Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Death Traps in Your House!

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HELLO Readers. Today I tackle a subject that touches all children and their parents. I look at the most common injuries that afflict young children especially in their homes. Children's injuries range dangerous falls from tree canopies to electric shocks and attacks from animals. Most injuries can be easily prevented if parents watch young children carefully.

In fact, most parents do not fancy being "lectured" on how to keep their children out of harm's way. Nevertheless, it is the trivialities that they know about that send children into graves. Children aged between 18 months and four years are, invariably, at high risk of death from serious injuries.

The main causes of children's injuries in the home include burns from open fires, stoves, cooking pots, hot foods, boiling water, hot fats, paraffin lamps, irons and so on. Children also suffer nasty cuts from broken glass, knives, scissors or axes. They also often fall from beds, windows, tables, trees and stairs. Choking on small objects such as coins, buttons or nuts is also a serious matter. Poisoning from kerosene, insecticides and bleach is another threat.

In rural Tanzania children face a slightly different array of dangers. Older children born to peasant families, for example, often risk being stung by bees and wasps or bitten by snakes or wild cats when tending cattle on grazing grounds. Wasps may not kill a child but bees, snakes and wild cats can. The children also risk taking dangerous kicks from cows and donkeys. These animals dislike the presence of children.

A well-placed kick from a donkey can kill a child. A well-placed head butt from a sheep can maim or even kill a child. When annoyed, cattle or pets emit noises that can be quite scary to children. An angry camel can terrify a child with a bite. Camels are also notorious for spitting into the faces of their handlers. Pets such as dogs and cats can bite or scratch children with their claws especially when protecting their young.

A chicken that is walking its brood can attack an approaching child viciously with its talons. Burns and scalds are among the most common causes of serious injury among young children. Children need to be prevented from touching cooking stoves, boiling water, hot food and hot irons. Burns cause serious injury and permanent scars and some are fatal. The great majority of these are preventable.

Keeping young children away from fires, matches and cigarettes can prevent burns. Keep stoves on a flat, raised surface, such as a kitchen table, out of the reach of children. Turn the handles of cooking pots away from children. Always keep petrol, paraffin, lamps, matches, candles, lighters, hot irons and electric cords out of the reach of young children. Children can be seriously injured if they put their fingers or other objects into electric sockets.

Power sockets should be covered to prevent access. Falls are a common cause of bruises, broken bones and serious head injuries. discouraging children from climbing onto unsafe places such as trees can prevent serious falls. Use railings to guard stairs, windows or balconies. Keep your home clean and well lit. Children are incredibly curious beings. Knives, razors and scissors should be kept out of the reach of young children.

Older children should be trained to handle them safely. Sharp metal objects, machinery and rusty cans are likely to cause badly infected wounds. Children's play areas should be kept clear of these objects. Household refuse, including broken bottles and old cans, should be disposed of safely. Enlightening children on the dangers of throwing stones or sharp objects can prevent other injuries.

Older children should be discouraged from using catapults. Young children like to stuff things in their mouths. Small objects should be kept out of their reach to prevent choking. Playing and sleeping areas should be kept free of small objects such as buttons, beads, coins, seeds, nails and nuts. Very young children should not be given groundnuts (peanuts), hard sweets, or food with small bones (especially fish bones) and seeds. They should always be supervised during meals.

Cut or tear children's food into small pieces. Feeding a child with your hands is a better approach. Coughing, gagging and high-pitched, noisy breathing or the inability to make any sound at all indicates breathing difficulty and possible choking. Choking is a lifethreatening emergency. Caregivers should suspect an infant is choking when he or she suddenly has trouble breathing. Poisons, medicines, bleach, acid, and liquid fuels such as paraffin should never be stored in drinking bottles.

All such liquids and poisons should be kept in clearly marked containers out of children's reach. I must stress here that poisoning is a very serious danger to small children. Bleach, insect and rat poison, paraffin and household detergents can kill or permanently injure a child. Many poisons do not need to be swallowed to be dangerous. They can kill, damage the brain, blind or permanently injure if they are inhaled.

Some poisons can enter the body through spores in the skin. They can be equally dangerous if they get onto the child's skin or into the eyes; or onto the child's clothes. If poisons are put in soft drink or beer bottles, jars or cups, children may drink them by mistake. Medicines, chemicals and poisons should be stored in tightly sealed original containers.

Medical drugs meant for adults can kill small children. Medicine should only be given to a child if it was meant for that child and never be given to a child if it was prescribed for an adult. Overuse or misuse of antibiotics can cause deafness in small children. Children should be kept away from any mass of water. Children can drown in less than two minutes, sometimes in very small amounts of water.

Wells, tubs and buckets of water should be covered. Children should not be exposed to long working hours or work that is hazardous or interferes with schooling. They must also be protected from dangerous tools and exposure to poisonous chemicals. Any employer who engages a child in bad labour risks a jail term. Good luck.

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