Sick_kids_2 On Friday, A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended a ban on over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children younger than 6.    Many reports showed that the medicines were nothing more than a placebo and recommended the drugs be tested to see if they are in any way effective.  The recommendations apply to medicines containing at least one of the following ingredients: decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines and antitussives, the AP reported.

So today, as we read the reports that the medicine we’ve been giving our children for years is not only ineffective but might not be safe, how will moms respond?  For the past few days, as initial reports having been coming through,  my e-mail box has been jammed with questions and concerns from moms on what this really means.  Most will be scouring their medicine cabinet and probably filling at least a bag full with medicines they will be discarding. 

Between this news and the spate of toy recalls, it leaves all of us anxious.  How do we best care for our children and keep them safe?  Is this a call for "back to basics?"  Most pediatricians will advise parents that the best remedies for babies when they have colds is saline drops and cool mist vaporizers.   As moms, we took comfort in the fact that, when we saw our little ones miserable from a cold or flu, we could give them something to make them feel better.   Now, we’re waking up to the fact that there’s no magic bullet.  Our children’s illness needs to run its course and we’re in for some cranky days and sleepless nights.    But in the end, we’re willing to put up with this if we know that it is the safer alternative to the chemicals we’ve been giving our babies that could potentially harm them rather than cure them. 

Kids_2 My daughter Kelsey started kindergarten this week.  She loved everything about it except taking the bus home after school. Unfortunately we’re the last house on the bus run so she was by herself which was a little frightening for her.  Of course I told her I’d pick her up from school instead.  It turns out that this was frightening for me!  What I realized is that, while teachers are outside monitorning that someone is actually picking up my daughter, they are not concerned who it is.  I merely drive my car up to the "pick-up" circle, roll down my window and tell the teacher that I’m picking up Kelsey.  Unfortunately anyone could do this!  Thinking that perhaps I was missing something, I checked the school handbook with all of the rules and regulations.  Unfortunately, nothing about "pick-up protocol" was included.  What if there was a restraining order against one parent?  How about a disgruntled ex-nanny or babysitter?  I’m curious to find out from you about your elementary school’s protocol regarding pick-up — or lack thereof…

Hotel This past weekend my husband and I took a mini vacation.  When we came out of our hotel room we found a boy who looked to be about five years old standing in the middle of the hall.  When I asked him where his mom and dad were he said that he had left his room to go find the soda machine.  He got lost trying to find his way back.  Within about two minutes a woman opened one of the doors down the hall and frantically raced out.  She explained that she had been in the shower and her son must have walked out the door without her knowing it.  While I’d like to think this doesn’t happen often I tend to suspect this isn’t the case.  It’s so easy for all of us, when we’re on vacation, to overlook child safety hazards that we wouldn’t when we are in familiar surroundings.  But hotels are usually not designed with children in mind and it’s up to us to make sure our kids are safe when staying at hotels.

I know when we check into a hotel room with our kids the first thing they want to do is jump on the beds but once the initial excitement wears off I tell them that we’re going to have a "safety talk."  I explain that they are never to walk out the door or go onto the balcony without mom or dad knowing.  We all look at the fire escape route that is always posted on the back of the door and we decide on a spot where we would meet outside the hotel if we ever got seperated during a fire.  We also remind them that if only one of us is in the room and the other is in the shower they are never to open the door for anyone. 

Of course, this is fine for my two older children but we need to take extra precautions with the baby. Take a few moments when you get into the room to baby proof the room as you would your own home:

  • Tie-up any window blinds cords that might be hanging down
  • Bring some electrical ties with you to secure lamp cords to the legs of tables
  • Use band-aids to cover up electrical outlet sockets
  • If there is a mini-bar that is unlocked remove all alcohol and choking related food items
  • Be sure to keep the dead bolt and chain guard secured on the door and balcony door at all times
  • Ask hotel staff to remove any furniture from the balcony
  • Bring a tub mat and bathtub ring with you to prevent slipping in the bathtub
  • Move glasses and glass coffee carafes out of reach
  • Bring a portable gate with you if you are staying in a duplex room to secure the stairs
  • Keep toiletries in the closet on the highest shelf

Also, if you are borrowing a crib from the hotel, check that they have Pak-n-Plays as opposed to older cribs that might not meet today’s safety standards.

I do love staying at full service suites when I travel with my kids.  It’s so much more convenient to give them a quick bowl of cereal in the room or some pasta at night rather than sitting with potentially tired and cranky kids in a restaurant.  But when you have a kitchen area in your hotel room there are even more safety hazards.  Be sure all electrical appliances are pushed back out of reach and move all sharp objects to the highest cabinet possible.

It’s also a good idea to do a little research prior to your trip and find a local pediatrician and pharmacy in case of emergencies.  And be sure that your kids have memorized your cell phone number and the name of the hotel you’re staying at should they get lost.

Images: Getty Images

Girls_in_poolI’ve blogged about this before but it’s such an important issue I need to get the word out again.  It appears as if a 6 year old boy in Greenwich, CT drowned over the weekend after becoming entrapped in the drain of an in-ground pool.

As parents, summer should be a time to look forward to, not to dread for fear of your child drowning.  And while it’s up to us to closely monitor our children when they’re in the water, the government must put some standards in place for helping safeguard our children. 

The Pool and Spa Safety Act (HR 1721) sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D – Fla.) has beeen reintroduced to Congress.  Last year, it failed by 9 votes — that’s inexcusable.  We need to reach out to our representatives and let them know that our children’s safety is a top priority for us and needs to be for them as well.    

