Prevention is best, but what if your little one injures herself at home? These are what you should do when mishaps happen, the experts tell.
OH NO! Your little one fell off the bed and hit her head.
Keep a close eye on her for three days after she suffers a head injury, says Dr Tham Lai Peng, senior consultant paediatrician at the Department of Emergency Medicine from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Take her to the Emergency Department immediately if you notice any of these signs:
• Changes in behaviour, such as irritability, disorientation and confusion
• Bleeding from the ears or nose
• Unsteady gait
• Weakness of arms
• Unusual eye movements
What you want to rule out are skull fractures and brain injuries that can be serious. While monitoring your baby, avoid giving her medication that may cause drowsiness.
Never leave your young child unattended on an adult bed or other high surface, even if you think she is asleep.
If you must walk away for a while, always leave her in the cot or playpen instead.
Once your toddler moves to her big-kid bed, install bed rails to prevent falls.
Also, it is important that you don’t put your little one in a sarong cradle – this is a terribly unsafe practice that needs to be discontinued, explains Dr Natalie Epton, a specialist paediatrician and neonatologist from SBCC Baby & Child Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.
Hospitals’ emergency departments see countless cases of babies tumbling out of sarongs onto hard marble floors and sustaining serious head injuries.
OH NO! Your toddler swallowed your pills or household cleaning solution.
Your young child may appear to be well even after she swallows medication like paracetamol, iron tablets, as well as pills for diarrhoea, high blood pressure and diabetes, Dr Tham from KKH says. But this doesn’t mean you should adopt a waitandsee attitude; visit a doctor right away.
If you know what she has taken, bring along the labelled container so that when treatment is needed, it can be done early, Dr Tham explains. The same advice applies if she has ingested household cleaning solutions.
Never stick your fingers into her throat to induce vomiting – that may make her choke, warns Ambrose Lee, assistant head at Singapore Red Cross Academy.
The hazardous substance may end up going into the lungs, causing breathing problems, he adds.
On your way to the hospital, dilute the poison by feeding her about 30ml of water or milk in small sips, Dr Tham from KKH advises.
Store medications and kitchen cleaning chemicals in locked cabinets or places that are beyond her reach, advises Dr Andrea Yeo, consultant at National University Hospital’s Children’s Emergency Department.
Never transfer cleaning solutions into old plastic drinking bottles – you don’t want her to mistake it for her favourite juice.
OH NO! You accidentally cut your newborn’s finger while trimming her nails.
Place the finger under running water and press on the wound to stop the bleeding, Dr Tham from KKH advises.
Clean it with antiseptic solution and cover with a non-stick sterile dressing. This first-aid method applies to all cuts.
While you might be eager to check on it, refrain from changing her dressing too frequently. Do so only every three to four days, as removing it daily will pull off the healing tissue and prolong recovery.
But see a doctor immediately if the bleeding is serious, Dr Tham adds. If the wound has been contaminated by soil or dirt, take her to the Emergency Department.
A new baby’s nails are tissue-thin and soft – it’s easy to nick some skin if you’re not careful. To prevent such accidents, resist trimming them until after she is at least six weeks old, when they would have become harder, advises Wong Boh Boi, deputy director (clinical) and senior parentcraft lactation consultant at Thomson Medical Centre.
Although some parents prefer to peel the ends off with their fingers or bite them off, Boh Boi doesn’t encourage this practice. That’s because you might tear off more than intended, causing soreness and bleeding.
Instead, use a miniature scissors or clippers specially designed for babies. Both allow for greater accuracy – just choose one that you’re comfortable with.
These scissors usually have blunt, rounded tips and are quiet workers, while some clippers can prevent the blades from getting too close to the flesh of the fingers.
You might find it easier to trim your cutie’s nails while she is asleep or relaxed in a brightly lit area.
Follow the natural curves of the fingernails and cut toenails straight across to avoid painful ingrown nails and infections.
Besides getting the right instrument, Boh Boi reminds that the room should also be well lit. Take your time while you’re at it.
Remember to also keep that clipper and other sharp objects out of reach when you’re done.
OH NO! Your baby had a fall and cannot move her arm.
She might have a fracture, especially if her cry sounds like a sharp scream when you touch the affected limb, says Dr Yeo from NUH. Take her to the hospital for an assessment; she might need an X-ray.
Before that, make a sling to support her arm – you can improvise with a broadfold bandage or a soft towel. Secure the arm to her body with the sling while on the way to the hospital, Singapore Red Cross Academy’s Ambrose says.
If it’s her leg, however, do not move her. There is a chance the broken thigh bone could cut a large artery. Call for an ambulance immediately, Ambrose advises.
To minimise the risk of falls, always wipe spills immediately and use secure rubber mats in the bathtub and shower areas to prevent slipping.
It is also important to never put your little one in a baby walker, Dr Yeo warns. It can tip her over and cause multiple injuries.
Baby-proof your home by installing safety gates to block her access to the stairs, and keep the oor uncluttered to prevent tripping, she adds.
OH NO! Your toddler fell on his face, ending up with a bloody mouth.
Bleeding is common after mouth and face injuries because of cuts to the soft tissues. Most of the time, they are superficial nicks, shares Dr Rashid Tahir, a specialist paediatric dentist at The Kids Dentist.
But when the blood mixes with saliva, resulting in what looks like a lot of blood, it makes the wound seem worse than it is. However, there are rare instances where the wounds are deep and may require stitches.
The best way to stop bleeding is to use a clean towel to apply continuous pressure for 10 minutes. Time yourself – do not keep removing the pressure. Check only after 10 minutes.
Don’t use tissue because the paper may have to be teased off the cut areas, which may start the bleeding again. Don’t rinse away the blood – this is the worst thing to do because it will prevent the blood from clotting.
But why not use a cold compress? Dr Tahir says it isn’t a practical option because it is too bulky and will not fit into the oral cavity. Using ice cubes won’t help either because when the ice melts, it may delay the blood from clotting.
Any mouth and face trauma should be examined by a dentist. Three types of tooth injuries could have happened, Dr Tahir says:
TOOTH AND ROOT FRACTURES
Such fractures may expose the nerves and cause the tooth to be wobbly and painful when chewing. Worse, the upper part of the tooth may be dislodged and cause a choking hazard to children below three years old. An X-ray may be required.
TOOTH DISPLACEMENT INJURIES
Most mouth injuries can cause the teeth to become wobbly or, in severe cases, fall out. In this case, it can be a choking hazard.
SOFT TISSUE INJURIES
He may be suffering from pain caused by mild bruising to lacerations in the soft tissues, like lips or gums.
Injuries to primary teeth can cause infections that may harm the child. They may even disturb the development of the underlying forming adult teeth and will require long-term follow-ups.
“I remember a young girl who injured herself in an accident and suffered bad cuts on her gums. Amazingly, there were no tooth fractures and the parents didn’t think it was important enough to see a dentist,” Dr Tahir shares.
“A few days later, the lacerated soft tissues got infected. She ended up with facial swelling and fever as a result of the injury complication.
“By the time I saw her, she had developed a bad infection. The poor girl then had to be admitted to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics for the infection.
“I encourage parents to bring their child in for examination with a dentist after an injury, so that the child gets proper medical care.”