Archive for the 'Safety' Category

Is using a car seat covering safe?

woman carrying infant carrier with canopy

image credit: Amazon

As the winter months approach, children will soon be sledding down snow hills, building snowmen, and really little ones will be traveling in cold weather in their car seats. As a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), I can assure you that there are many steps that a parent can take to ensure their children stay warm and safe this upcoming cold season.

One recommendation is to avoid heavy, bulky coats on children harnessed in their car seats; there are many articles and infographics that discuss why this is important. However, there is a hidden danger that many parents are unaware of: using car seat covers or aftermarket canopies that cover your infant’s head for a long period of time while installed in his or her car seat.

Before diving into the research and reasons why this is potentially dangerous, let’s rewind for a minute. The practical reason for a covering children is to protect them from wind, rain and snow while you transport them in and out of the vehicle. As the parent of a winter-born baby, I can tell you that I covered my child with a blanket in his infant carrier many times after strapping him in the car during our Michigan winters. My job as a CPST is to provide you with information so you can make an educated decision about keeping your child safe.

There is an increasing amount of research that discusses how car seat canopies and other coverings are potentially dangerous. A specific concern is the risk of CO2 rebreathing. During the breathing process, your body inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide (CO2), maintaining a balance between these two gases. However, rebreathing CO2 can have harmful effects on the body. When an infant has soft, fluffy or loose fabric around his face, the carbon dioxide can build up around the baby’s head. Rather than breathing fresh oxygen, the baby is rebreathing the expelled CO2 (Blair, Mitchell, Heckstall-Smith and Fleming, 2008). Many babies may cry, turn their head or attempt to get out of this unsafe situation, however infants who are at-risk (i.e., preterm, respiratory concerns) may have extra difficulty notifying a caregiver they are struggling (First Candle – Rebreathing Carbon Dioxide and Suffocation as they related to SIDS, 2009).

In April 2014, Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) issued an executive statement regarding infant carrying that is applicable to car seat safety and any situation to where a child’s face might become covered and breathing could be compromised. It stated, “[C]overing a baby’s face makes it impossible to monitor a child’s breathing, in addition to putting the baby at risk for suffocation, or CO2 rebreathing.”

This does not mean that you have to expose your infant to cold weather and crippling winds when taking baby to the car in the winter. The key is to protect your child with a temporary cover. Use a receiving blanket to protect your child from the elements, but be sure to remove it once baby is secured in the vehicle. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) recommends against over-bundling and covering the face and head.

My recommendations

  • Avoid car seat canopies that strap onto the infant carrier’s handle. Parents often pull back the cover and leave the strap for convenience, but this poses a suffocation risk if the fabric accidentally falls down over the infant’s face.
  • Avoid car seat covers that zip close to a child’s face.
  • Always be aware of your infant’s airways and the car seat environment. We recommend using the “visible and kissable” phrase, which means keep your baby’s face uncovered and able to receive kisses at any given moment. This ensures that you can easily see and assess your child’s breathing while in the car seat.

Together we can ensure all babies stay warm and safe while traveling to and from the vehicle. As we know all too well, the sledding and snowman season will be here before we know it.

– Stephanie Babcock, CPST, is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s also the proud mommy of two boys.

Is your child in the right car seat? 

dad buckling young daughter into car seat

image credit: NHTSA Traffic Safety Marketing

Most people believe that their child is safely restrained in the correct car seat, and yet 80 to 90 percent of people are misusing their child safety restraint. That means 8.5 people out of 10 are either doing something with the car seat that they shouldn’t be, or not doing something that they should be. Today, we’ll review the basics of car seats and make sure that your kids are in that top 10 percent.

The first and best piece of advice for parents with kids in car seats is to have their seats inspected by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). You can register for a free inspection through Beaumont. Every time you get a new car seat or a new vehicle you should have your seat inspected by a professional.

Installation highlights

  • Installation standards require that you refer to both your car seat manual and your vehicle manual to achieve a safe installation. In general, however, remember to use either lower anchors or a seat belt to install the seat — never both.
  • Lower anchors have weight limits so always refer to your vehicle manual when using them.
  • Seats should be installed tightly enough that they move less than one inch from side-to-side at the belt path.
  • Rear-facing seats should also be installed at the proper level, which is usually indicated with a level indicator on the seat. Also, be sure that they do not touch the seats in front of them.
  • Forward-facing seats should be tethered using the belt at the top and back of the seat to prevent forward head momentum. Locations of top tether anchors are found in vehicle manuals.

