Category Archives: General Discussion

Seatbelts, Booster Seats and Back-Over Accidents

“Children don’t need to be in a car to be hurt by one” is a phrase that has percolated in my mind over the past week. Where we live in Virginia, I see at least one young child in a car not buckled in a seatbelt or safely protected by a booster seat, perhaps once a week. I rarely, if ever, see young children turned around facing backward in the backseat. Often I want to say something to the drivers–in a thoughtful way–but offering free advice about a hot-button issue like seatbelts or booster seats can elicit a hostile response. So we will continue to raise the issue in ChildSafetyBlog. Here, we are probably as sensitive to this issue as many people who see young adult drivers texting or adults simply using their phone, while driving. Yet, in our view, parents who transport children by car without at least fastening seatbelts or protecting them in a booster seat are clearly not using their best judgment.

To be protected very young children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 20 pounds in weight and a year old. Babies can be vulnerable to head and spine injuries in the case of a car crash, if their car seats are not rear facing. Some parents are concerned that their children may sustain leg injuries if their seats face backward, but thus far, there is no evidence of kids receiving leg injuries because their car seats were facing the back.

We were surprised to learn recently that many parents have actually given up booster seats for children between the ages 4 and 8–even though children can sustain serious injuries without booster seats. Booster seats are especially helpful because the child is raised to a height where the seat belt fits properly across lap and chest. Strapping children snugly in their seats is also a key to safety. If parents loosen the straps for any reason, they need to remember before they go on their way, to tighten them again. One more caution to parents and caregivers is to make sure when you send your child in someone else’s car, that the driver has your child’s booster seat to use for your child. You might even think about purchasing an extra, basic booster seat to use for this purpose.

Back to the earlier statement, kids don’t need to be in cars to be hurt by them. Backing over children is still a terrible tragedy no parent or caregiver should ever experience. The statistics are shocking: Fatal backing accidents kill at least 228 people every year — 110 of them are children under age 10 — and injure 17,000.[1] We have passed the end of 2012, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who pushed back the deadline to publish the new rules for car manufacturers, promised this would be done by the end of the year. The new rules would mandate new manufacturing requirements to improve the visibility behind passenger vehicles and help prevent fatal backing crashes. We want to know why this hasn’t happened? The response of “added costs to the auto industry”-in light of their current profits–is no longer a viable excuse!

How to Minimize the Spread of the Common Cold and Flu Virus

If you have small children at home or children in school, cold viruses can be a big bump in your family’s routine. A cold virus can certainly cause discomfort to the child or adult who is sick, and cause missed pre-school, school and activity time for children, as well as missed working hours for parents. Add to that uncomfortable, sleepless nights, worry (for parents and caregivers) and everyone just feeling down-in-the-dumps. Colds are no fun at all.

There are ways, however, to help keep colds from being spread rampantly throughout the family and beyond your home to school and the community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 80 percent of infectious disease viruses are spread by touch. From your child’s hands, to his mouth and eyes… to the hands of others, and so forth.

Here are a few tips to help keep cold viruses to a minimum and to help your family survive the cold and flu season better:

  • Hand-washing. Supervise little ones, making sure they use warm running water and soap. Hand-washing should be done after sneezing, touching or blowing the nose, and going to and the bathroom, and before eating anything! If you don’t have soap at hand, use hand-sanitizer–and then use soap and water when available.
  • Washing and changing bed linens, towels and children’s clothing is important; wash towels and bed linens frequently that are used by your sick child separately from other children’s things in hot water and detergent.
  • Emptying bathroom and bedroom trash baskets (full of tissues) into plastic garbage bags that are tied and deposited in the garbage. Make sure also to dispose of diapers of children with colds immediately. Flu viruses can spread via feces too.
  • Making sure the surfaces of kitchen counters, bathroom counters, toilets, hand railings, etc., are disinfected with wipes at least once a day.
  • During the duration of your child’s cold, use paper cups in the bathroom that can be trashed, instead of plastic bathroom glasses where germs can reside more permanently.
  • If a child is very small or is teething and has a cold, make sure to wash their pacifier, teething toys and other washable toys in hot water after they use them; and wash their face and hands after a sneeze, thoroughly patting them dry to avoid chapping.
  • Teach children who are old enough to learn to cover their cough or sneeze with their elbow or a tissue–and to place that tissue in another one and then in the trash.
  • Touching the nose, mouth or eyes can spread that cold through the tiniest amounts of mucous, sputum or tears. Often this is the way children pass colds to others.
  • We know it can be nearly impossible, but keeping a very sick child temporarily away from well children is a big help in restricting the spread of a cold virus.
  • Once a cold is over, ditch your child’s contaminated toothbrush and give them a new one, along with clean towels and washcloth.
  • Parents, don’t forget to wash your hands and cover your coughs and sneezes too! You don’t need to be the next target for the flu.

