TODAY, I look at the most common injuries that afflict young children. Children’s injuries include dangerous falls from tree canopies, electric shocks in homes and donkey kicks on grazing grounds. Most injuries can be easily prevented if parents and caretakers watch young children carefully.
In fact, most parents do not fancy being “lectured” on how to keep their children out of harm’s way. Nevertheless, it is the trivialities that they already know about that send children into graves.
Children aged between 18 months and four years are, invariably, at high risk of death and serious injuries. The main causes of children’s injuries in the home include burns from fires, stoves, cooking pots, hot foods, boiling water, hot fats, paraffin lamps, irons and so on.
Children also suffer dangerous cuts from broken glass, knives, scissors or axes. They also often fall from beds, windows, tables, trees and stairs. Choking on small objects such as coins, buttons or nuts is also a serious matter.
Poisoning from kerosene, insecticides and bleach is another conundrum. In rural Tanzania children face a slightly different array of dangers. Older children born to peasant families, for example, often risk being stung by bees and wasps or bitten by snakes or wild cats when tending cattle on grazing grounds.
Wasps may not kill a child but bees, snakes and wild cats can. The children also risk taking dangerous kicks from cows and donkeys. These animals dislike the presence of children.
A wellplaced kick from a donkey can kill a child. A head butt from a sheep can maim a child. When annoyed, these animals emit noises that can be quite scary to children.
Children should never be expected to work long hours or to do work that is hazardous or interferes with schooling. Children must be protected from heavy labour, dangerous tools and exposure to poisonous chemicals.
Any employer who exploits a child risks a year-long jail term in this country. Burns and scalds are among the most common causes of serious injury among young children.
Children need to be prevented from touching cooking stoves, boiling water, hot food and hot irons. Burns cause serious injury and permanent scars and some are fatal.
The great majority of these are preventable. Keeping young children away from fires, matches and cigarettes can prevent burns. Keep stoves on a flat, raised surface, such as a kitchen table, out of the reach of children.
Turn the handles of cooking pots away from children. Always keep petrol, paraffin, lamps, matches, candles, lighters, hot irons and electric cords out of the reach of young children.
Children can be seriously injured if they put their fingers or other objects into electric sockets. Power sockets should be covered to prevent access. Falls are a common cause of bruises, broken bones and serious head injuries.
Discouraging children from climbing onto unsafe places such as trees can prevent serious falls. Use railings to guard stairs, windows or balconies. Keep your home clean and well lit.
Children are incredibly curious beings. Knives, razors and scissors should be kept out of the reach of young children. Older children should be trained to handle them safely.
Sharp metal objects, machinery and rusty cans are likely to cause badly infected wounds. Children’s play areas should be kept clear of these objects. Household refuse, including broken bottles and old cans, should be disposed of safely.
Enlightening children on the dangers of throwing stones or sharp objects can prevent other injuries. Older children should be discouraged from using catapults. Young children like to stuff things in their mouths.
Small objects should be kept out of their reach to prevent choking. Playing and sleeping areas should be kept free of small objects such as buttons, beads, coins, seeds, nails and nuts.
Very young children should not be given groundnuts (peanuts), hard sweets, or food with small bones (especially fish bones) and seeds. They should always be supervised during meals.
Cut or tear children’s food into small pieces. Feeding a child with your hands is a better approach. Coughing, gagging and highpitched, noisy breathing or the inability to make any sound at all indicates breathing difficulty and possible choking.
Choking is a life-threatening emergency. Caregivers should suspect an infant is choking when he or she suddenly has trouble breathing. Poisons, medicines, bleach, acid, and liquid fuels such as paraffin should never be stored in drinking bottles.
All such liquids and poisons should be kept in clearly marked containers out of children’s reach. I must point out here that poisoning is a very serious danger to small children.
Bleach, insect and rat poison, paraffin and household detergents can kill or permanently injure a child. Many poisons do not need to be swallowed to be dangerous. They can kill, cause brain damage, blind or permanently injure if they are inhaled.
Some poisons can enter the body through spores in the skin. They can be equally dangerous if they get onto the child’s skin or into the eyes; or onto the child’s clothes. If poisons are put in soft drink or beer bottles, jars or cups, children may drink them by mistake.
Medicines, chemicals and poisons should be stored in tightly sealed original containers. Medicines meant for adults can kill small children. Medicine should only be given to a child if it was meant for that child and never be given to a child if it was prescribed for an adult or some other child.
Overuse or misuse of antibiotics can cause deafness in small children. Children should be kept away from any mass of water. Children can drown in less than two minutes, sometimes in very small amounts of water.
They should never be left alone when they are in or near water. Wells, tubs and buckets of water should be covered. I wish everyone good parenting.