There’s nothing like having kids to open your eyes to the world’s dangers. With two little rascals in tow, grocery stores, dentists’ offices and even grandparents’ homes morph into death traps full of sharp, poisonous and heavy things. Short of keeping a tight grip on little hands, there’s not much you can do to childproof absolutely everything when you’re out and about. At home, it’s easier to make rooms safe for kids: Cover electrical outlets, keep drugs and potentially poisonous stuff out of reach, bolt dressers to the wall, and so on.
But every so often, I come across a study that points out an unexpectedly dangerous object. Clearly, none of these things rise to Bag O’Glass danger levels. But in the spirit of The More You Know, here are five objects that carry hidden risks to children:
These cute, candy-colored packets can be irresistible to children — and toxic when eaten. Since 2012, when single-load pods for laundry detergent became popular, poison control centers have been fielding calls about toddlers who got ahold of pods. From 2013 to 2014, over 22,000 U.S. children under age 6 were exposed to these pods, mostly by eating them, data from the National Poison Data System show. And in just that two-year period, cases of laundry pod exposure rose 17 percent, scientists reported in the May Pediatrics.
Those numbers are particularly worrisome because laundry pods appeared to be more dangerous than regular laundry detergent (liquid or powder) and dishwasher detergent in any form (pod, liquid or powder). In a small number of kids, eating laundry pods caused serious trouble, including coma, respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest. Two children died, scientists wrote in the Pediatrics paper.
Oh, they’re adorable, but turtles can carry salmonella, bacteria that come with diarrhea, fever and cramps. Kids are particularly susceptible, and infections can be severe for them. Recognizing this risk, the FDA banned the sale of small turtles (shell less than 4 inches long) in 1975.
Yet in recent years, small turtles have slowly crawled back into children’s grubby little hands, carrying salmonella with them, scientists reported in January in Pediatrics. From 2011 to 2013, turtles were implicated in eight multistate Salmonella outbreaks, hitting hard in children younger than 5. Of the 473 people affected by the outbreaks, the median age was 4.
I’m not talking about the dangers of screen time here. I mean the television itself. Today’s flat screen TVs are more wobbly than the older, heavier tube-based TVs. Every 30 minutes, a kid is treated in the emergency room for a TV-related injury — that’s more than 17,000 children in the United States per year and increasing. And little heads and necks are the most frequently injured body parts.
Along with the rise of e-cigarettes come refill cartridges, most of which contain concentrated liquid nicotine in flavors such as cherry crush, vanilla and mint. These appealing flavors mask nicotine that can be dangerous to kids. In 2015, poison control centers reported over 3,000 incidents of unintentional nicotine exposure, many of them in children. In comparison, just 271 exposures were reported in 2011.
That worrisome increase prompted the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015, signed into law by President Obama on January 28, requiring nicotine cartridges to be packaged in child-proof containers — a no-brainer.
Maniacal bouncing is clearly exhilarating for children, but also risky. I say this as a childhood-double-bounce survivor, so I understand the appeal. But just a note of caution: These springy injury machines come with a constellation of scary medical stats. Concussions, broken bones, sprains and neck injuries are signature trampoline troubles. A survey of a national injury database showed that broken bones accounted for 29 percent of all trampoline injuries reported to emergency departments, scientists reported in 2014 in the Journal of Pediatrics Orthopedics. The vast majority (93 percent) of those fractures belonged to children 16 and under.
Attempts to make trampolines safer — by putting a net around the perimeter, for instance — don’t seem to lower injury rates, an Australian study found. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and other groups all urge caution, or an outright ban.