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Article Type: Blog

Avoid the ER: Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

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Every year, nearly 9 million children have a visit to the emergency room due to an injury. The experiences can have long-term impacts on kids, and many of these visits are preventable.

Here you'll find a list of tips to accident-proof your home as well as ways to help your kids stay safe around potentially dangerous areas, like your backyard swimming pool.

At AdventHealth Hendersonville, formerly Park Ridge Health, our goal is to make sure you and your loved ones don't end up in the ER in the first place. But remember, if you have an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately and seek medical attention.

Emergency department medical director, Byron Dixon, MD, CHCQM-PHYADV shares advice for knowing when a trip to the ER may be needed — and how to avoid some of the common hazards that send kids to the hospital. 

Fevers

If your child is fighting a fever, it could be a small viral infection or a sign of something more serious.

“Generally, most children are diagnosed with a typical viral infection that will run its course in 5 to 7 days,” says Dr. Dixon. “With a quick visit to your pediatrician, you can confirm if it is viral or bacterial, in which case an antibiotic will be enough to help your child get back to running around the house in no time.”

If your child’s fever is accompanied by significant abdominal pain, specifically in the lower right abdomen, it could be a sign of appendicitis — and a sign you should head to the ER, Dr. Dixon notes. 

Other abnormal and concerning symptoms associated with a fever include trouble breathing, a concerning rash, lethargy, irritability, or a stiff neck. 

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools are lots of fun, but they can also be dangerous for children.  Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related deaths of children in the U.S., but a few safety precautions can help to prevent a tragedy.

If you have a pool at your home, be sure to enroll your kids in swim lessons early so they learn water safety and how to keep their heads above water. Remember, even children who know how to swim are still at risk of drowning, so it's critical that they only swim with adult supervision.

As a parent, taking a class to learn CPR is important and could give you a life-saving skill if there's ever an emergency. It's also critical to place a gate or fence around the pool, so little ones don't wander into the water when you don't expect it.

Always keep an eye on children any time they are in or near water. Drowning can happen in as little as an inch of water, so even bathtubs, buckets and toilets can pose a risk. 

Trampolines

Kids love jumping on trampolines, but they’re responsible for more than  92,000 emergency room visits every year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although most gym classes and playgrounds no longer include trampolines, your child may still have the chance to bounce on one at home or at a friend’s house. In emergency rooms, doctors most often see arms and leg fractures, as well as head and spinal injuries from trampolines. If too many children are jumping at the same time, they could crash into each other or land on top of one another and cause additional injuries.

Unfortunately, installing a net around the trampoline doesn't make it any safer, and might actually give you a false sense of security when your kids are playing.

If a collision or spill does happen while kids are jumping, take it seriously, advises Dr. Dixon. “Any concern for head injuries needs to be evaluated by an emergency medicine provider.” 

It may be best to avoid trampolines entirely rather than risk the injuries that could come from using them.

Car Seats

Car seats are an essential piece of safety equipment, and when used correctly, save countless lives. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to get them installed correctly, and some people don't use them at all.

Car crashes cause the most deaths among children in the U.S., and around half of those that happen annually are because the child was unrestrained.

If you're having trouble getting your car seat installed, you can visit your local fire station or police department and ask for assistance.  

Medications

It's shocking how many children in the U.S. end up in the ER every year because they are accidentally poisoned by ingesting medicine. Around 59,000 cases occur annually, and most of these instances are in kids age three or younger.

It's not just your medicine that you should keep an eye on. Around half the time, children get into their grandparents’ medications, and childproof caps don't always stop them.

Keep medications away from children by placing them out of sight and out of reach to ensure they stay safe.

Button Batteries

Button batteries are becoming more common in household items, but they can be hazardous to young children.

Kids who are under three years old have a fascination with putting interesting objects in their mouths, and these small, shiny batteries can prove tempting.

Unfortunately, they pose more than just a choking hazard. If swallowed, they can become stuck in the esophagus, and the battery acid may eventually start leaking into their system.

Keep all batteries out of the reach of children and regularly check battery-powered items to make sure your family is safe.

Magnets

Like batteries, there are serious health implications if your child swallows a magnet. They can stick together and compress the bowel wall which could result in a loss of blood flow, or even obstructions and perforation.

If your child accidentally swallows a magnet, take them to the emergency room right away.

Hot Surfaces and Substances

The most common childhood accidents are burns and scalds from hot liquids. Although it might seem impossible to protect your little one from every hot substance, these are the most common culprits to watch for:

  • Steam, hot bath water, spilled coffee or hot tea, other cooking fluids
  • Flames or hot objects like the stove or fireplace
  • Chemical burns from substances like drain cleaner
  • Electrical burns from exposed outlets or chewing electrical cords
  • Severe sunburns

To help limit the risk of burns for your child, try to look at your home from their (much lower) perspective.  

Move any hot cooking liquids out of reach, and cook using only the back burners whenever possible. Always use covers on electrical outlets. Place chemicals in locked cupboards or on high shelves where kids can't get to them. Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees to avoid water coming out of the tap that could lead to burns.

When playing outside, use sunscreen and reapply it often. Opt for shady activities and limit sun exposure if your little one is susceptible to getting sunburned. 

Bikes, Scooters and Skateboards

You want your kids outside and active rather than tethered to electronics, but with that activity comes some risk. If they're riding a bike, scooter or skateboard without a helmet and have a spill, the results can be tragic.

To limit the risk, make sure that your children always wear  helmets to protect their head and brain. 

“In the case of a sports-related injury, it’s a safe decision to bring your child to the ER,” said Dr. Dixon. “We have evidence-based guidelines that help us determine when children need to have further diagnostic studies, such as CT scans for head trauma or an X-ray to evaluate extremity injuries.”

Cars

New drivers have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, and they’re very likely to have an accident. In fact, teens have an 89.2 percent chance of being in an accident during their first three years driving.

Help your teens beat the odds by teaching them proper and safe driving techniques, and making sure they always wear a seat belt.

Finally, don't let them forget that they should never, ever text while driving.  

AdventHealth Hendersonville Emergency Care

Rest assured that should your family ever need us, the AdventHealth Hendersonville ER is here for you — 24/7. Learn more about our emergency services and partnership with Wake Forest Baptist Health here

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