Two children have died in Australia and 20 children go to hospital every week suspected of swallowing or inserting a button battery. During December and January last year (Dec 2015 – Jan 2016), 10 children presented to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in relation to the ingestion/insertion of a battery, with the majority (7) of these children aged 5 years and under. Small electronic items such as singing cards and books, remote controlled toys and electronic candles – items commonly used at Christmas time – may contain these dangerous small button batteries. If swallowed, the battery can get stuck in the child's throat and burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours. Repair can require feeding and breathing tubes and multiple surgeries. Parents and carers are urged to look around their home this festive season for any items that may contain these batteries – they are more common than what you might think - and ensure that items are placed out of sight and reach of young children and any spare batteries locked away.
Drowning is a leading cause of preventable death in children under 5 years of age. On average, 20 children under 5 years of age drown every year in Australia. For every drowning death in this age group, it is estimated that ten children were rescued from a drowning situation with many admitted to hospital as a result of an immersion incident, often resulting in serious and permanent injury and disability. Last summer school holidays (Dec 2015 – Jan 2016), 5 children presented to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in relation to an immersion incident, with three of these children admitted to hospital. Above ground and portable swimming pools, some of which hold a huge amount of water, are a common feature in the Australian backyard over summer. Portable pools should be emptied after use or appropriately fenced. If the pool has a filtration system, you will need to contact you local council for approval and there may be requirements for safety barriers. Poorly maintained pool fences and propping the gate open are leading causes of childhood backyard swimming pool drownings. Parents must be vigilant in the supervision of young children around water and should not rely on flotation devices. Parents and carers can get caught out at barbeques and other parties thinking that there are a number of adults around watching the children – when in fact no one is actively watching. There should always be a designated responsible adult actively supervising children in and around water.
Burns and Scalds
Burn and scald injuries are extremely painful and may require ongoing and long-term medical treatment. During the months of December 2015 and January 2016, 73 children presented to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital alone in relation to a burn or scald injury. Hot surfaces and objects outside can heat up and retain the heat during hot weather. This includes surfaces and objects such as playground equipment, paving, metal grates and seat belts. Young children can receive serious burns to the soles of their feet if they step on these surfaces without shoes on. They can also receive burns on the palm of their hands if they fall over and land on their hands. Young children have thinner and more sensitive skin than adults. Their reaction time is also slower, causing more exposure and damage to the skin. Make sure children do not play with lighters, matchers or sparklers.
Bikes, scooters, roller skates
‘Christmas wheels’ such as bikes, scooters and skateboards are very popular gift for children to receive at this time of the year. Just as a helmet is required when riding a bicycle, it is also required by law when riding a scooter and other wheeled devices. During the festive season last year (Dec 2015 – Jan 2016), 187 children presented to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in relation to an injury associated with bikes, scooters, skateboards and other wheeled devices. The most common cause of these injuries were associated with falls resulting in cuts and abrasions, bone fractures – particularly broken wrists – and head injuries. Head injury can be a serious risk to children if they are not wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet while riding reduces the chances of head injury by 74% in a collision with a vehicle. The helmet must fit the child properly and be securely fastened on each trip – not hanging over the handle bars or not done up properly.
Furniture and Christmas Trees
During December and January last year (Dec 2015 – Jan 2016), 3 children presented to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in relation to furniture falling onto them. New flat screen televisions have a narrow base and can be unstable. An unanchored television, unstable piece of furniture or even the Christmas tree can easily topple down on a child and have serious, life threatening, consequences. Mount televisions on the wall, make sure furniture including book shelves, tall boys, dressing tables etc, and your Christmas tree are securely anchored to prevent toppling.
Last summer (Dec 2015 – Jan 2016) 19 children presented to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in relation to accidental poisoning, with almost all of these children (14) aged less than 5 years. The most common agents in these poisoning incidents included from medications (paracetamol, heart tablets, diabetes medication, anti-depressants and contraceptive pills); as well as household cleaning products (particular dishwashing tablets). Young children also like exploring through bags and will put anything in their mouths – even things that smell and taste disgusting. Make sure you have a safe place for visitors to put bags. Safe storage of all of these products is crucial – up high and out of reach and/or in a locked cupboard away from inquisitive young children.
A total of 50 children presented to Women’s and Children’s Hospital last December (2015) due to a trampoline related injury. Common injuries associated with trampolines include fractures and dislocations, open wounds and head injury. Netting around the trampoline does not necessarily make it ‘more safe’ - children have been injured when they have fallen through the netting when not zipped up, or have torn through the material. Parents should consider the quality of the trampoline before purchasing one this Christmas. Parents should closely supervise children using the trampoline taking extra care with younger children as they are prone to serious injury when they bounce. Always use padding on the frame and regularly check that the mat and net don’t have holes, springs are intact and securely attached at both ends, the frame is not bent and leg braces are locked. Trampolines are not recommended for children under age 6 and only one child should use the trampoline at a time to reduce the risk of injury.
Kids in Hot cars
It is estimated that over 5000 children are rescued from hot cars each year - even on some of our hottest days. The temperature inside a car can reach 20-30 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. If it is 30 degrees outside, it can be up to 50-60 degrees inside the car – enough to cause serious brain injury to a child and even death if left for even 5 minutes. Putting the window down has little effect on reducing the temperature. If parents have to leave their car, even for a minute, they should always take children with them.
One child is runover by a slow moving vehicle around the home each week in Australia. Tragically the driver is most commonly a parent, relative or friend of the child. A driveway is like a small road and especially during the festive season can be busy with cars constantly coming and leaving – do not let children play in the driveway. All cars can have a large blind space – some up to 15 metres behind the car in which a child can be completely invisible to the driver. Parents should always watch children when the car is to be moved – hold their hand or keep them close.