Selecting the right seat

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated its recommendations to say that children should be rear facing in child restraints until at least age 2, but longer if they can remain rear facing according to the height and weight limits of their seats. Many people shorten this recommendation to “Rear facing until 2.” However, the most important part of the advice is the second part referring to the height and weight limits of the seat. The best way to ensure that your child is using the right car seat is to check the label on the side of the seat. All seats provide labeling that gives the height and weight limits for car seats, and children should use those seats until they reach one limit or the other (height or weight). Using each restraint until its height or weight limit before moving to the next step ensures that a child stays as safely restrained as possible.

Restraining the child in the seat

While putting the seat properly in the vehicle is important, equally important is safely restraining the child in the seat.

  • Children using 5-point harness seats should have their harnesses snug at all five of those points (hips, shoulder and breast bone).
  • A strap is snug enough at the shoulders when no slack in the strap can be pinched at the shoulder from the front of the strap to the back.
  • Hip straps should sit low on the hip bone, with no more than one finger’s space between the strap and the hip.
  • Finally, the chest clip of a 5-point harness should sit at the armpit level of the child in order to ensure its position over the breastbone.

Other useful tips

  • Ensure that the car seat hasn’t reached its expiration date. Once a child passenger restraint has expired, it is no longer safe to use.
  • Register your car seats with their manufacturers so that you will be notified of any safety recalls. A recalled car seat needs to be repaired or replaced according to manufacturer directions.
  • Restrain any loose articles in cargo areas, storage pockets, or by using unused seat belts. Loose articles in a vehicle will tumble around the car in an accident, potentially causing injuries. Securing those loose items will keep both child and adult occupants of the vehicle safer.
  • Refrain from adding after market products to your car seat. Believe it or not, products sold in stores to go with car seats (e.g, extra shoulder strap covers, head and neck supports, mirrors, sun shades secured with suction cups, and seat protectors) take away from the safety of the child restraint and should not be used.
  • In the upcoming cold weather, put a blanket or jacket over your child’s harness in their seat (rather than under it) to ensure you have the snug fit of the harness that I covered earlier.

Remember: All a car seat needs to be perfect is your child!

– Nicole Capozello, CPST, Beaumont Parenting Program

Teaching kids why cars are not playgrounds

child sitting in driver's seat

Even if you live in a safe neighborhood, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of locking your unoccupied vehicle. Sadly there are, on average, 37 child deaths per year due to vehicular hyperthermia. The majority of the children who die in hot cars are accidentally forgotten; however, it is estimated that up to 30 percent of the time children are trapped inside an unlocked vehicle or trunk and they are unable to escape. Here are some tips to avoiding tragedy in your driveway:

  1. Always lock vehicle doors. Even if you don’t have young children, an open car creates opportunity for neighborhood kids to become trapped.
  2. Teach kids not to play in cars or trunks. The child locks on rear doors often prevent children from getting out, essentially trapping the child in the vehicle once they enter.
  3. Show your kids the emergency trunk release and instruct them how to use it. As of Sept. 1, 2001, all vehicles are required to have a glow-in-the-dark trunk release mechanism.
  4. Never leave children unattended in a vehicle. Watch this short video to see how temperatures can increase in a vehicle 19 degrees in just 10 minutes.
  5. If a child goes missing, we advise checking pools and nearby bodies of water first then vehicles and trunks second.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health

References:

Covert mission: How I sneaked a bike safety talk into a regular old bike ride

mom and daughter selfie wearing bike helmets

I tricked my 8-year-old daughter, Meadow, into learning bicycle safety yesterday. She thought she was going with me on her first bike ride outside of the neighborhood, but I had ulterior motives.

First, I showed her how we check our bicycles before riding for any potential necessary repair. We looked to make sure there wasn’t a loose or rusty chain, measured for proper seat and handlebar height, and checked the tire pressure.

We always wear our helmets, so we made sure they fit properly. (Side note: When we got home, I noticed my daughter’s “Y strap” had loosened up on her helmet and she had tucked it behind her ear. I reminded her how the helmet straps should lay for next time.) Helmets on and bike integrity checked, we changed out of our flip-flops and put on proper fitting tennis shoes and socks. Meadow cringed when I told her how my friend’s son had to get several stitches in the bottom of his foot from wearing flip-flops on his bike. Believe it or not, your feet can get really sweaty when you exercise and those suckers slip right off.

Ready to ride, we talked along the way about the importance of using your senses to look for danger:

  • Don’t let yourself get distracted by using your electronics.
  • Keep earbuds out so you can hear for sirens and cars.
  • Watch for the reverse lights in driveways for cars exiting.

When it came time to cross the street, we used designated cross walks, first looking left, right and then left again. I made sure Meadow saw how to make eye contact with cars at the intersection so they see us as we walk our bikes across the street.

