How to deal with baby's tumbles

Home should be the safest place for your little one, but you'd be surprised at how easy it is for your child to get into trouble as well.

"For younger children, especially, home is the most dangerous place," said Dr Tham Lai Peng, senior consultant at the department of emergency medicine at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

She and her colleagues attend to the injuries of about 470 young patients every day, with about one out of five patients being under two years of age. Most of the accidents occur at home.

"An injury can occur in just a few seconds, so it is important that caregivers do not become complacent and get distracted when they are looking after children," said Dr Tham.

But that doesn't mean you should keep your child away from play, she added. Just make sure your little one's play activities are done safely and under a watchful eye.

Here are four common situations and how you can deal with and prevent them.

Baby rolls off the bed and hits his head

Keep a close eye on him for three days after he suffers a head injury, said Dr Tham.

Take him to the emergency department immediately if you notice any of the following signs:

-Changes in behaviour, such as irritability, disorientation and confusion
-Bleeding from the ears or nose
-Unsteady gait
-Weakness of arms
-Unusual eye movements

You want to rule out skull fractures and brain injuries that can be serious. While monitoring your baby, avoid giving him medication that may cause drowsiness.

Prevent it:

Never leave your young child unattended on an adult bed, sarong cradle or other high surface, even if you think he is asleep. If you must walk away for a while, always leave your child in the cot or playpen. When your toddler moves to his big-kid bed, install bed rails to prevent falls.

Another bedroom hazard: bunk beds. Dr Andrea Yeo, consultant at National University Hospital's Children's Emergency, cautions against getting them for children under six years old.

Child gets a bruise after bumping into a sharp edge

Wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the bump on his head. Do this for about 10 to 20 minutes, advised Dr Tham. If the swelling is on the arm or leg, prop it up on a pillow or folded blanket.

Then, observe your child: Is he still in pain? Has the swelling worsened, or is he unable to move his limb properly? When in doubt, seek medical attention, as it can be difficult to differentiate between a serious bruise and fractures or other serious injuries, said Dr Tham.

Prevent it:

Have a designated play area that is clutter-free and safe for your curious one to explore, said Dr Yeo. Remove furniture with sharp edges, or pad them up with corner cushions, Dr Tham added.

Don't forget to sanitise the play area regularly to protect your child against rotavirus, which spreads through contaminated surfaces. Common symptoms include diarrhoea, characterised by watery stools, vomiting and fever.

If you have a newborn, ask your doctor about the rotavirus vaccine, which is given orally and needs to be started before the age of four months.

Toddler takes a tumble and cannot move his arm

He might have a fracture, especially if his cry sounds like a sharp scream when you touch the affected limb, said Dr Yeo. Take your child to the hospital; he might need an X-ray.

Before that, make a sling to support his arm - you can improvise with a broad-fold bandage or a soft towel. Secure the arm to his body with the sling while on the way to the hospital, said Mr Ambrose Lee, a senior training instructor at Singapore Red Cross Academy.

If his leg is hurt, do not move him. There is a chance the broken thigh bone could cut a large artery. Call for an ambulance immediately, advised Mr Lee.

Prevent it:

Baby-proof your home by installing safety gates to block his access to the stairs, and keep the floor uncluttered to prevent tripping, said Dr Yeo. Wipe spills immediately, and use secure rubber mats in the bathtub and shower areas to prevent slipping.

Infant slips and falls into the pool

Pull your little one from the pool and call for an ambulance immediately. While waiting, perform

cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if he isn't breathing or doesn't have a pulse, advised Dr Yeo. Stop if there is some breathing or a faint pulse.

Continue to monitor his vital signs - breathing and level of consciousness - every two minutes until help arrives, said Mr Lee. Start CPR again if his breathing stops.

Place your baby on his side to prevent fluids from choking him further. This will also prevent his tongue from blocking his airway.

Prevent it:

Watch your child when he is near any body of water, no matter how shallow it is. Young children can drown in water that is only a few centimetres deep, so cordon off fish ponds, water features and private swimming pools with a fence or gate, said Dr Yeo.

After using an inflatable wading pool, always empty the remaining water and deflate it, she added.

This article was first published on August 11, 2015.
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