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Be Wary of the Poisons You May Carry!

Child Safety Link is a Maritime wide child and youth injury prevention program located at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, NS. Partially funded by the generosity of donors, the Child Safety Link aims to reduce the incidence and severity of injury to children and youth. Julie Harrington, Coordinator with the Child Safety Link, provides some helpful tips to keep your young ones safe.

Child going through purseAs it is for many, my handbag is a catch-all necessity that I take everywhere I go. It’s full to the brim with stuff that helps make my day go more smoothly—keys, phone, wallet, lipstick, extra toothbrush, hand sanitizer, travel bottle of ibuprofen, phone charger, pack of gum—and the list goes on and on.

For small children however, “Mom’s Purse” –or anyone’s for that matter—can seem like an amusement park full of wonders! What many don’t realize is that most handbags contain at least one item that can seriously harm a small child.

Writing this blog made me curious as to what was in my own bag, so I dumped the contents out on my desk. To my surprise, it contained 7 items that could be considered poisonous! These items are everyday, ordinary things I would never have thought twice about. But, by definition, a poison can be any drug or non-drug substance that can cause illness or injury after ingesting it or coming into contact with it.

In Atlantic Canada, poisoning accounts for 7% of all childhood injuries that require hospitalization. Not surprisingly, children aged five years and younger account for 79% of these hospitalizations due to their hand-to-mouth habits. One common place young children are accessing poisons is from purses that have been left within reach.

According to the IWK Regional Poison Centre, there are five items commonly found in purses that we purse-carriers need to be especially careful with:

  • Toothpaste: Toothpaste can be appealing to kids, especially those with candy-like flavours and packaging. Many types of toothpaste contain sodium fluoride, which is meant for topical purposes to prevent tooth decay. However, if it is swallowed, this mixes with stomach juices to create a poison that can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or in more extreme cases, low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
  • Medication: Kids can be attracted to pills because they can look or taste like candy, with bright colours and sugary coatings. However, young children are especially vulnerable to medication because of their smaller size and weight, and can be seriously injured by even common medicines (i.e. acetaminophen) or supplements (i.e. iron pills).
  • Nicotine: Cigarettes, nicotine gum and some electronic cigarette refill bottles can be a poisoning risk for children. Even mild nicotine poisoning in a child can result in nausea and vomiting, weakness, tremors or seizures. Nicotine gum is especially scary as it is packaged just like regular bubblegum, which many kids love.
  • Alcohol:  That peach-scented hand sanitizer?—not so “peachy” after all. Perfumes, hand sanitizers, mouthwashes—these cosmetic items all contain concentrated alcohol, and can be attractive to small children because of their colour or scent. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can range from drowsiness and vomiting, to difficulty breathing.
  • Coins: Swallowing a coin could be harmless, if it passes through the digestive system, but can become VERY dangerous if it becomes lodged at any point in the digestive tract.

What can we do to help prevent unintentional poisonings? Because we are always going to carry these necessities in our purses, it is of the utmost importance that handbags be kept away from small children whether you are at home or visiting another home. Be aware of what Grandma does with her handbag when she comes to visit your home, too.

As for the contents of the purse, it’s a good idea to always keep medication in its original, child-resistant container, NOT in a plastic baggie or pill container. Keep in mind that “child-resistant” packaging does not mean “child proof”—even children as young as one have managed to open these containers!

March 16-22 is Poison Prevention Week across Canada, and the public can visit the Child Safety Link website at www.childsafetylink.ca for these and more tips on keeping children safe from unintentional poisonings. Please share this message and help keep our children safe!

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.

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From the bottom of my heart – thank you!

Boy reading a card

Tristan Gallant reads a congratulatory card with his mom, from one of his supporters.

As a Mom, you hope you never in your life hear the words ‘Your child has cancer.’ The reality is, many of us do hear these words at some point in life. And then begins the journey of treatment, sleepless nights worrying about and watching over your child, and hope and prayers. That journey – if you live in the Maritimes – ultimately involves the IWK Health Centre working with your local hospital to deliver the best possible care for your child.

Just three years ago my son, Tristan Gallant, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Today, thanks to the IWK and immeasurable support from family, friends, colleagues, schools, and businesses, locally and across Canada,  Tristan is a happy and healthy ten-year-old boy. When I was asked if he would be this year’s Change Bandit Hero for the 103.9 MAX and K 94-5 FM Cares for Kids IWK Radiothon, I was honoured. Tristan was very excited about his important role, and got busy right away telling all his friends and helping us spread the word about his goal to raise $15,000 to support the most urgent priorities at the IWK.

The Radiothon was held at Champlain Place last week – and when we found out the Change Bandits raised a whopping $24,594.12, we realized more than ever how much this community supports Tristan and the IWK! We extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported Tristan’s Change Bandit efforts, and special thanks to the following:

  • Big sister Jasmine J
  • Moncton Hospital
  • Claude D. Taylor School for sock hop, hat day, and lassoing loot!
  • All schools in Anglophone East School District for a very successful casual day!
  • Riverview Lions Club for lassoing loot!
  • Champlain Place, 103.9 MAX FM and 94-5 FM for supporting and raising IWK awareness
  • Atlantic Superstore and all other local Radiothon sponsors
  • Uncle Wayne Gallant for using his gift of music to raise awareness for the IWK and ‘drum up support’ (literally) for Tristan’s fundraising.
  • Tristan – for being our hero all the time, and for helping so many other children at the IWK through your beautiful personality, bright smile, and remarkable fundraising! We love you Tristan! 

