In 2015, more than four million children were born in the U.S. Protecting all those lives typically starts before the first ride home from the hospital.
1. Preventing suffocation
Suffocation is the leading cause of unintentional death among children under 4 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a four-fold increase in these deaths since 1984 largely due to unsafe sleeping environments. First of all, be sure your crib meets safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission—and then be sure to use it. The safest place for infants to sleep is in a crib, not in the same bed as parents. Although stuffed animals and blankets seem inviting, they should be kept out of the crib as the risk for suffocation increases.
2. Properly install car seats
Child restraints saved 284 lives in 2012 among children younger than five. For infants, use only rear-facing seats because they provide the most protection to prevent against spinal injury in the event of a frontal crash. Always read both the vehicle and the car seat manufacturers’ instruction manual to determine how to properly install your car seat in the vehicle. Car seats can be installed using either a seatbelt or lower anchors and many are also certified for use in aviation.
Well before the infant’s due date, parents can consult with a certified child passenger safety technician; most communities host fitting stations free-of-charge.
3. Don’t get distracted
Parents must pay attention to everything and that isn’t possible when talking on a cell phone – even hands-free. A National Safety Council survey revealed that 8 in 10 drivers mistakenly believe that talking on a hands-free device is safer than using a handheld phone. Drivers who are cognitively distracted by their cell phone conversations can miss seeing up to 50 percent of their driving environment, even though they are looking right out the windshield.. If you must take a call, pull over to a safe location.
4. Safely store and dispose of medications
Toddlers love to explore and can unintentionally poison themselves. While safety latches on lower cabinet doors are a good idea, store medications and other poisons in high places that are well out of reach. Dispose of unused medications properly by contacting your local pharmacy or police station to find out if they have a program for taking back medicine.
5. Learn first aid
Other hazards at home can lead children to choke, burn, drown and even overdose, requiring a parent to administer Basic Life Support. Learning CPR can save your child’s life as permanent brain damage can occur within minutes after breathing stops You can’t protect your newborn from everything, but a few simple steps can drastically reduce risks on the road and at home.
Deborah A.P. Hersman, [email protected]