How to Go Shopping Safely With Your Young Child

By Marianne Frederick

Most parents and caregivers are aware of cautions to help prevent major accidents at home, like: don’t let your child play with matches; make sure medicines are inaccessible to climbing toddlers; never place a crib near a window or use window blinds with cord pulls.

Away from home, however, a lot of safety hazards exist, especially when parents or caregivers take a young child shopping. Shopping can be a fun family event especially if you have a caregiver or spouse who will accompany you to help watch your children. But that’s not always the case, so here are some tips to make it safer and easier for you.

Knowing where your child is at all times is important. It’s not a good practice to rely on store employees or other customers to watch your child for you. Children in a carriage or stroller are accounted for–and you know where they are, but young children who can walk or climb get curious and tend to wander if you are not holding their hand–and holding their hand while you are shopping although difficult is advisable.

Try to find out as much as you can about the product you intend to purchase before you go to the store if you plan to take your child along. If you shop at night, be sure to park in a well lighted area. Have your form of payment readily accessible. If it’s cash, count it at home before you go to the store, so you don’t have to drop your child’s hand to count or look for it. Also, ladies, clear your purse of excess stuff–so you can go right to your form of payment (whether it’s a card, a check or cash). After you have made your purchase, hold your child’s hand as you exit the store and walk to where your car is parked.

Children riding in grocery shopping carts face a major physical safety hazard. With all the warnings about shopping carts and possible injuries associated with them (some even printed on the carts), we still see children standing in shopping carts, and, sadly, falling from them. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) acknowledges that the greatest hazards with shopping carts are falls and head injuries. Some stores even have dressed up their shopping carts making alterations so little ones can ride one level below the groceries–about 3 inches above the floor. This method of transporting kids is not only unsafe, it’s unsanitary.  Things can happen to arms, hands, fingers and feet that stick out the sides of these shopping/go-karts. So holding a young child’s hand and walking the store (hopefully, not too far) or stroll down the aisles with a stroller is still better. Please don’t put heavy cans, bottles or packages in baby’s lap making it tough for little ones to breathe or move normally.

Child safety is largely what you as an intelligent, thinking parent or caregiver does to create a safe space wherever your child is. Using clear-thinking, common sense is a terrific start. Paying attention, being present and focused on your child’s wellbeing will go a long way toward keeping your child safe.

Whooping Cough Update: Cause for Concern!

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Recent news reports indicate that outbreaks of Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are occurring more frequently than in past years. Pertussis is an extremely contagious disease spread by the Bordetella bacterium. Characterized by bouts of uncontrollable coughing, a “whooping” sound is made when a child or adult tries to inhale. Initial symptoms can be similar to those of a cold, runny nose, congestion, fever and a mild cough, but the cough can become serious without treatment with antibiotics. Complications from the disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vary from pneumonia to permanent lung damage.

Parents need to know that whooping cough can be fatal to infants and young children–and, according to an Associated Press report, the disease has increased 72 percent in babies under 4 months of age since the 1990s. Outbreaks of pertussis have been reported in New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington state and recently, in south Florida.

Pediatricians generally recommended children receive pertussis immunizations at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, but statistics compiled by the CDC show that during 2002-2003 only 83 percent of infants were vaccinated against pertussis, which may indicate that pre-school vaccination policies are not always followed, according to an ABC News article of July 14, 2012.

The CDC estimates that last year there were approximately 11,000 pertussis cases in the United States, representing an increase of 2,000 cases over the previous year. This year, 18,000 cases have been reported so far, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, and there is concern that the disease may reach epidemic proportions–not seen since an estimated 40,000 cases in 1959.

Because “Pertussis is the only vaccine-preventable disease that has not been completely controlled by routine childhood immunization,” physicians think that increased health and safety measures may need to be taken in order to control the disease. Health officials in some states are currently calling on adults, especially parents, pregnant women and others who spend a lot of time around children, to get a booster shot as soon as possible.

Water Safety for Parents of Young Children

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Pools make for great family fun in the summer, whether you take young children to the community or neighborhood pool, or you have a swimming pool in your backyard!

One way to keep pool experiences with your children safe and fun is to make sure certain safety precautions are in place!

First, think about water! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that children under the age of 4 have the highest rate of drowning in the U.S., most commonly in swimming pools and spas. This statistic highlights the importance of making sure there are necessary physical barriers to a pool, such as pool fencing, pool gate or door locks, and pool alarms. It is important that a young child cannot gain access to a pool without an adult’s assistance and supervision.

