It doesn’t take an actual crash for a child to sustain serious injuries in a car. A sudden stop is enough to send a child tumbling. All children must be in an appropriate car seat or safety restraint starting with the first ride home from the hospital. This is not just good parenting — IT IS THE LAW!
Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 years of age and most children up to age 4.
Once they have been turned around, children should remain in a forward-facing car safety seat up to that seat’s weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate children up to 60 pounds or more.
When they exceed these limits, child passengers should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they can use a seat belt that fits correctly.
Once they exceed the booster limits and are large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use a lap and shoulder belt.
All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
Most infant seats are installed incorrectly. We recommend that you visit your local safety seat inspection station which can be found at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
The Safety Council of Palm Beach County has a child-saver car-seat loaner program. Contact them at (561) 689-4733 for details.
BIKE AND ROAD SAFETY
Your child should always use an approved helmet when riding a bike or when skating. If you take your baby for a ride on your bike, use a helmet for yourself and for your baby! Make it a rule: as soon as they learn to use a bike with training wheels, use the helmet. If you try to develop this habit at 8,10 or 12 years, it’s almost impossible! The younger they are, the less self-conscious they are about how they look with a helmet. Now that the helmets are more colorful and more interesting looking, it’s not too hard to get them to use the helmets. In addition, it is the law in Florida for all children under 16!
Teach your children early about not going out into the street. As soon as your baby can walk, it is time to teach him or her not to wander in the direction of the street.
BIKE AND ROAD SAFETY
Avoid any prolonged exposure without sunscreen. Don’t waste your money on high-numbered sunscreens. Over 30 SPF is probably not worth the additional expense. Most children, except for very fair-skinned blond or redheaded children, do not need the much higher protectants. Remember to reapply every few hours. Use sunscreens specifically for children, as they are PABA and alcohol free.
Keep hot foods and hot beverages away from children. Turn the handles of pots and pans handles inward on the stove. If a burn should occur, apply cold water (not ice or butter) immediately and then call our office.
Be careful with curling irons. They frequently cause burns on hands when curious children grab them while they are still hot.
CRIBS AND BASSINETS
Government regulations state that crib slats should be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. No slats should be missing or cracked. The crib mattress should fit snugly with secure head- and footboard supports. Crib corner posts should be no higher than 5/8 inches and head- and footboard should not have cutouts. This will avoid clothing entanglements and head entrapment. Do not use pillows in an infant’s bed.
Since more and more households have guns, it is especially important to ensure your child’s safety. Guns, hidden away for safe-keeping are often found by curious toddlers. When your children are older, think of gun safety when your children go to other people’s homes. Teach them not to touch! Guns should be stored locked and unloaded.
There is new data that shows a decreased risk of SIDS with pacifier usage. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep with a pacifier, as well as on their backs. Always choose a one-piece pacifier, which will not allow the mouthpiece to detach from the base. Do not attach strings, ribbons or necklaces to the pacifier to hang it around the baby’s neck. If you want to prevent the pacifier from falling on the floor, attach a safety pin to the pacifier with a small piece of ribbon so that you can fasten it to the baby’s outfit.
All toxic substances (household cleaners, medications, make-up) should be put in places that are out of reach. This will get you into practice for when your child is old enough (it happens earlier than you can believe) to start to reach for things.
Don’t keep any toxins in empty bottles or open containers because children might mistake them for beverages.
Don’t get into the habit of calling medications candy or juice.
Florida Poison Control or the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends Ipecac.
Florida Poison Control Information – 1-800-222-1222
We advise that newborns sleep on their backs. Side and tummy sleeping is not suggested. This comes from research that sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, or crib death) occurs much more frequently in babies sleeping on their stomachs. When babies reach the age that they can flip over from back to front (4-6 months), the risk of SIDS is decreased, so if you find that your infant is sleeping on its tummy, don’t worry.
We advise when possible you put your infant in his or her own room when you are ready. An intercom or monitor can be helpful so that you can hear your baby cry. It is beneficial for your baby to sleep in your room (but not in your bed) for 6 months.
Parents always ask how long should a baby be allowed to cry. Again, this is a decision that is made depending on your level of comfort. What seems like a short period of time for one person may seem like an eternity for another. Most times, if allowed, babies will fuss for a few minutes and then fall asleep on their own. If they get accustomed to being picked up immediately when they start crying, it may be more difficult to get them to sleep on their own.
It is a good idea to keep a bulb-suction device (like the kind used at the hospital) at the bedside for quick clearing of the infant’s mouth and throat.
Falling off changing tables is an all too-frequent occurrence. Many parents don’t realize how mobile their little infants are. The first time that they decide to roll over is often from a changing table or a bed onto the floor. Make it a habit to never leave your baby alone even for a second. If you have to move away from the table to reach for something, pick your baby up first!
As your baby gets older, take precautions to prevent falling out of the crib. The mattress in the crib will need to be lowered. When your toddler moves to a bed, we recommend using bed rails to prevent rolling off the bed. Most children by this point are able to climb in and out of the bed, but at night they will often toss and turn enough to fall out.
Since some toddlers have a habit of sleepwalking, we recommend safety precautions to prevent children from falling down stairs or from leaving the house unnoticed.
Pool and water safety is another extremely important topic. There can never be enough said about the dangers that curious infants and toddlers face. From the very beginning, have an appropriate respect for water, whether it is in the bath, toilet, sink, pool, canal or lake.
When you bathe your child, never leave him or her alone even for a second. It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown, and it doesn’t take more than a few inches of water.
When your infant starts to walk around, imagine how interesting a toilet looks from his now vertical point of view! Then remember that it is not that unusual for babies to land head first in a toilet. Again, it only takes a second and only a few inches of water, especially if your baby hits his or her head along the way.
Sinks, tubs or buckets full of water are also a danger, especially to a curious toddler.
Outdoor water safety is especially important in Florida. With so many people having pools or living near canals, lakes or ponds, you can understand why Florida leads the nation in drownings. Most of these are in the one to three year range, at a time when infants and toddlers are testing their independence.
A good rule to remember is that if you can afford a pool, you can’t afford not to have a pool fence. Many parents insist that they never take their eyes off of their babies. If you listen to parents and other caretakers of infants who have drowned, the one thing they say is that it only took a second. In that second, your life and the life of your child are forever changed. If you are at the pool with your baby or toddler, never assume that someone else is watching them!
Experts in pool and water safety always stress the concept of multiple barriers. This means that one door lock, one gate or one fence is never enough by itself. Always remember that one barrier may fail or may not be used, and by having a back-up device, you may save your baby’s life. One easily used device is a door alarm. This attaches to any door leading to the outside. Whenever your curious toddler opens that door, you’ll know it because of the alarm. Don’t rely on pool flotation alarms or pool covers; there have been countless disasters that have occurred because of these devices.
As far as swimming is concerned, never consider your infant or child drown-proofed. Even though infant survival classes may help in some cases, they won’t totally prevent a disaster. We recommend just having fun with your baby in the water. Don’t assume that your one or two year old can swim. When your child is around three, he or she is probably old enough to develop an appropriate fear of water.
If you have a special situation at your house such as a canal, pond or lake, think about this long in advance of your child’s getting into trouble. As soon as your baby is born, anticipate the dangers he or she may get into in the years to come. As your infant gets older, always think safety!