It has happened again. Another infant has suffered vehicular heatstroke. In a recent infant heatstroke death, a dad was supposed to take his infant to child care, but went to work and forgot the baby was in the car. His wife usually took the baby to child care. In another recent case in South Carolina, a fatal error was made by a loving family. The baby’s aunt thought his older brother had taken the baby out of the car. His older brother thought his aunt had taken the baby out of the car, but that was not something he had ever done before. The baby was in the car for four hours in high heat. It is difficult to imagine the pain and suffering all the parents and families of these children must be feeling now.
As the temperatures rise, so does the danger of serious injury or death and the likelihood that more young lives will be lost in this way. Although the law in about 20 states prohibits leaving a child alone in a vehicle for any reason, several more are considering this legislation. Thus far, Georgia has not enacted laws prohibiting this. However, if a parent or caregiver leaves an infant or child in a hot car, and the child is injured, other laws could be applied. Child endangerment or even murder charges can be brought as we have seen in the past in our state. No law can bring back a forgotten or left baby. Most of these situations are simply tragic mistakes. Rarely, this is an intentional act.
Child drownings in open waters are on the rise. This is very important news for those who plan outings this spring and summer to oceans, lakes and rivers. Although awareness about pool safety and child drownings has helped to keep kids safe, the dangers of open waters are now in the forefront due to a study that was just published by a childhood safety organization. More kids are drowning in open waters than in pools.
Safe Kids Worldwide has just issued a report that every parent should review. Drowning rates for kids have increased since 2011 to more than 1,000. But the report makes it clear that these numbers do not tell the whole story. Many kids and families also experience non-fatal drownings. These are estimated to be at about 7,000 kids and they are not necessarily reported as a child may be rescued on site or visit an ER. Near-drownings which can also cause serious injury, brain damage and other problems for children, are not being tracked. Prevention is key. The report is timely as we approach the swimming season.
Here is the big warning: just because your child or teen is able to swim well in a pool, does NOT mean they will be able to manage open water swimming. This is borne out by the numbers which show that these drownings are on the rise. The greatest danger is for boys, with an increasing risk as kids get older. The concern is that parents and others simply assume that a child is safe if he or she is a good pool swimmer.
All parents and caregivers know the joy children have around water. Water play is something kids look forward to as the weather warms up. A recent incident reminds us of the dangers for injury around water, especially for toddlers and children under the age of four. This spring we are already learning of tragic situations in which toddlers wander into their own yards, or those of friends or relatives, and are found too late. Across the country children have been found unconscious or drowned, like the two-year old toddler who lost his life last week in Virginia. This is not an easy subject to think about, but it is truly critical that we all focus on the dangers of pools, lakes and even bath tubs and little ones.
The statistics for small children and unintentional drownings are stunning. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of four. For young children, the statistics show that swimming pools are the most common location for these tragedies. When children are found unconscious in a pool and survive, there can be incredibly difficult challenges, such as brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control note that half of non-fatal submersion victims can suffer various cognitive disabilities that can be quite severe and life changing.
Inflatables are everywhere these days, especially in the spring and summer months. They attract kids and parents alike, with fantastic colors and cartoon-like big houses and slides and castles. They are lots of fun for all, but bounce houses can be dangerous when they are not in great condition or not anchored correctly. These scenarios happen nearly every day in the Atlanta area. Your children are invited to a birthday party and the family of the birthday boy or girl have a bounce house set up in the yard. Or you attend a community event with your family and a bounce house is set up … it is a big draw for the kids. Exciting and fun experiences for the kids await, but the dangers are real and parents need to be mindful of them.
Earlier this week, a gust of wind lifted a bounce house into the air with children inside. The bounce house was anchored and set up at a church carnival in South Carolina. Five kids were taken to the hospital, with two kids sustaining serious injuries. Four of the kids are back home, one may still be hospitalized. The family has hired a lawyer to speak on their behalf. It is difficult to imagine the fear those kids felt as they were lifted into the air. It is painful to think about what the parents must have felt watching their children float up and away. All the kids survived. But the house ended up later hitting a power line with no children inside it at the time.
This is a serious matter because injuries from bounce houses and other inflatables have been on the rise for the past two decades. In a ten-year period over 100,000 people have been hurt in these apparatuses. The injuries can be serious and sometimes have been fatal.
This is the time of year when children are excited and parents are overwhelmed. We take time to think about what to get for the little ones for the holidays. And as they are older, they might get what they told Santa they want. Sometimes parents have to just figure it all out somehow. No matter which holiday your family celebrates during this season, children’s gifts are likely to be a part of this wonderful time of year. Although we all try to consider the potential hazards in the toys we bring home for our kids or those given to them by friends or relatives, we might not know the particulars of every toy. That is when Boston’s World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) list becomes very helpful. Each year they inform the public of their view of the most dangerous toys out there. The list is published in several media outlets and can be viewed by clicking on the link above.
WATCH notes that there are many toys that are not on their list that could be hazardous to children at certain ages. They choose to publicize those toys that fail in their view to provide warnings, or adequate warnings, about potential dangers. The toys on the list include choking hazards, suffocation hazards and others.
