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Birjees S Hussain: Babies can choke or suffocate
November 03, 2017
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What do a balloon and a plastic bag have in common? Aside from the fact that both are made of the same materials, both also pose a serious safety hazard.

Two days in a row I have seen these items in direct contact with babies in prams. In both cases their presence was not an accident. In each case, the mother was completely aware and, in one case, even handed the offending item to her baby.

The first baby was literally handed the plastic bag as a play toy. When she finished her shopping, the mother picked up an empty bag, puffed it up to make it look like it had something in it and then put it in the baby’s hand. When I walked by, I told the mother to be careful because the baby could accidentally suffocate if he put the bag over his head. My warning was enlightening to her because she replied, ‘really?’.

The next day, I saw a worse incident. A baby lay in his pram with a balloon literally over his mouth and nose. Now there were two ways that the child’s life could have been placed at risk. Firstly the balloon could have burst thus frightening him to death or it could have burst and the torn pieces could have covered his mouth and nose thereby suffocating it. Again, I alerted the mother of the risk and she shifted the balloon an inch or two away from the baby’s face.

Then I got to thinking that are so many hazards that babies and children can be at risk from. Moreover, these hazards are not just outside but in the home as well.

Toddlers crawl around on all fours. Whether the floor is carpeted or tiled, one risk is always going to be there and small items that can be swallowed by the child, thus resulting in a choking hazard.

If the child does not choke on an item, there is a very real risk of impaling the roof of their mouths with a sharp object. It could be a stray pin, nail or even a knitting needle.

Now if a child chokes on something you might assume that it might be as a result of ingesting something. Well…yes…but it’s more of a no. Choking usually occurs as a result of swallowing something that can get stuck in the airways and obstruct breathing. Ingesting, on the other hand, usually involves taking in some kind of liquid like a cleaning agent, medicines such as a baby aspirin, detergents, etc. Basically, anything that is not for internal use or is for use internal use but under strictly controlled conditions.

Unsupervised toddlers can be a hazard unto themselves. Because they are now able to move about on their own on two feet or on all fours, they can go anywhere and touch anything that is within reach. It just so happens that electrical outlets are positioned at just the right height for their little hands to reach. In fact those sockets are just the right size for their fingers to fit in! Electrical shock alert!

A lot of parents learn to leave babies sleeping on adult beds rather than in their own cots. It’s no problem when you are around watching over them. But if your attention is turned away for a second, they could roll over and crawl around and fall over the edge.

The same goes for the tops of staircases or even areas in your home where the floor has a drop in level.

But if toddler and babies aren’t curious about electrical outlets, they might find other places incredibly interesting, inside cupboards, inside plastic bags and inside any hollow objectives like vases. All these present dangers of getting body parts, especially the head, getting stuck inside them.

And finally, hot water, or any kind of water, has a twofold risk. There’s the risk of burning or of drowning or of both. Hot water in a bath or a sink, if left running whilst unattended, can become scalding hot.

So there you have it. A not so exhaustive list of potential hazards to little children. There are more, many more. As a parent, or a baby sitter, you do need to keep a close watch.

the author

specialises in subjects from health

to social issues

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