Debi Gallant
(Tristan’s mom!)

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Another Way TV Can Harm Your Kids

Julie Harrington is a public relations coordinator at the Child Safety Link, a Maritime-wide children’s injury prevention program based at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia

We bought a new TV for the family room recently, and the old “clonker” TV wasn’t even in the storage closet for an hour before my kids came to me with a “brilliant” idea: could they move it into their bedroom? They wanted to watch movies and play Wii on it.

“We’d put it right up there on top of the high dresser,” said my son, “so you can see it from every part of the room.”

Working at Child Safety Link, the children’s injury prevention program at the IWK Health Centre, I immediately saw a problem with this plan.

“Even if I let you have a TV in your room,” I said to them, “it could never go on top of the dresser.” And then I told them about the growing phenomenon known as “Toppling TVs.”

picture tube tvWe all know that there are better things for the health of children than too much television. Regardless, TVs are everywhere—in 98% of Canadian homes, with the average home containing two or three. What people don’t realize is the serious physical hazard that such a common household item can pose to children—especially small children. In fact, there has been a growing trend across North America of televisions toppling over onto children, causing serious and sometimes even fatal injuries. In the U.S. in 2011, children injured by falling TVs visited hospitals 17,000 times!

Why are toppling TVs a “growing” trend? Because as technology advances, more people are replacing their picture tube or “CRT” (cathode ray tube) television sets in their living rooms with lighter, flatscreen TVs.  Often, these older sets are moved to rooms where children are more likely to play, such as bedrooms or playrooms. CRT televisions are not only heavy and bulky, but are easy to tip over because they are so front-heavy, and some of them can weigh up to 100 pounds! Often, these older sets are placed on top of bureaus or other furniture not designed for a top-heavy load. It’s all too easy to imagine: a child would only have to open one or two drawers of the bureau for it to tip over, sending the heavy television—and probably the piece of furniture too—onto the child.

Toppling injuries happen most commonly to children between the ages of 1 and 4 years—the age where kids start exploring and climbing. The most common type of trauma sustained in these incidents is a head or neck injury. Although my older boys wouldn’t be climbing on a bureau, they probably wouldn’t think twice about opening two or more drawers in the daily hunt for socks and underwear. The thought of what could happen is truly chilling! 

There are some pretty easy things we can do to make sure our television sets—and other pieces of heavy furniture—stay safety upright: 

  • Make sure that your television set is placed on stable furniture with a low, wide base, and that the set is pushed back as far as it can go. Never place TVs on bureaus or shelves that aren’t designed for top-heavy weight.
  • While you are at it, verify that all furniture in your home is stable. For storage units like dressers and cabinets, place heavier items in lower drawers or compartment so that the unit is bottom-heavy, and therefore more stable. Avoid putting CRT televisions in rooms where children often play. 
  • Use anchors or safety straps for all entertainment units, TV stands, bookcases, shelving and bureaus. Anchor these pieces to a wall or to the floor using hardware like brackets, screws, and toggles. Your local hardware store should be able to provide advice on your options for securing furniture, and tips for installation.
  • Don’t put the remote control, toys or anything else a child might want, on top of the TVMany children have toppled TVs trying to reach these things. 
  • Supervise children while they play in the home and teach them not to climb on the furniture. 
  • Make sure any electrical cords are kept tucked away behind the furniture and out of reach of children. 

Check out Child Safety Link’s new Public Service Announcement on how to safeguard your home from falling tvs and furniture, which will be airing for the next few months on CTV Atlantic.

 For more information on children’s injury prevention for all ages and stages, visit the Child Safety Link website at www.childsafetylink.ca .

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Playing safe in the snow.

Julie Harrington is a coordinator at the Child Safety Link Child Safety Link, a Maritime-wide children’s injury prevention program based at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

008Now that the storm is over and we are all (mostly) “dug out,”  many Maritime children are now gazing out their windows at a very tempting sight—high, fluffy, white snow banks and snow piles as far as the eye can see. While this major snowfall has been a major pain for many adults (i.e. extra shoveling and traffic jams), children see it as a great time to climb, build and slide on mountains of white stuff.

Parents love seeing their children playing in the snow, cheeks rosy and pink, smiles wide, having a blast! And why not: it’s fantastic see our kids being active and creative outside for hours on end, particularly after being cooped up for days inside.

However, it is important for all parents and caregivers to be aware of the potential hazards of snow play involving snow forts, tunnels and tall snow banks.

There are no national statistics on the types and number of childhood injuries that occur annually in Canada, but health officials say at least one Canadian child suffocates each year after being trapped in a snow structure. The children are usually school-age and generally old enough to play outside by themselves. Children who suffocate in the snow are also often playing by themselves when they become trapped in a snow structure.

Child Safety Link would like to remind parents and caregivers of the following tips that will help your children to be safe while they are having fun outside in these wintery conditions:

  • If children want to build snow structures in the yard, they should not make roofs or form a tunnel that could collapse on them. Encourage them to have fun by being creative—perhaps they could make a house with walls (instead of a ceiling) and fill it with “snow furniture.”
  • Active supervision is important when young children are playing outside in the snow. School-aged children should play outside with a friend who could call for help if a situation arose.
  • Children should never play in or on snow banks that border roads, as snow plow operators and other drivers may not know there are children on/in them.
  • Children should keep well away from snowblowers (both the machine itself and the snow plume that is ejected from it), as well as snow plows.

Please visit Child Safety Link’s website at www.childsafetylink.ca for these and more tips on winter safety for children of all ages and stages.