Safety Smarts

Ask Dr. Matt: Be savvy about your kids' health

click to enlarge Safety Smarts
Matt Thompson is a pediatrician at Spokane's Kids Clinic.

In the previous issue of InHealth, we examined safety issues for kids ages 1 to 5. This time we'll look at the risks for infants and 5-to-19-year-olds. By considering data from the Centers for Disease Control, parents can size up the risks and take appropriate action, without unnecessarily taking all the fun out of being a child.

"Mind the airway" could be a parent's motto for infancy. Up to the age of 12 months, suffocation is the number one cause of death, comprising 66 percent of fatalities. So to be safe, always be aware of your baby's airway. Assure that the sleep environment is safe, without objects in cribs that could suffocate a baby who flips over while in the crib. Be careful about window-blind cords, wires, drawstrings, dry cleaning bags, garbage bags, etc. Also, make sure to secure furniture that could fall onto a baby; make sure toy chests are non-locking and have air holes. Make sure that slats on cribs, stairs and rails are less than 2 inches apart.

For infants, being a motor vehicle occupant is the next highest risk for death, at 8 percent. Drowning follows closely at 7 percent.

The takeaway for parents? Always use an up-to-date car seat, and follow the manufacturer's instructions closely to make sure they're installed correctly. Keep the car seats in the back, in the middle and rear-facing until age 2.

Be careful about water in all its forms: buckets, toilets, bathtubs, pools, even pet water bowls.

From ages 5 to 19, kids and motor vehicles are a dangerous combination, with 40 to 69 percent of deaths resulting from a car accident or being struck by a car, depending on age. Fires/burns and drowning are the other top risks.

So worry about the airway until they are 1; water, cars and fire until school age; cars (from both a passenger and pedestrian perspective) and water until they move out.

Even though this is a morbid topic, plan accordingly and get the most out of time and worry by taking an age-stratified approach to risk of death and injury. A great website to give you all kinds of specific safety issues sorted by locations (like bedroom versus yard) is

Have fun, but be careful.