We didn’t encounter any pedestrians, but we did a test run on how to alert them that we were approaching. Meadow rang her bell and yelled, “Passing on your left,” out loud.

Halfway through the ride, we took a quick break and I asked her what she would do if I had an emergency. She happily replied that she would call 911 on my cell phone to get help. I further questioned her how she would let them know our location and we did a scavenger hunt for notable landmarks and street signs. I pretended to be the dispatcher and we went over potential questions, such as my name, medical history, allergies and my husband’s phone number.

When we made it to our final destination, Meadow was surprised that we were at 7-11; she got a Slurpee for her reward. One last lesson was about visibility—she turned on her blinking head and tail lights since it was close to dusk.

The ride home was much quieter; we got to enjoy our mother/daughter time together and the beautiful views of our city.

For information on safe biking, check out these resources:

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health

Kids and lead exposure

close up of little hand holding toy car

Unaltered image. Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC license.

“There is no safe level of exposure to lead for a child.” This is the mantra that Ecology Center staff, parents and others carried to Lansing on March 8, 2017. About 60 environmental advocates, public health professionals, lead-abatement contractors, and other citizen-lobbyists braved gale-force winds for the fifth annual Lead Education Day. Leading the charge was the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MiALSH), who connected constituents with 40 legislators or their staff to discuss the real hazards of lead still lurking in many of our homes in the state.

Each time a window or door is opened or closed, friction occurs that can create dust. In houses built before 1978 — the year lead was banned for use in paint — that dust can be contaminated with lead. Plus, the potential for exposure increases anytime an old home is remodeled. Michigan’s housing stock is older than the country average; 70 percent of the homes in the state (versus about 50 percent nationally) were built before 1978 and likely have windows, doors, cupboards, and porches coated with lead paint.

What legislators can do

There’s much we can do on the state level to prevent lead poisoning. On March 8, lawmakers learned about vital strategies, including:

  1. Universal lead testing of all children 1 and 2 years old. In 2015 about 5,000 Michigan kids had elevated blood lead levels (above 5 mg/dL). But the true total is likely much higher, because only about 20 percent of Michigan’s children under 6 are currently tested for lead exposure.
  1. Continue funding to support the state’s lead cleanup program. This money is leveraged to bring in federal funds to remove potential lead hazards in homes. After a child is discovered to have an elevated blood lead level (BLL), the source of exposure must be identified. Most often the cause is lead paint in the home. The second most common exposure source is soil around the home. Both of these hazards can be mitigated through state programs that replace old windows and doors, and remove contaminated soil.
  1. Stop using kids as lead detectors by requiring that homes in Michigan undergo a one-time lead inspection risk assessment to identify lead hazards before a home is sold or leased to a new resident.

Following on the heels of the Lead Education Day, Governor Snyder passed an executive order to create a permanent Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission on March 16. This commission will work with the administration and legislature to implement these and other policy recommendations to end childhood lead poisoning.

Money sense

Lead Education Day advocates pointed out that investing in lead poisoning prevention is not only good for our health, but it’s also good for our collective wallet. The annual cost of lead exposure in Michigan children is approximately $270 million ($112 million of which is paid by taxpayers), according to the Ecology Center’s 2016 report, The Cost of Lead Exposure and Remediation in Michigan. For the report, researchers added up conservative estimates of four societal costs directly impacted by lead poisoning: increased health care, increased adult and juvenile crime, increased need for special education, and decline in lifetime earnings.

Remediating the most at risk homes, however, would cost the state approximately $600 million, giving a profitable return to the investment in less than three years. This is timely information for the legislators, as they will be working on the state budget over the next few months.

What can you do at home

  • Don’t allow children or pets to play in bare soil.
  • Remove shoes before entering the house.
  • Wet-mop floors weekly.
  • Remove dust with a wet cloth instead of dry dusting.
  • Frequently wash children’s faces, hands and teething toys.
  • Always use cold tap water for cooking.
  • Eat a diet rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C.
  • Get children under 6 tested for lead.
  • Contact the Ecology Center to see how you can get involved! Email Rebecca Meuninck (rebecca@ecocenter.org) or Melissa Cooper Sargent (melissas@ecocenter.org).

Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at melissas@ecocenter.org or visit http://www.ecocenter.org/lmg.

Childproofing your home

Toddler opening a cabinet

Unaltered image. Jed De La Cruz, Flickr. CC license.