Second, it is critical for parents and caregivers to supervise a young child all of the time, especially in and around water–whether it’s at the pool or beach, in the bathtub, wading pool or bucket–children can drown in less than 3 inches of water. Merely the nature of water can make a child slippery, and slips and falls are common around pools. Because water displaces body weight, a small, young child can easily lose their balance even in shallow water. Add to that the hard surface of a pool side or step, or the board of a boat dock–and you may face a trip to an emergency room.

One word of caution to moms and dads, supervising a child at the pool does not equal sitting by the pool and talking on your cell phone while your child is playing in the water. One young mother on her cell phone at a local pool remarked when I asked her if her child was in the pool, “He’s wearing a life jacket.” You should keep your cell phone with you at the pool–in case of emergency. But don’t take your attention away from your child in the water! A life jacket is good, but it’s still no substitution for the focused attention of a parent or caregiver who can intervene if a young child gets in trouble in the water.

Recently, two young neighbor children were playing with a hose in the neighbor’s front yard. The older child pointed the hose in the younger child’s face, and the hose was on full blast. The younger child (about 3 years old) had her mouth open–and was choking. This was definitely a “when you see something, do something” moment! Very fortunately, their parent had also seen them (from inside the house), came out and rescued the young child from choking and drowning. A child doesn’t need to be in a pool or a tub, to drown! What was wrong with that picture is a parent or caregiver should have been outside with the two young children and the 5-year old should not have had access to the hose or water spigot. Accidents happen quickly.

As parents and caregivers, we can’t be casual about supervision of young children in or around water, so here are a few additional safety tips:

  • Young children should not be allowed to use pool equipment designed for older, larger children–even floating water toys can be dangerous to young children.
  • If a child cannot swim, get an appropriately sized life jacket for your child’s size and weight, make sure it fits and that it keeps your child’s face and mouth above the water.
  • Make sure life jackets are certified floatation devices. You will see a notation on the life jacket. Water wings and inner tubes are flotation toys, not life-saving devices, so make sure your child has the correct flotation device.

What Goes with Summertime? Bug Bites!

Posted by Marianne Frederick

If you enjoy taking your family camping, on hikes or to the pool, lake or beach during the summer, then you may want to take a look at the bugs that go wing-and-sting with summer fun.  Bee stings and bites by mosquitoes, spiders, fleas and ticks are part and parcel of summer outdoor activities. Mosquitoes can be found in damp woods and standing water. Bees frequent neighborhood pools as well as gardens, and some spiders can be found everywhere! Parents and caregivers need to be alert to the children’s reactions to bug bites and stings in case additional medical attention may be required, so that it can be obtained quickly.

Allergic reactions are serious medical events and can lead to anaphylaxis, convulsions and death. It’s good for parents and caregivers to know before they go on summer trips if the children they are accompanying have sensitivities to bug bites or stings and if the places they are going have any notoriously bad bugs. Questions parents and caregivers should consider are: Is your child allergic to bee stings or other bug bites? Has your child ever been stung by a bee? If you are bringing other children with you, are they allergic to any stings or bites? Young children are the most vulnerable to adverse effects from stings and bites.

Bug bites and stings can cause a variety of symptoms which range from discomfort, pain, itching, swelling at the site of the bite, rash, fever, even allergic reactions to treatable illnesses. An allergic reaction to a bee sting can be reduced in severity by the use of an auto-injector for pre-hospital treatment of anaphylaxis. (If a child is allergic to bee or other stings, parents can discuss the advisability of such auto-injectors or the use of antihistamines to mitigate an allergic reaction with their health care provider.)  But for most bug bites and stings to a child, parents or caregivers can:

  • Wash the area of the sting or bite with soap and water. This can be done 2 to 3 times each day until the area heals. After you wash and pat dry the area, you may want to apply an antibiotic cream to prevent additional infection;
  • If it’s a bee sting and you can see a “stinger,” remove it with a tweezers; if it’s a tick, use the tweezers to gently and firmly pull the tick out;
  • Apply a cool compress to the wound–a cold wash cloth or an ice pack–for a few minutes, this will help to calm the child and reduce the swelling;
  • Check with your doctor about giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain;
  • If the bite is from a mosquito or flea and it itches, usually an over-the-counter antihistamine or 1% hydrocortisone cream applied to the area will help reduce the itching;
  • Watch for any additional swelling or sign that the bug bite or sting is not healing, if the skin changes color, becomes dark red or swelling and discomfort persist, take your child to the emergency room.

If a sting has occurred in a child’s mouth, CALL 911 and get emergency medical help immediately, as swelling can block a child’s airway!  Also get emergency medical help if any of the following occur:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing;
  • Complaints of tightness in the throat or chest;
  • Swelling of the lips, face or tongue;
  • Dizziness, fainting; nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, chills or fever.

Hoping your summer is safe and fun and that you stay away from the bad bugs’ bites!