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Dad Daze: Don’t forget about child safety during the coronavirus

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 30, 2020

Ed Condran is a features staff writer at The Spokesman-Review. His weekly column, Dad Daze, appears in Family on Mondays.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Ed Condran is a features staff writer at The Spokesman-Review. His weekly column, Dad Daze, appears in Family on Mondays. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Even though 2020 has been a year in which it’s all about adult safety and protection, November is child safety and protection month. It’s critical to note that children remain vulnerable, particularly in the home. My four children are long past those early years when my wife and I spent countless hours making sure each room was as safe as possible.

However, small items can slip through the cracks. What worried me the most was what I joked about during a standup set. About a decade ago while participating in the Underground Comedy Festival’s “Funniest New York Journalist Competition,” I would use my kids as material: “Whenever I’m short at a toll booth, I reach back to the inhabitant in the baby seat and into my son’s mouth for change.”

My kids did have a tendency to find coins in the cushions of chairs, and they played with the shiny currency. Sometimes, they would place those nickels and dimes in their mouths. The memories send shivers up and down my spine since I recall the fear I had of the potential internal damage or if a coin would become lodged in a young throat.

I don’t recall any issues with lithium coin batteries, but they weren’t ubiquitous like they are now. However, a few months ago, a friend told me she discovered her toddler was sucking on a lithium coin battery. She was fortunate since her son didn’t swallow it.

However, not all parents are so fortunate. Hundreds of children are rushed to the emergency room after swallowing lithium coin batteries. These numbers are on the rise due to the increase in devices using these small objects.

It took a while, but a company finally developed a laudable safety measure. Duracell developed a breakthrough bitter coating for its lithium coin batteries, which helps deter accidental ingestion. The bitter coated batteries saw the light of day in October.

Damage, such as burns to the throat and esophagus, can occur within two hours of ingestion. Kudos to Duracell since I know how easy it is to drop a lithium coin battery, which can be as difficult to find as a dime in a carpet. But it’s amazing how babies and toddlers discover such items.

Since many folks are working from home, it’s a great time to childproof your house. Use the commuting time you’ve gained to make your baby or toddler’s room and areas are safer.

• The bathroom is one of the more dangerous places in the home. Children can drown in surprisingly small amounts of water. Make sure the bathroom door is closed.

• Be wary of heavy objects. I’ll never forget when my daughter Jane was 2 years old, and she pulled on a drawer in front of a chest of drawers in the master bedroom. It was packed top heavy, and it fell toward her. It was if it occurred in slow motion. Miraculously, the drawer was close enough to the bed, and that’s where it landed. Because there was a gap, Jane fell safely to the floor. I immediately chained the chest to the wall and then read about how common such a tragedy is due to heavy objects crushing children.

• Install gates around stairs. It just takes a second for a child to tumble down, and the potential injury is frightening. We avoided that dilemma but failed when it came to knowing where our children are at all times. It’s difficult to track toddlers at every moment, so you should create a safe spot for babies when you’re engaged in chores.

• When my son Milo was 18 months old, he was crawling around while my wife was vacuuming with the attachment. He placed his little right finger inside the bottom of the vacuum, and the heat generated melted the skin. It was off to the emergency room. My wife has an indelible memory, but fortunately Milo was too young to remember the vacuum mishap. The scar remains on his right pinky.

• Keep windows guarded. Window falls are a tragedy. Children are compelled to peek outside. Secure windows so they can’t open more than four inches. Purchase window stops so you can screw them into the window frame. If you would rather not drill holes, there are versions with suction cups.

• The best way to guard against sharp corner injuries is to drop to the floor so you’re at the same eye level as your baby. You can see where you will need corner guards for tables.

• Outlets are dangerous. Children tend to place objects into electrical sockets. The best way to guard against tragedy is to purchase safe plate standard outlet covers, which are inexpensive ($4 via Amazon) and effective.

Do your best to protect your child. However, don’t stress out and wrap your little one in shrink wrap. Let your children have fun, but be aware of your surroundings, and pay attention.

It might not seem like it, but the toddler experience is short. Before long, your children will be independent, but during those early years, they need you to look out for them.

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