Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program
The stores have already started putting up Christmas decorations and stocking the shelves with boxes of new toys. The holiday season is upon us and whether we like it or not preparation is the key to a safe and happy holiday.
Too many children are killed or injured by unsafe toys. Anyone who will be shopping for children’s toys should make sure the toys they buy are appropriate for the child in mind.
The children have been asking for a dog for some time and with Christmas coming, a dog may be the perfect present for a good little boy or girl. Learn about what dogs are appropriate for children and especially about dog bites.
November marks the month for ABC Mobilization Week (10/19-10/25). During this week police from around the state will be out in their communities writing tickets for people that are not wearing seat belts.
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Christmas decorations can help brighten the holidays but misusing or using damaged decorations may lead to dangerous situations-such as injuries from shock or fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association nearly six hundred fires each year are caused by Christmas tree lights and decorations, resulting in an average of 33 deaths, 117 injuries and 23 million dollars in property damage. Refer to this checklist when beginning your holiday decorating:
- When buying a live Christmas tree, check the tree for freshness. A dry Christmas tree can lead to a greater risk of fire. Keep the Christmas tree holder filled with water to maintain longer tree life. Check freshness by pulling on the needles, bend a needle in half, if it breaks before bending in half, the tree is already quite dry.
- Keep your tree a safe distance (at least three feet) from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other sources of heat.
- Before placing light strings inside or outdoors, check to see the lights bear the UL Mark. These products have been safety tested for risk of fire, shock and other hazards. Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions prior to hanging lighted decorations.
- Before plugging in newly purchased electrical decorations or those used during previous seasons, carefully inspect each decoration. Check for cracked sockets, frayed, loose or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace damaged items with new decorations.
- Unplug light strings and electrical decorations before replacing light bulbs or fuses.
- Keep light strings and electrical decorations away from the reach of children.
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To a child, getting a dog for Christmas is just like hitting the jackpot. Dogs have a special place in the family and some children can’t resist the unconditional love some dogs give.
Dogs are an important part of the American culture. And, for many children, dogs are an integral part of growing up. At the same time, dog bites-especially to children-are a reality that can’t be ignored. Each year, there are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in the United States. An average of 800,000 require medical attention.
Does this mean the term “man’s best friend” is not true? While it is true that dogs provide unconditional love, as with all animals, we must be aware of the possible risks of being around them.
Almost 75% of all children examined in emergency departments are bitten in the face, neck or head. Young children, because of their size are often at eye level to the dog, especially toddlers.
Some of the breeds most responsible for fatal bites are; Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepards, Huskys, Alaskan malamute and Doberman Pinschers. According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Humane Society of the United States, pure bred dogs are more likely to bite than a mix of two or more breeds.
When picking out a dog for your family, it is always wise to talk to a veterinarian before choosing your dog and discuss which breeds are more “kid friendly”.
According to some Veterinarians, the way to choose a dog is to see how it reacts to the children prior to purchase or adoption. You must take into consideration the age of the dog, how much room you have for the animal in your home and outside, how active your lifestyle is, and how the dog and the child or children react to each other. If there are any doubts about the animal, the pet probably isn’t the right one for you.
You can reduce the chances of children in your care being bitten or injured by a dog if you teach them some basic safety tips:
Supervise all child/dog interactions. Never leave a small child alone in the vicinity of a dog. Children’s small size may cause a dog to act in a dominant way toward a child. Many children’s lack of judgement and knowledge about how to behave around a dog and their inability to fend off an attack can add to the risk.
Do not let children have facial contact with the dog. Remember to be especially vigilant of children, especially toddlers, who are often eye-level with dogs.
Teach children how to behave around dogs. Children should learn to not fuel a dog’s aggressive behavior or infringe on a dog’s territorial space. Children should never put their hands out at a dog’s face to pet a dog, even a familiar dog. Always have the dog sniff the child first to get accustomed to the dog and then proceed to pet the dog.
Adults and children should avoid strange dogs. Teach your children to stay clear of dogs that are unfamiliar to them. Discourage contact with strange dogs when you are present. One can never be sure what the socialization or training of the dog regardless of the breed.
