These You Can Worry About

Ask Dr. Matt: Safety-proofing for kids is a moving target

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

When it comes to safety in our lives, there are some pretty obvious measures we should all follow: Don't use real candles on your dried-out, brittle Christmas tree; Don't use your hand as a cutting board; Don't store your throwing knives in the baby's crib.

But safety-proofing for kids is a bit of a moving target. Some parents are seemingly oblivious to all the possible ways their children could be maimed or killed, and others are paralyzed with fear, killing all the fun along the way. Maybe science can help. I find looking at Center for Disease Control database reports of leading causes of unintentional injury and death to be the most helpful.

Between 2005-08, for children 0-19, by far the greatest number of deaths are transportation related. Next come drowning and suffocation, poisoning and other injuries (each 10 times less than transportation); fires or burns; and falls.

However, the risk for each of those fatalities varies by age, so I think that's a good way to guide our paranoia and efforts to ensure the safety of our children.

Here are the numbers for one to five-year-olds: Drowning is No. 1 at 27 percent. Next comes being hit by a car at 15 percent, fire or burns at 14 percent, motor vehicle occupant at 13 percent and suffocation at 8 percent.

What does that mean for parents? Be paranoid with bathtubs, kiddie pools, big pools and lakes. Use life jackets liberally and make sure they keep your kid afloat, should he or she lose consciousness. Assume your 1 to 5-year-old will run into traffic every chance they get. Hold hands in parking lots — they are too short to be seen. Get a backup camera and assume there is a child behind your car when backing out of the driveway — try backing in for a safe, quick getaway like a cop at Starbucks. Have the discussion about matches, and hide them. Be paranoid about campfires and fireworks. Make sure smoke detectors work and are in place. Make sure car seats are always used and used properly.

Next time we'll look at safety precautions for teens and kids under the age of one. Till then, have fun but be safe.

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