Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Home safety tips

CE: First let's talk about hot water heaters and burns.

AA: Children are more easily burned than adults, so it is recommended that hot water heaters be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The state of Washington passed a law that set the maximum water heater temperature at 120 degrees, and five years after the law went into effect, hospital admissions for burns in children dropped by more than 50%.

CE: Another area that we seem to hear more about is injuries with TVs.

AA: Between 2009 and 2011, almost 13,000 children were injured each year by TVs tipping over. That number has gone up dramatically over the last ten years as TVs have gotten much lighter. 7 out of 10 of these injuries occur in children 5 or younger, so it is recommended that households with young children mount their TVs to the wall.

CE: What about things that children can get into?

AA: Children can be seriously injured from swallowing small magnets or small coin sized batteries found in many devices. Sometimes these are called button batteries. These are commonly found in remote controls for toys, but they're also in many other places like bathroom scales, musical greeting cards, and watches. Always keep items containing batteries in a secure place if you have young children in the house.

CE: What should parents do if their child swallows a button battery?

AA: You should seek immediate help. You can call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline or the poison center or go to the emergency room. Batteries can cause severe burns within two hours of being swallowed, so it's very important to get to the emergency room immediately. Do not let your child eat or drink anything and do not try to induce vomiting. An X-ray can show if your child did in fact swallow a battery and where it is located. If possible, get the battery information number. On a related note, we sometimes see battery ingestions by adults who are fixing something and place the battery in their mouth to free up their hands. Accidental ingestion can occur if the person is startled or just swallows it by accident. Avoid this short-cut and take the extra minute to be safe.

CE: What are other common causes of injury at home?

AA: Injuries from falls are one of the most common. More than 2 million children are injured every year from falls. Stairs and windows are common sources of injury. Gates can be a hassle but are important at the bottom and top of stairs in households with young children. Gates at the top of stairs, especially, should always be drilled into the wall. In warmer months with open windows, young children are prone to injuries from windows. Screens are not enough to prevent falls and window guards and/or window stops are recommended, especially for higher floor windows.

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