Know what it takes to keep your little ones safe at home with this guide.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
It is every parent’s wish that the home is a place of safe refuge and rest for the whole family. In actual fact, the home might be safe for adults but not entirely for young children. Our experts, Dr Kao Pao Tang, head and senior consultant, Children's Emergency from National University Hospital and Dr Vidya Ramasamy, specialist in paediatric medicine and consultant from Raffles Children Centre share some of their thoughts on this matter.
According to Dr Kao, the most common household injuries seen in the A&E are blunt injuries (from cuts and bruises to fractures, from a minor concussion to [rarely] bleeding in the brain) resulting from simple falls. There is usually a wide spectrum of reasons, broadly categorised into patient factors and environmental factors.
One of the key patient factors is actually age. The younger they are,
the more likely they are to sustain spontaneous simple falls, as a result
of immature cognitive ability as well as physical ability.
Up to preschool age, the majority of the injuries are still going to be at home. Dr Vidya adds that accidents resulting from fall from height happen mostly when children are left unsupervised by adults in their sleeping cot at around six to 12 months of age. She has seen many head injuries from this scenario and majority of the children do not need admission and recovered well, while some required hospital admission and further observation. Burns accidents usually require more treatment. According to Dr Vidya, she had a nine-month-old child who sustained a scald injury and needed admission and treatment because the child was cruising around the house by holding onto the dining table corner and pulled the table mat which contained hot porridge.
As children get older, environmental factors start to play a bigger part such as a slippery floor and other tripping hazards, Dr Kao says. This has a tight interplay with the child’s personality as well, e.g. when a child becomes more mischievous with age.
Safety at Home = Parental Supervision?
According to Dr Kao, child safety is a fine balance among supervision, prevention and guidance, which is dictated by personal philosophy and resources. There are some bottom lines though, failure of which is punishable by law for negligence.
While Singapore does not have laws dictating specifically if parents
should be in the immediate vicinity of the child, it applies a common
sense law approach when incidents do happen.
An example would be to allow one’s child to help set up the dinner table. One would imagine there is a strong interplay of guidance vs supervision. E.g. you would guide the child to be careful when carrying fragile items like plates and glasses and supervise the child during the act. But there is also a preventive component, such as not placing sharp-edged knives among the cutlery that the child would be fumbling through.
Importance of Childproofing the Home
Dr Vidya believes that childproofing your home can save your child’s life even under certain circumstances. However, Dr Kao thinks that we actually childproof to a varying degree, regardless of how obvious or how formal the process is. How much is again a matter of personal philosophy, circumstances and resources. He gives an example of a family who believes that their children should be allowed the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. If the child climbs a tree and falls off, he has to learn that either he does not climb again or do so only if he is strong enough to hang on to the branches. Likewise, if children are going to play hide and seek at home and bump into corners of the door, they would have to learn to either slow down or not run the next time they play. Dr Kao also states that there are other families who would argue the exact reverse, that it is unfair to let their child pay the price of learning when much of the environmental decision lies with the adults. Whatever the philosophy is, one needs to be cognizant of the non-negotiables, that we do not actively put a child at grave risk, e.g. life-threatening medication around the house, unsound architectures, fire hazards, water hazards left open and unsupervised.
When to Start
Dr Kao argues that childproofing the home should take place from the time you are expecting. A lot of childproofing requires either physical changes to your environment or changes to the way you perform certain tasks. Both require time to adapt.
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