but what about carbon monoxide detectors? Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas that can build up near fuel-burning appliances such as ovens, generators and space heaters. It can kill, and it can make a child seriously ill in small doses that might not noticeably affect an adult." More than 3,500 children a year are treated in emergency rooms for CO poisoning, and about 24 a year die from their exposure.
"CO detectors are available at hardware stores for about $20, a small price to pay to help detect odorless, poisonous gases in the home," says Feczko. "It's also important to prevent CO buildup in the first place, making sure that all heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas. Don't run a car engine in the garage, even to warm it up. Move the car outside first and remember that cigarette smoke is another source of carbon monoxide."
Lead is another hidden hazard, most commonly ingested in the dust of deteriorating lead-based paint. An estimated 890,000 children, 1 to 5 years old, have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. "Lead poisoning can actually affect a small child's intelligence, growth and development," explains Feczko. "It's especially important to have older homes tested for lead as lead-based paint was used in housing until 1978."
Keeping up-to-date with new state and federal laws is also key. Effective January 1, 2005, California's Child Passenger Safety Law came into effect which now requires children to ride in the back seat with a properly secured child passenger safety restraint until they are at least 6 years old or weigh 60 pounds. CHOC offers weekly child passenger safety classes at various locations throughout Orange County.
For more information about your child's safety and childproofing your home as your kids get older, visit www.choc.org, www.safekids.org or call Michelle Feczko at (714) 289-4557. Be thorough and don't take any shortcuts. Safety, not convenience, comes first even if you have to inspect your home through a child's eyes every year and make changes to adapt to your growing children.
About CHOC Children's: Named one of the best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report (2013-2014) and a 2013 Leapfrog Top Hospital, CHOC Children's is exclusively committed to the health and well-being of children through clinical expertise, advocacy, outreach and research that brings advanced treatment to pediatric patients. Affiliated with the University of California, Irvine, CHOC’s regional healthcare network includes two state-of-the-art hospitals in Orange and Mission Viejo, several primary and specialty care clinics, a pediatric residency program, and four centers of excellence - The CHOC Children’s Heart, Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Hyundai Cancer Institutes. CHOC earned the Gold Level CAPE Award from the California Council of Excellence, the only children’s hospital in California to ever earn this distinction, and was awarded Magnet designation, the highest honor bestowed to hospitals for nursing excellence. Recognized for extraordinary commitment to high-quality critical care standards, CHOC’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is the first in the United States to earn the Pediatric Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence.
Abigail Knief, Public Relations Coordinator
phone: (714) 532-8812