Who knew that keeping a small human safe and alive could be so all-consuming and relentless! The hypervigilance that’s required when caring for a baby, particularly one that’s become increasingly mobile and curious, can be exhausting…and somewhat surprising to find what poses a danger on a daily basis.
You probably think you’ve got the home covered in terms of baby-proofing. Furniture is secure, breakables are up high, hot drinks are out of reach, and your little one’s cot is free of, well, everything except the firm mattress. Power points are covered, electrical wires hidden, blind cords secure…phew, surely that’s everything!
You might be shocked to discover what health hazards lurk in the home and when you go out. This isn’t to scare you, but to make you aware of the dangers that you might not have considered. Here are just six unexpected health hazards for babies and toddlers, followed by strategies to keep your little one safe.
1. Eating in the car
We’ve all been there. We’re stuck in traffic or bub is unhappy in their carseat for any number of reasons, so we pass back a little snack to keep them occupied until we can get them out. The problem is that choking is silent, so you won’t even know it’s happening if it does. Then, there’s the issue of potentially not being able to pull over quickly enough.
Safe strategy: Give them a teething toy to chew on, or pull over safely somewhere to offer them a cuddle or something to eat if they’re getting distressed.
2. Falling asleep sitting up with bub
If your little one is going through a phase of not wanting to be put down (in other words, most newborns!), one of the most dangerous things you can do is sit up in bed, or on a chair or beanbag with them when you’re exhausted yourself. It increases the risk of SIDS, injury, and accidental suffocation.
Safe solution: If there’s a risk that you could fall asleep while you’re holding your baby, it’s important to move your baby to a safe sleep environment. If your baby hates the cot, there is an alternative option you could consider. Read this article.
3. Latex balloons
Balloons are one of the worst things to choke on because they can completely block breathing by conforming to a child’s throat. Children of different ages have died in Australia as a result of playing with balloons.
Safe solution: If a balloon pops, throw away the pieces immediately. Never allow your baby to chew on or bite balloons, whether inflated or not. It’s a good idea to ban balloons from the home, or choose mylar (foil) balloons instead, and always supervise children when playing with them.
4. Handbags and nappy bags
Bags look so enticing to a baby or toddler with all of those zips and pockets, and possible treasures to be discovered within. However, whether it’s yours or someone’s who’s visiting your home, they may contain items that could choke, poison, or injure your baby, such as coins, creams, pen lids, medications, or cosmetics.
Safe solution: Have a location in the home, such as a cupboard or room with the door closed, to keep bags out of reach. Check the contents of your bags regularly, and remove any potential dangers.
5. Popcorn and marshmallows
Popcorn and marshmallows pose two of the highest choking hazard foods for small children. Popcorn also poses an aspiration risk, which means that pieces can be inhaled and get stuck in their lungs. Marshmallows are around the same size as a small child’s airway. As it mixes with saliva, it becomes sticky, meaning that even administering back blows in a choking emergency may not dislodge it.
Safe solution: Popcorn should not be given to children under 4 years of age, but many experts recommend avoiding it until 5 years of age. It’s cute when little ones start having babycinos in cafes, but they usually come with marshmallows, so remember to say no to them when you order one.
6. Certain plants
Gardens are fun and interesting places to explore, but unfortunately some plants are poisonous or dangerous, particularly for little ones who put everything in their mouth. Such highly poisonous plants include castor oil plants, coral trees, common, pink, or yellow oleander, deadly nightshade; and some dangerous ones to avoid include Angel’s trumpet, Arum Lily, chilies, cacti, and mushrooms or toadstools.
Safe solution: If you’re unsure whether the plants in your garden are safe or not, ask your local nursery for advice. You could also get a list of poisonous plants from your council or Kidsafe NSW’s ‘Grow me safely’ list of plants to avoid.