The top five emergency accidents involving kids during the holidays

By Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant 
Image Source: Cleveland Clinic

December is one of the months children love the most as they explore the world around them with unimaginable freedom through fun and play. This is also the time of the year where parents spend quality time with their kids by indulging them on vacations, theme parks, beaches, and other attractive sites. But, it’s also noteworthy to add that this is the month where emergency accidents are more prone to happening!

With the help of Dr. Justin Chai, from the Emergency and Trauma Department at Gleneagles Hospital Kota Kinabalu, we further deepen into the topic of common emergency accidents that occur during the holidays involving children during this festive time of the year starting from the most common to the least common emergency accidents and their preventive measures. Let’s start, shall we? 

#1 Accidental Falls and Cuts

“Children have the tendency of running, playing, wandering off and this can lead them to be vulnerable to slips and trips. That’s how it happens,” says Dr. Justin, “after sustaining a fall or cut, normally they’ll be in pain and cry immediately which will draw the attention of the parents or people around them to help.”

For falls, parents are more concerned with head injuries. “What we normally see are parents worrying if it’s a very severe head injury that causes brain injuries,” Dr. Justin continues, “parents come and say, ‘my child fell down and hit their head, and we need X-Ray or CT scan,’ Well, during the time they fall it’s important to know, mainly if there’s any loss of consciousness, vomiting, changes of behaviour, unresponsiveness.”

According to Dr. Justin, a child’s responsiveness should be the first thing to be checked. “When you call them, touch them, they’ll turn and look at you. And, that’s the thing parents should be more focused on,” he adds, “furthermore, when they do come to the hospital with aforementioned signs of loss of consciousness, vomiting, abnormal behaviour, inconsolable cries, then we’ll see what happens in the hospital is we’ll do further imaging as needed.”

Preventive measures: Keep a close eye on the kids and make sure they’re kept safe at all times.

#2 Thermal injuries 

“When we say thermal injuries, the most common ones are burns. Any sort of burns can be due to hot water, scalding, fire, electrical burns,” Dr. Justin continues, “it’s due to younger kids being exposed to those things. They want to touch things, pull and spill things, fires might go off and that’s how they sustain those injuries.”

The holidays are synonymous with Christmas decorations. The lights on the Christmas trees and other ornaments are small and can break easily and that is a source of fire getting started. “At times, there are broken glasses with an exposed filament, that can conduct electrical currents and cause some burns as well. Children like the lights, it’s blinking and so it’ll be attractive for them and could sustain injuries from that,” Dr. Justin says.

“When the kids come to our emergency room, we see them immediately, pain killers need to be given at the same time we need to cool down the wound either with running with tap water or what we call at the hospital called burn shields,” Dr. Justin voices, “so, it’s a dressing you put on the wound and cool it down and further dressings will be done to prevent infection. Those are the main treatment that we do.”

Preventive measures: Children are children, they’re curious all the time. It’s just that the parents will need to try keep an eye on them and keep the child away from anything hot that you know of, watch out for any open fires, exposed cables and things like that.

#3 Insertion and ingestion of foreign bodies

“When we talk about accidental insertion and ingestion of foreign bodies, children tend to take small items and stuff them in the three orifices of their face which is their nose, mouth, and ears. Again, depends on what they ingest or insert.”

Out of the most common objects, Dr. Justin places a major highlight on the ingestion of batteries. “As we know, during the holiday seasons kids get gifts and toys and some of the toys are battery operated like watches,” he adds, “so, the one we’re more concerned about are button batteries. Those button batteries have a large surface and they discharge very quickly. At the same time, it’s very small and it looks like a coin.”

“I’ve seen children putting these batteries in their nose, but the main thing is swallowing it. Once they enter the digestive tract, it becomes very corrosive and can cause corrosive injuries to the esophagus, throat, stomach wall, intestines and that’s a very big concern because once it happens it can perforate the organs leading to infection and other things.”

He further chimes in that when kids put these batteries in their nose, parents might not realize this until days later when they’ll be bleeding, experiencing pain and discharge. That will indicate there is a foreign object in the nose that’s causing all that. 


#4 Accidental poisoning

“Poisoning is a very serious condition; it can affect all our bodily functions. Again, it can be any form of poison and most common is medication. We see a lot of medication left lying around, they’re drugs and for children this holiday season,” he continues, “all kids like candy, sweets because it’s attractive and have a lot of colours. At any time, when child comes into contact with easily accessible medication, they will accidentally take them.”

To lay out his point, Dr. Justin shares an experience with a patient who’d undergone accidental poisoning. “A mom came in and informed me that the child took some tablets that a visitor left on the table. After the child swallowed the tablet, she goes to her mom and says, ‘the candy doesn’t taste nice,’ so children tend to do things like that.”

Dr. Justin advices to parents that once accidental poisoning has occured, it’s absolutely important to come to the hospital, bring those medication, pills and leaflets that came with the medication and at the same time. “In Malaysia, we have the National Poison Centre which we have 24 hours so we can contact them anytime to seek their advice to do in those times.” 

Preventive measures: Keep the medication away from children in a safe place away in a safety container that has a child lock.

#5 Accidental submersion injury 

“Submersion injury means the airway is submerged in fluid. Most commonly, during the holidays a lot of parents like to take their children out to the beach, water parks, swimming pools, public pools because children love water. So, when a child is playing and they get accidentally submerged under the water, the child panics and they’ll not be able to breath and the water will enter the nose and the mouth and into the lungs. So, that’s what will happen in the submersion sort of injury,” Dr. Justin says.

“Parents will bring the child to the hospital and sometimes, we see the child is already in a semi-conscious state and the breathing becomes noisy, mucous secretions coming out of the nose, mouth and that would be a situation where the airway is compromised,” he goes on, “By merely, administering oxygen won’t be enough so we’ll need to incubate the child and be put on a ventilator.”

Dr. Justin also stresses that even when a child drowns depends on the type of fluid. “When we say water, there’s a big difference between sea water and pool water because of the content. In sea water with a higher content of salt and in the swimming pool water, there’s more chlorine. So, the difference will determine the treatment plan for that child. “

Preventive measures: Be very careful, never take your eyes of your child especially when they’re near a large pool of water. They can easily fall into it and younger children don’t know how to swim. It’s a problem we can get into.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you.

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