Meanwhile, please try to have a happy, healthy holiday season!

Four More Infant Deaths Due to Nap Nanny Infant Recliners

Those who follow may be as sad and disappointed as we were when they learn that there have been four more deaths of babies in Nap Nanny infant recliners. In July 2010 we published a post to alert parents and caregivers about this dangerous piece of child furniture, so hearing this news is difficult. Perhaps if there were more thorough scrutiny of these products before they arrived on the market shelves…perhaps if more people paid attention to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls…

There are a million questions one could ask–but their answers don’t change the results. Nothing will bring these children back to life. Their lives were cut short by the use of less-than-safe baby products. My question from July 30, 2010, still stands: Aren’t there engineers who look closely at children’s products to determine whether they are really safe before they arrive on the market shelves?

The company that produced and sold the Nap Nanny infant recliners is bankrupt. The federal government is suing. Unfortunately, this is too little, too late. A loud public outcry… now… may save more children from this dangerous piece of baby furniture… but parents, caregivers and the public still need to be cautioned:

  • If you think a piece of children’s furniture, product or toy might not be safe, it probably is not. Check for recalls, safety standards for children’s furniture and products–including cribs and baby beds;
  • Please pay attention to children’s product, toy and furniture recalls online and in the news–and if you see a child’s toy, baby furniture, or children’s product at a yard sale, DO NOT BUY IT unless you check it first on the list of recalls on, to learn if it has already been recalled;
  • If you own recalled children’s furniture, toys or baby products, please don’t re-sell them. Selling or attempting to sell a recalled item is illegal. Much of the time, consumers can contact the manufacturing company for a refund or an exchange. If you cannot get a refund or a replacement item, then it’s best to destroy the recalled item, place it in a black plastic bag and deliver it to the dump, so it can never be used again or harm a child!

Holiday Toy Safety

This week, holiday toy catalogs are loading up mailboxes throughout the country. Having reviewed several of them and the toys they advertise with mixed feelings, I believe parents, caregivers and family members need to watch out for some unsafe toys on the market this season.

There are brightly colored, attractive plastic toys–sold under reputable brand names that bear little or no warnings about having possibly detachable parts. And it’s not only children’s toys to watch out for: Adult desk toys can easily get into the hands of little ones and sometimes contain magnets or small balls. There are quite a number of toys that look cool but could create dangers for young children. If you think a toy could be unsafe, it probably is. Some toys which are okay for older children can create trouble for a little one, such as toys with small parts or balls that could get lodged in a throat or windpipe, toys that use heat or electricity to run them, or contain chemicals, or coins. If there are toddlers in the home, you can expect them to be curious, so you need think about the safety of the entire family when purchasing toys.

Many people not only buy toys for their own children but often for the children of friends and relatives. One helpful hint when buying toys for other children is to contact their parents to learn what they already have in their toy chest and, not only what they like, but what type of toy their parents would approve of them receiving. Beyond the type of toy, parents also need to think about what children are ready to play with–stretching a child’s capabilities can be good, but giving a child a toy that is far beyond the level of their hand-eye coordination, for example, or for which they have not reached a certain level of learning could create a safety disaster as well as disappointment.

For young children, toys to avoid are toys with sharp edges, small detachable parts, “bucky” balls, small magnets, attachments, or batteries that can be swallowed, and toys with lead paint or that contain toxic materials. Plush toys that are too big for small children and toys with plastic or rubber masks also present the danger of suffocation, and they are on the market. KidsHealth from Nemours[1][1] suggests the following when going to purchase toys:

  • If purchasing toys made of fabric, they should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant;
  • Stuffed toys need to be washable;
  • Toys that are painted need to be painted with lead-free, non-toxic paint;
  • Art supplies need to be labeled “non-toxic”;
  • Crayons and paints should say “ASTM D-4236 on the package which means they have been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials;
  • Avoid older toys which are hand-me-downs, or worn out toys that can break and become hazardous;
  • Make sure if a toy makes sounds that the sounds are not too loud for your child–especially when a little one holds it close to their ears!

We hope these hints are helpful to you as you shop for safe toys this season!

PeaPod Travel Beds Recalled

As we get close to the holidays and parents and family members begin to shop for safe toys and gifts for families with young children, will highlight some children’s products which, due to safety factors, you may wish to avoid. This one was brought to our attention by a mother with a young child, which, after having been on the market since 2005, is only just now being recalled.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and KidCo Inc. of Libertyville, Illinois, have announced a voluntary recall of 220,000 PeaPod and PeaPod Plus Travel Beds because an infant or young child could become trapped between the inflatable air mattress and the fabric sides of the tent-type bed and suffocate. In December 2011, a 5-month old child found in this type of tent could not be revived. There have been at least six reports of children who have become entrapped or who experienced some physical distress while they were in this tent.