Toddler_playing
I was talking to some friends this weekend about the recall of the Easy Bake Oven – one of my absolute favorite toys growing up. I was amazed to find out how many of my friends with teenage daughters still have their Easy Bake Ovens in a closet somewhere.  The same was true for the recent recall on some of the Thomas The Tank Engine toys.  These are some of the "classic" toys that have been around forever and get handed down to younger siblings, cousins, friends etc.   

A problem arises when these toys are handed down and there has been a product recall that the new owner is unaware of.  This is why I always advise parents never to accept hand me down toys or products such as high chairs, cribs and especially car seats.  Safety guidelines change and product recalls effect specific designs and model date. 

In addition to avoiding hand me down items or those purchased from tag sales, keep the following safety thoughts in mind when purchasing toys:

  • According to the National Safe Kids Council, falls and choking cause the most toy-related deaths and injuries in children. Choking alone causes one third of all toy-related deaths – most from balloons.

  • Children 4 years old and younger account for almost half of all toy-related injuries and almost all deaths.

  • Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, www.cpsc.org, and sign up to receive notice regarding any juvenile product recall
  • Immediately fill out the manufacturer’s product warranty card when purchasing a toy or juvenile product so that you will be informed of any recall.

Baby_2 On Tuesday a 7 1/2 month-old baby died when he rolled between a bed mattress and a wall. A U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission survey revealed that there are, on average, 64 deaths per year of children under the age of 2 from sleeping in an adult bed.  This is a tragedy that hits close to home for me.  In 1997 my first child died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Since then, I have been preaching safe sleeping practices to everyone.  With my subsequent children, I wanted to keep them close to me at night, just to hear them breathing.  I loved my co-sleeper which allowed them to be right next to me but in a safe sleeping area.  I also made sure to keep blankets and soft bedding out of the co-sleeper.

But I know that co-sleeping is a topic that moms have strong opinons about.   And, having experienced many bleary-eyed nights myself, I also know that sleep deprived parents will do anything to get their baby to sleep which includes bringing her into their bed.  Last year a New York Times article discussed the “dirty little secret” that moms, while recognizing they should not co-sleep with their children, were doing it in record numbers for a variety of reasons.

What are your thoughts on co-sleeping?

Farris_wheel
Last week a 4 year old boy drowned at an amusement park in Santa Clara, California.  A teenage girl was killed in Wisconsin after falling 40 – 50 ft from a bungee-jumping ride.  And several weeks ago a 13-year old girl had her ankles severed off at a Six Flags in Kentucky.  What’s going on???

A reporter from the local news station called me to quote on this recent spate of accidents so I started doing some research on the regulations surrounding amusement park rides.   I was horrified!

According to SafeParks, a non-profit organization that works to prevent amusement park industries, amusement park rides are the only products marketed to children that are exempt from all federal safety oversight. Child safety features mandated for other vehicles and products used by children (e.g., harnesses and lap belts in cars, strollers, bike trailers, etc.) are not required on amusement rides used by young children.  Additionally, there are no standardized criteria for minimum height limits or containment systems for amusement rides approved for use by young children.

My son is now getting to the age where he wants to ride on every ride there is.  He’s large for his age but these facts still make me reconsider which rides I’ll allow him to go on.  And my middle daughter is extremely petite.  I can’t even imagine letting her go on any rides until she’s much older. 

What’s the answer?  As SafeParks proposes, national standards should be passed as federal legislation. As with any other vehicle that a child rides in, proper restraining systems should be in place.  But it’s also up to us as parents to be a little more mindful of the rides we allow our children to go on.  Our kids need to be taught never to stand up in a ride – even if they’re scared they need to wait until the ride is over.   

Were you aware of the lack of oversight for amusement park rides?  Does this concern you as much as it does me?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and any  amusement park incidents that have happened to your family.  The more we make parents aware of this, the more likely we can make a trip to the carnival a fun and safe outing!

 

Swimmy_7Last year, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla) introduced legislation to help protect our children around pools.  It failed by nine votes during the last few hours the House of Representatives was in session.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz is now reintroducing the bill.  Entitled The Pool and Spa Safety Act (HR 1721), the legislation would provide grants to states which require all swimming pools and spas to have these layers of protection:

  1. Installation of physical barriers (such as a fence) around a pool to prevent children’s unattended access.
  2.   Mandates pools to be equipped with a suction outlet drain cover which prevents hair and body entanglement.
  3.   Requires the installation of a safety vacuum release system, shutting off a pump if it detects a blockage.
  4. Public awareness campaign regarding the importance of active supervision of children at or near a pool.

Given the recent spate of drowning in the news, you would think this would be a no-brainer. But what’s interesting is that a large percentage of people still don’t understand how dangerous a pool can be.  According to a new survey by The Home Safety Council, less than half (49%) of U.S. adults actively supervise children when they are in or near water. There are probably several reasons for this:

  • Parents are having their children wear flotation devises which give a false sense of security
  • The child has taken swim lessons and/ or knows how to swim so the parents feel he or she no longer needs supervision
  • Parents become distracted by friends, other children, the phone or the doorbell

If we as parents don’t recognize how dangerous a pool can be, how will congress understand the urgency to pass this legislation?

The good news is that some states are addressing this problem on their own. Most recently, New York state passed a law which requires an alarm be installed on any pool constructed after December, 2006.

At Peek-a-Boo Baby Proofing, we started carrying and installing Baby Guard removable mesh pool fencing after two children drowned in a nearby town.  We felt it was our responsibility as child safety experts to educate parents about the need for layers of safety when it comes to pools. (Perhaps we need to go to Washington and educate our representatives as well!)

With drowning being the second-leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death for children under the age of 5, we as parents need to start recognizing how dangerous a pool can be. Unfortunately the most recent incidents have involved children drowning in a neighbor’s pool so it is crucial that everyone have layers of safety for their pool. Let your Congressional representative know that this is a priority to you as a parent and let’s all help save some lives!