While we have all been advised about power points, cables, medicines and sharp objects, new dangers are lurking within the household that may put a young child at risk of choking, accidental poisoning or even death.
Some of these modern day conveniences and technological advances that may actually be life threatening to children are:
Small, powerful magnets are found in everything from toys such as magnetic drawing boards, fridge magnets and train sets to non-toy items such as novelty adult toys like Buckyballs, pocket organizers and jewellery. If ingested, magnets can cause the child to choke, however more serious complications arise when more than one magnet is swallowed or if it is swallowed with another metal object.
Dr. Ruth Barker, emergency paediatrician at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane and the director of Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit (QISU) says that when the magnets are swallowed in sequence, they pass through the stomach and into the intestine. “What happens is, because the gut loops around like a big coiled snake, the magnets attract each other across the two gut walls and they are so strong and have so much attraction that they eat through the tissue.” The resulting perforation may cause gastro-like symptoms such as vomiting and stomach pain. It isn’t until the child gets sicker with infections due to the gut perforation that the problem becomes obvious, says Dr. Barker. Unfortunately, it can be too late by the time the discovery is made. In fact, in 2011, a Queensland toddler died after ingesting 12 small, powerful magnets.
Dr. Barker advises parents to keep magnets from all sources out of reach from small children. Toys with strong magnets meant for older children need to be kept away from younger ones and older children need to be educated about the dangers of ingesting, inserting or applying these magnets to exterior surfaces.
Furthermore, Kidsafe recommends parents to check all toys and items that contain magnets regularly for wear and tear.
If you see or suspect that your child has swallowed one or more magnets, seek advice from the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or take them to the hospital.
Button batteries are found in everything from toys to modern remote controls to singing greeting cards. The small shape of these batteries makes it easy for young children to swallow. Dr. Barker says that an ingested button battery can pass straight through and can become a problem if it lodges and sits in one place for too long. “If the battery comes to rest anywhere in your body, after about an hour, it starts eating through the adjacent tissue,” she says. The most common result is a perforation of the oesophagus.
It is sometimes difficult to tell if a child has something lodged in their oesophagus. The child may be irritable, refusing food and bringing up or regurgitating fluid. The child is often too young to report what happened and unless the ingestion was witnessed by the parents, the doctor can misinterpret the symptoms as gastroenteritis says Dr. Barker. It isn’t until a chest x-ray is performed that the culprit can be found. The longer the battery stays in the child, the more severe the injuries it can cause. Ultimately it can take their life.
Dr. Barker suggests that one thing parents can do is not to buy products that have button batteries in them. “Select products that have bigger AA or AAA batteries,” she says. “If you do have disc batteries in the home, you need to treat them like poison and put them high up and always keep them out of reach. Even spent batteries have enough charge to cause damage so you need have some way of disposing of them safely”
If you see or suspect that your child has swallowed one or more batteries, seek advice from the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or take them to the hospital.
Liquid detergent capsules
In a recent report in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, UK experts warned about the dangers of liquid detergent capsules for dishwashers and washing machines. The “bright colouring” and “soft sweetie-like texture” seem very attractive to kids and if swallowed, the liquid detergent can cause oesophagus perforation, inflammation and even death.
The QISU says that for children under 5, restricting access to drawers and cupboards where detergents and other poisonous substances are kept is the most effective prevention measure. Dr. Barker advises parents to choose products that have child resistant packaging or are less attractive to children.
If you see or suspect that your child has swallowed one or more capsules, seek advice from the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.