As a parent, it is our job to keep our children safe. So how do you know when to start childproofing and where to start? This can be an overwhelming process for many parents. Have you ever just stood in the safety section at your local baby store? There is an entire wall chock full of products with a variety of door handle covers, outlet covers, drawer and cabinet locks, and other items that you never even knew existed. Here is some advice on how to make sure your home is safe for your baby.

  • Get down on the floor at baby’s level. The world looks a whole lot different from there. Pay attention to what baby can see and reach.
  • When should I start? The sooner the better, however once baby is able to start rolling (typically 4 to 6 months), you want to make sure you’ve started your childproofing.
  • Know your baby. Some babies are much more mobile and curious than others. Some babies need to climb and get into everything. For these children, you may need to be much more thorough.
  • Keep all medications, chemicals, soaps, and detergents away from baby. Make sure these items are in locked cupboards or above baby’s reach in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • All items that fit within a toilet paper tube pose a choking hazard to baby. Anything that fits inside should be kept away from baby, especially small items like coins.
  • Make sure you have the number for poison control in your cell phone and a central location in your home (800) 222-1222. You can also download an app to your phone.
  • Register for the Consumer Product Safety Recall list to be alerted for recalled items.

Recommended safety items

  1. Outlet covers
    1. Babies are very curious and the outlets seem to attract little fingers.
    2. If you don’t like the outlet covers, you can swap out all of your outlets with ones that have covers built into them.
    3. When traveling to a relative or friend’s home, bring an extra pack of outlet covers to keep your baby safe.
  2. Gates
    • You must use gates mounted with hardware at the top and bottom of stairs.
    • Pressure-mounted gates can be used in hallways and doorways.
    • Some gates have extension pieces to make sure they fit your space properly.
    • If you need to mount your gate to the banister, you can purchase a kit that lets you install the gate without drilling holes into your banister.
  3. Furniture straps
    • All furniture (including dressers and book cases) should be strapped to wall in rooms that baby will be in. These help to prevent furniture from falling on top of baby.
  4. Door locks/handles
    • Make sure you have the correct type of door lock for the correct door:
      • Bi-fold door locks
      • Sliding door locks
      • Universal locks
      • Appliance locks (e.g., refrigerator, drawer under oven/washing machine, dishwasher, etc.)
      • Door latches are very inexpensive and perfect for basement doors.
      • Toilet locks keep children from “playing” in toilet.
  1. Drawer and cabinet locks
    • Plastic locks that screw into the inside of cabinets or drawers.
    • Magnetic locks are less visible, but more expensive).
  2. Cord protectors
    • Mini blind cord protectors
    • Power strip protectors
  3. Thermometer for bathtime
    • Ensures water is not too hot or cold for baby

– Amy Weiss, MPT  Supervisor of Outpatient Physical Therapy at Beaumont Physical Therapy Berkley

 

Can my child stay home alone all summer?

Close up of girl sitting on couch

Schools are about to break for the summer and you may be questioning whether or not your child is ready to spend all summer home alone. In Michigan, there is not a set age in which legally a child is able to stay home without adult supervision. Using some of the State of Michigan’s legal handbooks, it seems that it is generally acceptable to leave your child without adult supervision once the child is age 12.

Within the “Improper Supervision” section of the State of Michigan Child Protection Handbook: “According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case-by-case basis, but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated, but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.” Additionally, The Michigan Child Support Handbook states, “The court may include an amount covering work-related child care expenses when the child is less than 12 years old.”

Despite the recommended age, it is even more important to determine your child’s maturity. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a few tips to help determine if your child is responsible enough to stay home and also some suggestions on what type of rules to set.

Some key questions you may want to consider are:

  • Does my child have any reservations about staying home alone?
  • In the event of an emergency, such as a fire or medical event, can your child respond appropriately?
  • Are you in a safe neighborhood?
  • Do you have neighbors who will watch out for suspicious activity? Would they be able to check in on your children if you aren’t able to reach them?
  • Does your child know when it is safe to answer the door?
  • If there are younger children in the home, do you trust them in the care of their older siblings all day?
  • Have you discussed internet and social media safety?
  • Do any children in the home have serious medical conditions, such as life-threatening allergies, diabetes or seizures?
  • Are you available via phone at all times?

If you’re still unsure you if or your child is ready, consider a few trial runs. Let them stay alone for a few hours at a time. Once you get home, talk about their day, particularly any problems they encountered and how they handled them. I am a big fan of the “drop in”; if you can, leave work early see and how they are faring when they don’t expect you back for hours. If you still don’t feel comfortable leaving your teen or tween home alone all summer, look into summer camps that may be of interest to them. You can also ask available aunts, uncles or grandparents to visit, or see if your child can hang out with friends who have parents home during the day.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health


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