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Pediatrician: Most injuries, accidents are preventable
Not surprisingly, weather-related injuries – heat stroke, burn from hot seat belt buckle – are common in Yuma, according to a local pediatrician.
But some might think it's ironic that water-related injuries and accidents are just as common in this desert community.
However, Dr. Robert Cannell, a pediatrician at Sunset Community Health Center, points out that it's not so surprising considering Yuma's abundance of pools, canals, lakes and the Colorado River.
Raising Yuma asked Cannell to talk about the most common injuries and accidents involving children that he sees in his practice. And the pediatrician notes that most injuries and accidents are preventable.
“Water and kids are not a good combination,” Cannell said.
He's especially concerned with pools but he notes that a child can drown even in a bucket of water.
The only way to prevent this is to keep a close eye on children at all times.
“Little kids, you've got to watch them like hawks. They can drown in a heart beat,” he said.
That's why he recommends parents hold off on getting a pool until kids are at least “4-5-6” years old, Cannell said.
But if they do opt to get a pool or already have one, “make sure they can't just hop in” by installing proper fencing with a self-locking door around it.
Around canals, lakes and rivers, parents should “keep an eye” on their children, he added.
Drowning isn't the only risk kids face in a pool.
“Once in a while, we get a child with water intoxication,” Cannell said.
This usually happens when infants are allowed to go underwater during baby swim lessons.
“They might not breathe in the water, but they'll swallow and swallow water,” he explained.
This can result in a dangerous drop in sodium levels, leading to convulsions and seizures.
“These are hard to stop,” Cannell said.
Therefore, he suggests, “enjoy the pool with your kids but keep them above water.”
Yumans are no strangers to heat stroke, but Cannell still treats plenty of cases every year.
The best way to prevent heat exhaustion is by ensuring kids have “free and easy access to the indoors so they can cool off” when they're playing outside, he said.
And make sure they drink plenty of fluids, he added.
Parents know about the dangers of leaving kids in the car in hot weather, but they might not think about the indirect harm the sun can cause. Cannell has had to treat children suffering from burns caused by hot car seats and seat belt buckles.
“It's one of the unique things here,” he said.
Before settling a child into the car, touch the seat and buckles to see how hot they are. The best way to these prevent burns is to cover the car seat and seat belt buckles with a towel.
Choking is one of the most common accidents Cannell has seen, especially in children under 3 years old.
The pediatrician recommends keeping small objects away from small children, and he's not just talking about toys. Many cases of choking are caused by small-sized foods such as peanuts and popcorn.
Once a child aspirates a piece of food into the lungs, it has to be taken out.
“We can't leave it in and we can't remove it here. The child has to be airlifted to Phoenix,” Cannell explained.
He suggests not feeding children these type of foods until they are at least 4 years old. Before then, “they have a tendency to choke,” Cannell said.
Stings and bites
It's more rare, but Cannell also treats cases of bug and snake bites and stings. Usually they result in discomfort and pain but are not a cause for alarm. But on occasion they are cause infections or allergic reactions.
According to kidshealth.org, parents should seek immediate treatment if they notice the following signs of infection or allergic reaction: wheezing or difficulty breathing; tightness in throat or chest; swelling of the lips, tongue or face; dizziness or fainting; nausea or vomiting; a large skin rash or swelling around the sting site; or if swelling or pain persists for more than 3 days, which could indicate an infection.
Cannell has also treated children for snake bites. Small children are curious and might reach for a snake, instead of running away from it. Or they might accidentally step on a snake.
Although only about 5 percent of snakes in the U.S. are venous, parents should treat all snake bites as if they were venomous and get to a hospital right away, accordign to John Hopkins Medicine (www.hopkinsmedicine.org).
Even a bite from a nonvenomous snake can cause infection or allergic reaction in some people, notes the website.
To reduce a child's chances of being bitten by a snake, Hopkins recommends the following precautions: Teach a child to leave snakes alone; make sure a child stays out of tall grass unless he or she wears thick leather boots; and do not allow a child to place his or her hands and feet in areas he or she cannot see.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.
How to prevent burns in children
• Store chemicals, including gasoline, out of the reach of children.
• To prevent electrical burns, put covers on any electrical outlets that are within children's reach. Throw out electrical cords that are frayed or damaged in any way.
• Use space heaters carefully and teach children to stay away from them.
• Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or where children can't reach them.
• Never leave candles unattended. Blow them out when you leave the room.
• If you smoke, don't smoke in bed. Get rid of used cigarettes carefully.
• Touch the car seat to see how hot it is. Cover the car seat with a towel when you park in the sun.
• Don't let small children play near the stove or help you cook at the stove.
• Do not use a microwave oven to warm baby bottles. The liquid may heat up unevenly and scald your baby's mouth.
• Cover electrical outlets to prevent electrical burns in babies, toddlers and small children.
• Unplug hot irons, such as clothes irons or curling irons, and keep them out of reach of children.
How to prevent hot water burns
• Test the water temperature before you or your children get into the tub or shower. Don't let young children touch the faucet handles during a bath.
• Set the temperature on your water heater to 120º F, or use the “low-medium” setting. Water that is hotter than this can cause burns in 2 to 3 seconds.
• Turn the handles of pots and pans toward the side of the stove, or use the back burners of the stove.
• Use cool-water humidifiers or vaporizers. If you use hot-steam vaporizers, keep them out of the reach of children.