Toy makers have said in response that toys sold in America are required to pass safety review. But we do know that although toys can seem safe, they can also be subject to recall. A current list of recalled toys can be found at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These toys should not be found on shelves at this point since they have been recalled. However, sometimes parents might inadvertently buy a toy at a garage sale or hand-me-down, that has been recalled and they don’t know it. Checking the CPSC site for your toys is a good safety measure. This past year, Toys ‘R’ Us recalled pacifier clips for a choking hazard, Dazzling Toys recalled a chicken toy that also presented a choking hazard. Alex Toys recalled an infant building play set for the same hazard. Auldey Toys recalled its Sky Rover toys due to fire hazard and Flying Tiger Copenhagen recalled wooden toys also due to choking hazards.
There are some tragedies that first responders say change them forever. We are certain that the bus crash that occurred recently in Chattanooga, Tennessee will be one of those. Six children perished when a school bus lost control and hit a tree. This past Thanksgiving weekend has been a time of shock, prayer and mourning for the families in Chattanooga. Elementary school children as young as kindergarten were on the bus. In the midst of the tragedy, the community immediately turned out to support the families of the children, donating blood and finding other ways to give to the bereaved families. The sadness continues as funerals take place for the young victims.
The driver has now been charged with vehicular homicide. The route he took the day of the tragedy has been determined not to be part of the official bus route. He had received his commercial license in April and was relatively new to driving a school bus. Records have been released that indicate that earlier this fall, several students complained about the driving and a parent did as well. The students said he tried to make them fall off their seats and swore at them. The driver also had complained in the past that students were not minding his instructions.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been at the crash site since the day after it occurred and is investigating all aspects of this monumental tragedy. One part of that investigation concerns “human performance” and whether the driver’s second job was causing fatigue. Apparently, he was also working at an Amazon fulfillment center. Other investigative work includes analysis of the mechanical and interior of the bus. The NTSB will analyze whether use of seat belts and the use of seat belts with shoulder belts would have made a difference in saving lives and avoiding injuries in this tragedy. The use of both seat belts and shoulder belts saved lives in a school bus crash in Anaheim, California a few years ago. The NTSB is seeking information from witnesses and will be interviewing parents and others.
At this time of year, Gwinnett and metro Atlanta parents can rest assured that their kids are back in school and their days will be filled with learning, school work, sports and other activities. After a summer of fun and play, parents can relax a bit knowing that they don’t need to plan daily activities to keep kids engaged and positive. This can be challenging during the summer months. As our children return to school we have new concerns. These include kids’ safety getting to and from school. Whether this involves our kids’ safety walking to bus stops or riding their bikes to school, we always want them to be safe.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School provides resources for parents and schools to help get kids to school safely. This year, some kids will be walking to school for the first time. Or taking a bus for the first time. As our kids settle into the school year, parents need to pay close attention to their safety getting to and from school because we know that drivers are paying less attention to their driving. And that is dangerous for our children, particularly in school zones.
Summer safety reminders can help us better enjoy the summer months with friends and family. There is no more sobering reminder than pool and water safety as parents and kids spend more time around water sports and water activities. The tragic drownings we learn about every year, help remind us that we must always pay attention as kids swimming and play around water can quickly lead to drowning and injury. It is a tough statistic to think about, but the fact is that when a child drowns it is almost always within five minutes of a parent or adult or caregiver having just seen the child. That is all it takes. Five short minutes with eyes off a child near water and tragedy can occur. About 88 percent of child drownings happen within this time frame.
One of the more common ways a tragic drowning or serious injury can happen is when a kid’s clothing or hair is caught in the pool’s drain. One small tool can help avoid drownings in certain circumstances. Keeping an emergency pair of scissors near a pool, but out of reach of children can help save a life. Safety experts say that having an emergency scissors in close proximity to the pool can help bring the child back to the surface before tragedy strikes. Pool drains are a silent culprit in the mix of kids play around swimming pools. Being aware of this and ready in case of emergency is key to potentially saving a life.
When parents create living spaces for their children and choose furniture, safety is part of the consideration. The last thing a parent wants is to worry that their child or children might be hurt or killed due to unsafe furniture. Once a week in America, a child loses his or her life due to tipping furniture or tipping televisions. A curious child putting weight on a piece of untethered or unanchored furniture can cause it to topple. And we know kids can unwittingly do something dangerous in seconds. In recent weeks, IKEA Group has recalled nearly 36 million chests and dressers in the United States and Canada due to child injuries or death caused by tipping dressers. These accidents ALL involve dressers that were not anchored to the wall. One of the IKEA dressers involved are in the group called MALM — this includes many versions of this dresser from small to tall. The dressers were made between 2002 to 2016 and can be identified by looking at the labeling on the inside top or side panel. IKEA is offering refunds/returns or repair kits for these dressers.
In recent years, three toddlers died in separate incidents when IKEA dressers fell on them. In all cases, the dressers were not anchored to the wall. IKEA is working with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on this massive recall. The CPSC has warned the public that these dressers have proven to be too dangerous when they are not anchored. Although there have now been six deaths associated with these and other dressers, this has not been an issue in other countries in which they are sold.
The recall is very expansive and includes those dressers that fail to comply with United States performance requirements. The problem with the recalled dressers is instability when not anchored. The company did offer a repair kit for the dressers after two children had already died from injuries suffered when the dressers fell on them. Sadly, even after the repair kit was announced one death and 17 injuries occurred with chests or dressers that were not anchored. Other dressers that have caused death are the GUTE 4-drawer, the RAKKE 5-drawer and the KURS 3-drawer. Parents can check the IKEA website to identify the dressers that are considered unsafe.