According to the World Health Organisation, half of all children’s visits to hospital emergency rooms are due to falling. Although most falls only result in a few scrapes or bruises, 130 children die from falls every day. Severe falls can be avoided by making sure your home is fitted with window guards, and that you have specifically designed children’s products and playground equipment that meet safety standards.
It’s inevitable that toddlers will stumble and fall because it’s part of growing up. But how well-equipped are they to handle these potential injuries?
Paediatrician, Dewald Buitendag, says toddlers’ bodies are designed to handle certain blows. Cerebrospinal fluid surrounds a child’s brain, and buffers and protects it when he accidentally bumps his head. He adds that they also tend not to tense up like adults do when they fall, and this limits sprains and fractures.
It’s also very important that when your child hurts himself, be it by tripping, falling off an object or rolling off the bed, that you remain calm. You’ll be surprised at just how resilient he is.
Falls you should take seriously
Despite the common injuries your toddler will suffer, there may come a time when you need to seek medical advice:
- Falls from a counter top, changing table, high chair, jumping castle or a jungle gym need to be carefully assessed, as well as falls down stairs, or on hard surfaces where your toddler’s head takes most of the impact, says Dr Buitendag.
- Once your toddler has been injured, check her body for cuts, swelling or large bumps.
- Apply pressure with dry gauze to cuts that won’t stop bleeding, and take him to the doctor or casualty unit for further assessment. If he’s reluctant to move an arm or leg, he may have sustained a sprain or fracture.
- Ice packs can also be applied to swellings and bumps to prevent them from getting bigger.
- Dr Buitendag says that a child should be taken to casualty immediately if he has lost consciousness, if his pupils differ in size, if he’s confused, drowsy or difficult to wake, if he has weakness in his arms or legs, is vomiting, or has had a convulsion.
Prevention measures indoors
- Put safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs in your home.
- Cover sharp corners with soft material.
- Always strap your child into a car seat.
- Never leave your toddler alone on a bed or couch.
- Install shatterproof glass in sliding glass doors and floor-level windows.
- Remove loose rugs and clutter.
- Clean up spills immediately.
Prevention measures outdoors
- Choose parks and play areas that have soft ground and grass.
- Don’t let your toddler play on a trampoline with no safety net.
- Be very alert at jungle gyms and jumping castles.
- Always keep an eye on your toddler when he plays with other children.
- Ensure that pools and ponds are covered or fenced off.
Although it can be exhausting, apart from the advice and prevention measures given, you will have to resign yourself to keeping a watchful eye on your toddler most of the time. Invariably, injuries happen when nobody has been watching.
More about the expert:
Dr Dewald Buitendag has been in private practise for 27 years. He is a general paediatrician and enjoys all aspects of paediatrics. He sees babies and children from birth till 12 years of age. Learn more about Dr Dewald Buitendag here.
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