This type of product has been marketed for use by infants from birth to over three years of age. The tents were sold in several colors and have an inflatable air mattress which fits in a zippered pocket beneath the floor of the tent. A zippered side opening permitted parents and caregivers to place the child in and take the child out of the tent. The tents fold and come with a storage bag for convenience in transporting the tent. Model numbers are located on a tag on the underside of the tent; models/colors of tents being recalled are: P100 Teal, P101 Red, P102 Lime, P103 Periwinkle, P104 Ocean, P201 Princess/Red, P202 Camouflage, P203 Quick Silver, P204 Sagebrush, P205 Cardinal, and P900CS Green. The tents were manufactured in China and sold by children’s stores throughout the country and online by from January 2005 to the present, for from $70 to $100.

The CPSC is advising consumers to stop using the tents immediately and to contact KidCo for a free repair kit. The repair kits depend upon the model, so consumers will need the model number to arrange for the proper repair kit.

Consumers can contact KidCo by calling their toll free number (beginning in December) 1-855-847-8600 from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by visiting the Firm’s website at

To view photos of the recalled tents, please visit the CPSC website:

Kids and Hand-washing

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the United States. Shigellosis is frequently begun and spread by the infamous bacteria E. Coli, with which we have become all too familiar in recent years with respect to food and food handling safety.

The symptoms of shigellosis are diarrhea, cramping and fever. The illness can last a week or months–and if it lasts too long, it can become dangerous to infants, children, the elderly and those who are already ill or have weakened immune systems. The disease often occurs in child care settings, such as daycare, or in families with small children.

Shigellosis is particularly common and repeatedly causes problems in settings where there is often poor basic hygiene. It can affect entire communities and is more prolific in the summer than in winter. The biggest target for shigellosis is children from age 2 to 4–not to mention the caregivers and family members who care for them. Shigellosis can occur where water or food have been contaminated by the bacteria, it can be spread by consuming contaminated produce–fruits or vegetables. Making municipal water supplies safe and treating sewage are effective measures communities can put in place to combat shigellosis. Washing hands, especially when children have been toileted, is one way parents and caregivers can make sure the disease doesn’t get started or spread. Currently, there is no vaccine against shigellosis, although there is active research toward its development.

CDC suggests the following things parents and caregivers can do to help prevent the spread of Shigellosis:

  • Wash hands frequently and carefully with soap, especially after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, and before and after preparing foods and beverages;
  • Dispose of soiled diapers properly;
  • Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them;
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings;
  • Supervise hand-washing of toddlers and small children after toileting;
  • Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea;
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

Shigellosis can be a very big problem– and hand-washing is an important part of the solution.

Children and Junk Food

Posted by Marianne Frederick

As we look again at the scourge of childhood obesity and early onset Type II diabetes in our families, we need to examine our tendency to choose fast food or junk food over healthier meals. Mac n’ cheese is okay once in awhile, but, it should not be a staple. If “you are what you eat,” your children are what you feed them.

Although I’ve loved French fries since childhood, I know if I eat them regularly I will have a weight problem. French fries are simply fat-drenched potatoes (starch) sprinkled with salt (sodium or potassium chloride). If you break down that silly oh-so-satisfying snack, the potatoes are healthful fiber, but a healthier alternative is bake and top them with plain, low-fat yogurt. We all know that junk food is more often than not, a faster alternative to time-consuming, thoughtful food preparation. Just drive to the local fast-food restaurant and the family can eat in the car, no preparation and little clean-up required! But do you know that an order of French fries can contain 13 grams of fat, 250 calories which is 20% of your daily recommended fat intake?

And as parents and caregivers, unless we change our behavior we can’t expect kids to change theirs. Here are some tips to recognize and avoid–or at least curb–your and your children’s consumption of junk food:

  • Read the labels to help recognize junk food: Candy, cookies, donuts, sugary breakfast cereals, ice cream, soda, sugary “fruit” drinks, food high in salt, foods high in fat, high calorie food with little nutritional value;
  • Take greater control of your family’s diet by planning sit-down meals in advance, so you know what you’re going to buy at the grocery store. This isn’t easy and sometimes the plan falls apart, but even thinking about a plan is a good way to aim to get more of the right things into your and your children’s diets;
  • In your family’s meal plans incorporate more foods low in fat, foods low in saturated fat, foods low in cholesterol, high-fiber foods, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits; foods containing moderate amounts of sugar or salt; calcium-rich foods; and iron-rich foods.
  • Children and adults need some fat in the diet, but better “fats” are unsaturated fats, so read the labels to make sure what you are buying is good to feed your family. Children under 5 years old need only about 45 grams of fat daily; adults need about 65 grams of fat–so note that your children’s fat requirement is less than yours;
  • Buy leaner cuts of meat; and if you buy ground beef, aim for the 90% lean. Incorporate more chicken and fish in your family’s diets. If you purchase pork products, make sure they are lean–most grocery store butchers will trim the fat for you if you ask. Low-fat lunch meats are also a help in supplying lean protein in your family’s diet; bear in mind that bologna and salami can contain more fat than leaner turkey, chicken, or ham.
  • Often high fat foods are “fast foods” like sausage biscuits, double cheeseburgers, nachos, corndogs, enchiladas, thick shakes and super-sized drinks, so you may want to reduce the number of trips to fast food places that don’t offer healthful alternatives such as side salads, grilled chicken or fish, and unsweetened beverages.

Remember, parents and caregivers, regarding your family’s healthful diet, you’re in the driver’ seat!

A Safety Update on Button Batteries and Magnets

by Marianne Frederick is pleased that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has set standards for children’s products and toys that bear magnets, so you may not see the tiny batteries and magnets formerly used in many children’s toys. But, adult desk and “stress relief” toys containing those same small magnets and batteries have produced another challenge: Young kids are still getting hold of button batteries and magnets and swallowing them, sometimes with disastrous results.

Parents and caregivers, when you think about giving a gift this holiday season, if the gift requires batteries, take a look at the size of the batteries and/or magnets and if they are tiny and can be swallowed by a child in the gift recipient’s family, nix the gift. Consider giving another type of desk decoration.

You will also find the disc-shaped magnets and tiny batteries in singing greeting cards and jewelry, so please keep your eyes peeled and keep products with small or loose magnets away from young children who might swallow them. In addition, don’t buy magnets sold in sets of 100 or more, as it could be hard to tell if a few magnets disappear. Have a talk with bigger kids about the dangers of magnets and using them as fake piercings in their mouths or noses… big kids can get hurt by magnets too. If a relative or holiday visitor in your home wears or removes a hearing aid that uses the tiny batteries, ask them not to leave the batteries anywhere a child can get to them.

Be aware of the symptoms of magnet/battery ingestion:

  • Abdominal pain, vomiting and fever. Since these symptoms are common in kids and not always caused by ingesting magnets/batteries or other objects, you may not suspect what has transpired immediately.
  • Treatment should not be delayed–the possibility of severe injuries to the digestive tract, stomach, intestines–and even death–are possible.
  • Contact your pediatrician or take your child to the nearest emergency room immediately if you suspect your child has swallowed or been injured by a magnet or button battery. If there are any signs of choking or respiratory difficulty, CALL 911.

If a child in your home is injured from swallowing a small magnet or button battery, after you have attended to your child’s needs, please report the injury to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, by visiting on the Internet, or by calling 1-800-638-2772.

Kids and Halloween Candy

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Halloween candy can be a genuine treat – or a scary trick – if parents don’t set limits for their children. We’re not thinking as much about childhood obesity right now as we are concerned simply about kids’ candy consumption and what parents can do to discourage the over-consumption of candy. Here are some tips:

  • Serving a healthful meal before kids go trick-or-treating is a great idea, as kids fill up on the good stuff, and then may not be too hungry for candy.
  • Know how much and what kind of candy your child has collected–ours empty their pillow cases brimming with candy, and display their haul on the kitchen table, so we can see what’s wrapped, what isn’t and remove any they should not have.
  • Store your child’s candy somewhere other than in his room! Access to the candy is half of the battle in helping to curb the amount of candy consumed.
  • Be a good role model by only consuming a small amount of candy yourself–and saving some for another day.
  • Encourage your children to be aware of the amount of candy and snacks they eat, and to stop before they are aware of feeling full or ill.
  • Offer non-food Halloween treats, like stickers, small toys and small games (like decks of cards or things you might find in a “party” store). You can always offer sugar-free candy, small bags of pretzels, small bags of popcorn, small boxes of raisins–even small boxes of cereal. Don’t give anything–toys or candy–on which children, especially very young children, could choke.

Schools in some communities have programs where a portion of every child’s wrapped candy can be donated to children in the hospital who didn’t have an opportunity to go trick-or-treating. Call your community hospital to learn if this is a possibility in your area and ask them what kind of candy donations are permitted or if there is a program your child can donate candy to for this purpose.

Make sure to have a safe and happy Halloween!

October is Children’s Health Month

Posted by Marianne Frederick

With the end of the year drawing near and winter weather on the way, here are a few resource websites to review to help keep your child healthy: