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April 10, 2018
As parents, we constantly worry about our kids, no matter their age.
Each age group offers its own challenges. We worry about what our kids eat, where they go to school, if they are learning, to whom they speak and many other concerns. All of these worries are because we want to keep our kids safe as they grow up in a nurturing environment.
There are, however, two specific areas proven to be the most dangerous for kids, and you might find them surprising. Drowning and infant unsafe sleep are the leading causes of accidental child death in the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida. In 2017 alone, we lost 39 local children – more than two entire kindergarten classes – to these two preventable causes.
This may sound bleak but the good news is this: Drowning and unsafe sleep are 100 percent preventable!
Whether you’re preparing for your new baby’s arrival or planning out your family’s summer beach excursions, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the facts and tips on how to keep your family safe.
Drowning is surprisingly silent and fast—not like the splashing and screaming we may see in movies. In just 20 seconds, less time than it takes to switch a load of laundry, a child can drown. The main reason children drown is because of lack of supervision or distracted supervision in and around water. Two-thirds of small kids who drowned in a pool were last seen in the house.
Understand the hidden dangers that can also lead to drowning. A small child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. Children have drowned in mop buckets, pet water dishes, bathtubs and toilets, places you don’t normally expect it to happen or in places where you’re not as much on your guard.
If you have a pool or live by a pond or canal, make sure you have multiple barriers in place. Doors should have high locks and alarms. If you have a pool, make sure you have a self-locking pool fence and a pool alarm.
As soon as your child starts crawling, enroll them in a program like the ISR Self-Rescue Survival Swim Lessons. If you don’t have the funds, local non-profits like the Y often have free or reduced cost classes available.
Designate a “water watcher.” As spring approaches, pool/beach parties become a favorite activity. Assign an adult to keep their eyes on the children at all times when they are near water. The watcher should avoid distraction, especially by phone calls, texting or other electronic devices. Have the water watcher wear a lanyard with a whistle or wristband to remind them that when they are wearing it, they are responsible. If they need to leave they should pass the lanyard on to another responsible adult. The most effective supervision of infants and toddlers is to be within arm’s reach and close enough to rescue the child if needed.
In Tampa Bay, more children die from unsafe co-sleeping environments than any other preventable child death. Infants are 40 times more likely to die in adult beds than in their own cribs. Pillow-top mattresses, comforters, fluffy pillows and stuffed animals are dangerous in adult beds AND in cribs. Nearly 74 percent of deaths in babies younger than 4 months happened in a bed-sharing situation.
It’s also critical to have a frank conversation with all caregivers, including new grandparents. While tips and suggestions are helpful, remind them that when it comes to safe sleep practices, we know more now than we did yesterday; we no longer paint our nurseries with lead paint and car seats are now the law.
Room-sharing offers almost all of the benefits of bed-sharing, without the risks, so bring your baby’s crib into your room for the first six months of life. Also, be mindful of older children bed-sharing with their baby siblings. Even the weight of a small child can cause air restriction to a baby.
Provide a Pack ‘n Play to all caregivers.
Put your baby to sleep on his or her back in a crib with a tight-fitting crib sheet and firm mattress, free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads and stuffed animals. Your sleeping baby is cute enough on their own without extra décor in the bed.
If you are worried your baby will be cold, try a sleep sack instead of a loose blanket to keep baby safe and warm. The smallest blanket can block an infant’s airway while a sleep sack poses no risk to interfering with their mouth and nose.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you see something, say something; it may save a child’s life. These child deaths are 100 percent preventable. As a community, we can all make a difference by speaking up and advocating for our children among family, friends and our social circles. If you would like additional information and even more tips and suggestions on keeping kids safe, visit www.preventneedlessdeaths.com.
Written by Jennifer Kuhn
Originally published in the April 2018 edition of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.