Remain extra vigilant with your kids during isolation

With families spending more time at home during the COVID-19 outbreak, experts across the Network are reminding parents of the need to remain vigilant with supervision to ensure their home is as safe as possible for their children. Here are their top tips.

If an accident does occur, please be assured that all Emergency Departments are safe places. Parents are strongly encouraged to not delay their visit during the COVID-19 outbreak if their child requires urgent care.

Burns

Children are naturally curious and will always try to find different ways to keep themselves entertained so it is especially important that while children are spending extended periods of time at home that they are closely supervised to prevent them touching or getting access to something they shouldn’t.

Parents should try and keep hot food and drinks and hot appliances, like irons and hair straighteners, well out of reach of young children to avoid scald and contact burns and should always supervise children in the kitchen. Hot liquids have the potential to case serious burns, even for teenagers heating up things like instant noodles.

With more families opting for ‘in-home’ camping experiences, parents should also take extra care with backyard bonfires, heaters and fireplaces and put measures in place, like heat resistant guards, to ensure children cannot accidentally touch them.

If your child has suffered a burn

  • Use cool running water on the burn for 20 minutes.
  • Remove clothing and jewellery, if possible.
  • Call 000 or seek medical help if you are unsure.
  • Never use ice, iced water, cream, gel, toothpaste or butter on a burn as they can make the burn worse.

For further information on burns prevention, visit the Kids Health website.

Dr Monique Bertinetti, Paediatric Burns Surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Button Batteries

Parents should take extra care with battery-operated toys and other household objects (including remotes, torches, kitchen scales) to prevent children accidentally swallowing the battery or other small parts.

Button batteries and all other batteries should be kept in a child resistant locked cupboard that is at least 1.5 metres above ground, out of reach of children. All remotes, toys and products containing button batteries should have a battery compartment that is secured with a screw. If they do not, please keep them out of reach of children. Remember that button batteries can also be found in a wide range of other products including watches, calculators, toys, flashing decorations, flameless candles and reading lights as well as medical devices including thermometers and blood glucose machines. Take extra care when changing button batteries in a device, not to leave any on the bench. Once you have finished with a battery, immediately throw it away outside in a bin that cannot be accessed by children.

If a child does swallow a button battery it is a medical emergency. Regardless of whether the battery is old or new, it can cause life-threatening injuries and even death, especially if it becomes stuck in the oesophagus (food pipe). Even batteries that are no longer powerful enough to operate a device still hold enough charge to cause irreversible damage if swallowed.

If your child does swallow a button battery and is having any difficulty breathing, call 000 immediately.

If your child is not having difficulty breathing:

  • Call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26. You will be directed by Poisons staff to an emergency department that is best able to treat your child.
  • Do not try to make your child vomit.
  • Do not let your child eat or drink while awaiting medical advice.

Similarly all household cleaners and garden chemicals should be stored safely out of sight and reach of children. Do NOT decant liquid chemicals into drink bottles. If a child is exposed to any poison or medicine call the Poisons Centre on 13 11 26 for immediate advice. 

For further information on button battery prevention, visit the Poisons Information Centre website.

Genevieve Adamo, Senior Poisons Specialist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre

Furniture and Window Falls

Isolation can be a challenging time for parents with children constantly needing new ways to be stimulated. With everyone at home, and parents juggling multiple tasks, common household items which may have never been a problem before may now pose a real risk to inquisitive children.  

With the pressure of  competing tasks, from  meeting the needs of children doing school work, and occupying younger children who would usually be at preschool, all while working from home and running the household, its important to take some time be aware of potential hazards around the home, so you can put measures in place to protect your family at this unusual time.

As well as having a conversation with kids about what is and isn't OK, and providing appropriate supervision, there are other things that may help reduce the chance of injury. Large furniture items such as chests of drawers, televisions and bookcases can crush if they tip on top of children, or can cause significant injury if children fall off them so make sure these items cannot be climbed on, and fix them to the wall to prevent tipping where possible.

Windows and balconies are also falls risk to children, so make sure windows above the ground floor cannot be opened more than 12.5cm and move furniture away from windows and balcony edges to prevent climbing. It is important to remember that fly screens do not prevent children falling out of windows so please ensure a lock or device is fitted to the window to ensure it cannot be opened more than the 12.5cm distance.

Home exercise equipment is another potential safety hazard to be aware of. Heavy items can cause severe injury and we’ve seen serious friction burns occur when little fingers get caught in treadmills. For this reason, it is best to use home gym equipment when children are not around or are able to be supervised by another adult. In the case of treadmills, a safety guard should be installed around it and it should always be unplugged after use.

If your child is involved in a serious accident, call 000 or take them to their closest Emergency Department.

For further information on falls safety, visit the Kids Health website.

Dr Susan Adams, Trauma Surgeon at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick

Bike, Scooters and Skateboards

With children finding different forms of recreation and entertainment during this isolation period, there has been an increase in the number of bike, scooter and skateboard accidents and pedestrian injuries.

While families are encouraged to be physically active and spend more time outside, it is important that the correct safety precautions are followed to keep children safe. Make sure that everyone takes care with surrounding hazards, that bikes and scooters are in good repair and most importantly, that anyone riding a bike, scooter or skateboard wears a helmet.

People often think speed is the main cause for severe head injuries but significant impact can also occur from a stationary fall onto a hard surface, like a driveway or pathway. This is why parents should always ensure their children are wearing helmets when riding bikes, scooters and skateboards, regardless of where they are riding. These necessary precautions can prevent serious head injuries and even save a life.

Families should also take extra care on family walks and make sure both parents and children are stopping to look both ways before crossing the road or crossing a driveway.

The four simple bike, scooter and skateboard safety rules are:

  1. Wear a properly fitted helmet – this can reduce the risk of head injury by 60-90 per cent
  2. Wear protective clothing
  3. Ensure children are able to build up bike riding skills off the road
  4. Ensure children are supervised while riding.

For further information on bike, scooter and skateboard safety, visit the Kids Health website.

Dr Soundappan Soundappan, Trauma Surgeon at The Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Additional resources

Learn more about...

  • Your child’s health can’t wait

  • Making the most of isolation with your kids

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): What you need to know