From choking, being scalded or getting bitten by a pet, all sorts of accidents can happen with an inquisitive tot at home. Find out what to do in case disaster strikes. By Eveline Gan
Many unforeseen situations can happen when your child is at home. Photo: ximagination / www.123rf.com
Your baby swallows your pills or household cleaning solution.
She may appear to be well even after she swallows medication like paracetamol, iron tablets or pills for diarrhoea, high blood pressure and diabetes, said Dr Tham Lai Peng, a senior consultant at the department of emergency medicine in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
But this does not mean you should adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Visit a doctor right away.
If you know what she has taken, take along the labelled container so that when treatment is needed, it can be done early, explained Dr Tham. The same advice applies if she has ingested household cleaning solutions.
Never stick your fingers into her throat to induce vomiting -that may make her choke, warned Mr Ambrose Lee, a senior training instructor at Singapore Red Cross Academy. The hazardous substance may end up going into the lungs, causing breathing problems.
On your way to the hospital, dilute the poison by feeding her about 30ml of water or milk in small sips, advised Dr Tham.
Safety tips: Store medications and kitchen cleaning chemicals in locked cabinets or places that are beyond her reach, advised Dr Andrea Yeo, a consultant at National University Hospital’s Children’s Emergency.
Never transfer cleaning solutions into old plastic drinking bottles – you don’t want her to mistake them for her favourite juice.
Your tot scalds herself with a hot drink.
Quickly remove her clothing if it is soaked, then hold the burned arm or leg under cool – not cold – running water for 10 to 20 minutes, said Dr Tham.
Do not apply ice, butter or toothpaste on the wound.
If it is a minor burn, clean it with an antiseptic solution and cover it with a clean, non-adhesive dressing.
Head straight to the emergency department if the wound is larger than your child’s hand or if there is blistering, she added. Do not pop blisters or remove the skin flaps.
You should also seek medical attention immediately if the burns make her skin white or charred, or in instances of chemical or electrical burns.
Safety tips: Keep young children out of the kitchen by installing a safety gate at the entrance, said Dr Yeo. Place hot food and drinks away from the edge of the kitchen counter or table.
When cooking, use the back burners on the stove and turn the pan handles inwards. Power sockets are also an electrical burn hazard. When not in use, fit them with safety covers, she added.
You accidentally cut her finger while trimming her nails.
Run the finger under running water, and press on the wound to stop the bleeding, advised Dr Tham.
Clean it with antiseptic solution and cover it with a non-stick sterile dressing. This first-aid method applies to all cuts.
Refrain from changing her dressing too frequently. Do so only every three to four days as removing it daily will pull off the healing tissue and prolong recovery.
But see a doctor immediately if the bleeding is serious.
If the wound has been contaminated by soil or dirt, take her to the emergency department, advised Dr Tham.
Safety tips: Trim her nails only when she is asleep or relaxed, and in a brightly lit area, said Dr Tham. Get small nail scissors that come with rounded ends, a baby nail clipper or emery board. Remember to also keep that clipper and other sharp objects out of reach when you are done.
The family pet bites your child.
What doctors worry about is the risk that the wound might get infected by bacteria from the animal’s mouth. The pet may also transmit other infections if it has not been fully immunised, said Dr Tham.
Wash the wound with soap and water.
Apply antibiotic ointment when the bleeding stops, and cover the wound with a sterile gauze or bandage, advised Dr Tham.
Take your little one to see a doctor and check if she will need antibiotics or a tetanus jab, she added.
Safety tips: Teach your tot how to interact with the family pet gently and respectfully. Never leave her alone with it, reminded Dr Tham.
As a responsible pet owner, you should also ensure it is leashed when out in public and that its vaccination card is up to date.
Household chemicals get into the child’s eyes.
Wash her eyes under a gentle shower or with clean lukewarm water for 15 minutes. “Calm your child and try to prevent her from rubbing or applying pressure on the eye,” Dr Tham advised. Then, take her to the doctor. Remember to take the chemical container along.
Safety tips: Again, keep chemicals out of reach and sight of your child. To be extra safe, secure cabinets with a child-safety latch.
Your young child chokes or inhales small objects or food.
Try to dislodge the object by turning her face down on your lap, and firmly apply back blows between the shoulder blades, advised Dr Yeo. If she becomes unconscious, start infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
If she is at least one year old, you can do the modified abdominal thrust (also known as the Heimlich manoeuvre). Start child CPR immediately when you notice that she is unconscious.
Safety tips: Be cautious when introducing solids, and ensure that the consistency of the food is suitable for your little one. Any food that is not easily broken down by her developing teeth can become a choking hazard, warned Dr Yeo.
“Your baby should be able to sit in a chair and hold her head steadily before she starts on her weaning diet,” she said. “If she is ready for solids, she should be able to chew and move food from the front to back of her mouth. She is not ready if she is still pushing food out of her mouth.”
Stay away from hard sweets, peanuts, whole grapes, raw carrots, popcorn and big chunks of meat. Non-food items can be dangerous, too. Do not leave small objects – think coins, buttons, toys with small parts like building blocks and marbles – where she can reach them.
This article first appeared in Young Parents magazine.