15 December 2012

Tanzania: Numerous Dangers Stalk Children

DEAR Readers. Today, my mind is on some of the dangers that await children.

These include serious injuries that can take the lives of children. Burns in open fires or other forms of intense heat cause, perhaps, are the most serious injuries for children. I take off with a brief look at burns. Burns and scalds are the damage caused mainly to a child's skin and superficial tissues by intense heat, boiling water or strong chemicals.

Intense heat can also expose mucosal surfaces such as the gullet. Scalds are the damage caused by contact with hot liquids such boiling water or cooking fat. Burns are caused, for example, by open flames, hot surfaces, or burning gases. Burns can also be caused by electrical fires, lightning, strong acids, alkalis or batteries. Of course, there are many other causes of burns and scalds.

There may be obvious and immediate damage to the skin following a burn or scald which can be very painful. With partial thickness burns, the skin may be mottled. Blistering may also be seen. With full thickness burns, the top layer of skin is destroyed and may look white or black, and charred. Full thickness burns are painless, as the nerves carrying pain signals have been destroyed.

Burns are common among young children. Scalds are particularly common among toddlers, who are energetic explorers with little sense of potential danger - knocking over hot cups of tea, grabbing at pans on the cooker or getting into hot baths. The 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. 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. Small burns should be cooled immediately under cold running water for at least ten minutes.

Chemical burns should be rinsed for 20 minutes. Remove clothes in the area of the burn where possible, without causing damage to the skin. Then either wrap the burned area in a clean plastic bag or place a clean smooth material over the burn to prevent infection. Minor burns can be treated at home with painkillers and sterile dressings. Blisters should not be popped.

Deep or extensive burns, or burns to the face, hands or across joints, need to be assessed and treated in hospital. Burns that cover more than ten per cent of the body need hospital treatment, including those caused by intravenous fluids. Parents should be aware that burns to more than 50 per cent of a child's body surface carry a poor chance of survival. Severe burns need specialized management, which may include skin grafts or treatments to prevent contractures. Burns should be prevented from happening by making homes as safe for children as possible.

Children's injuries include dangerous falls from tree canopies, electric shocks in homes and donkey kicks on grazing grounds. Most injuries can be easily prevented if parents and caretakers 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 already know about that send children into graves.

Children aged between 18 months and four years are, invariably, at high risk of death and serious injuries. Children may also suffer dangerous 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 conundrum.

Older children born to peasant families 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 wellplaced kick from a donkey can kill a child.

A head butt from a sheep can maim a child. Children must be protected from heavy labour, dangerous tools and exposure to poisonous chemicals. Knives, razors and scissors should be kept out of the reach of young children. 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 or hard sweets. Food with small bones, especially fish bones or seeds can be dangerous to a child. Young children should always be supervised during meals. Cut or tear children's food into small pieces before handing it to a child. Feeding a child with your hands is a better approach. Poisons, medicines, bleach, acid, and liquid fuels such as paraffin should never be stored in drinking bottles or cups. Unsuspecting children can drink them. All such liquids and poisons should be kept in clearly marked containers out of children's reach.

Bleach, insect and rat poison, paraffin and detergents can kill a child. Many poisons do not need to be swallowed to be dangerous. They can kill, cause brain damage, blind or injure if they are inhaled. Some poisons can enter the body through spores in the skin. Medicines, chemicals and poisons should be stored in tightly sealed original containers. Medicines meant for adults can kill small children. Overuse or misuse of antibiotics can cause deafness in small children.

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