Other safety tips:
- Get permission to pet a dog from its owner.
- Avoid unfamiliar dogs.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches, be still and don’t make eye contact.
- Never run away from an unfamiliar dog. Rather, move away slowly.
- Never approach a dog from the rear.
- Never try to remove a toy from a dog’s mouth.
- Stay away from a dog that appears angry.
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Seeing Christmas through the eyes of children gives the holiday season an extra excitement. The happiness and pleasure of seeing child open “the perfect toy” makes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season worthwhile.
Sometimes toys are given are not appropriate for the child and can pose choking hazards, unintentional injury and sometimes-even death. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 16 toy-related deaths and over 141,000 children received treatment in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries last year.
The following tips will help consumers to choose appropriate toys this holiday season and throughout the year:
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children.
- For infants, toddlers and all children who still mouth objects, avoid toys with small parts, which could pose a fatal choking hazard.
- For children less than 8 years old, avoid toys that have sharp points and edges.
- Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children less than 8 years old.
- Be a label reader. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide.
- Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly secured eyes, noses and other potential small parts.
- Check instructions for clarity. They should be clear to you and, when appropriate, to the child.
- Discard the plastic wrappings immediately, they can turn into deadly playthings, causing suffocation or choking.
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Bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards, sleds and scooters are some of the most common gifts children receive at Christmas. However, without the proper protective gear or skills, injury and even death can occur.
The Loyola University Medical Center Injury Prevention Program Staff recommends the following tips when buying active gifts for children:
- Include a helmet as part of the gift when the present is a bicycle or a tricycle. Make sure the helmet meets or exceeds the safety standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Snell Memorial Foundation, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
- Buy retro-reflective clothing, stickers or bike reflectors for an older child who will be riding or skating at dawn or at dusk.
- Give a horn, bell or a strobe taillight for a bike as a stocking stuffer.
- When buying inline skates, skateboards, or scooters, make sure the child has a multi-sport helmet, kneepads, elbow pads and wrist guards before they use their new equipment. Have several people chip in to buy the equipment and the safety gear for the “complete present”.
- Give in-line skating lessons from a professional instructor or a community recreation center as a gift.
- When purchasing a sled for Christmas, make sure the sled is sturdy and has no sharp or jagged edges. Make sure the child meets the age requirements of the sled. Buying a sled for a child who is too young to ride it can increase their risk of injury.
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Each November, the Operation ABC (America Buckles up Children) Mobilization, sponsored by the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign (AB&SBSC) marks a high point in the push for greater seat belt and child safety seat use. This year, for the first time thousands of law enforcement agencies nationwide that participate in the Mobilization will be on special alert for one of the most at-risk populations: teenagers and young adults. Due in part to low seat belt use, fatality rates for teens are twice those of older drivers and their risk of crashes is four times higher. During this Mobilization, officers will save countless lives and untold heartache by enforcing seat belt laws with zero tolerance.
A recent survey was conducted statewide in July 2001. The observation sites were on highways and low volume local roads as well as residential streets. The results of the safety belt survey conducted shows the seat belt use rate at 69.0 % this is a decrease of 1% since last years survey.
The seat belt law in Illinois has been in effect since July 1, 1985. Since that time the seat belt usage rate has continued to increase each year yet, too many drivers and passengers are still failing to buckle their seat belts. Last year, 42,000 people in the U.S. were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Almost half of them 18,000 were not buckled up.
With thousands of drivers traveling the roads this Thanksgiving weekend, remember that officers around the state will be out enforcing the seat belt laws. They will be issuing tickets to those who fail to buckle up.
The Injury Prevention Program has the prescription for safety when traveling this holiday season:
- Wear your seat belt every time you get in the car.
- Make sure that every passenger in the car is buckled appropriately.
- Place your child in the appropriate child safety seat that fits your car, fits the child and a seat you will use every time you ride.
- Place older children 40-80 pounds in a booster seat.
- Children less than 12 years old in the back seat.
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