Multiple Layers of Protection Can Keep Your Kids Safe

A layers of protection child safety plan can help keep your kids safe from accidents and tragedies, such as falls and drowning.

Parents are well aware of the need to use protection to keep important things safe.

After all, we build our homes thinking about fire protection, with firewalls and smoke detectors, plug our computers into surge protectors, and use virus protection software on our computers.

The same type of protection, usually grouped into a layers of protection plan, can also help keep your kids safe.

Layers of Protection

Using a layers of protection approach to child safety means using more than type of child safety technique, barrier, or warning, as a protection against a specific hazard. That way, if one protective layer breaks down, then one of the other layers of protection will still be in place to keep your kids safe.

Of course these layers of protection aren’t meant to keep your kids safe forever. They can buy you some time though if your child gets away from you for a few moments.

“…parents ought to appreciate the importance of applying multiple injury prevention strategies to a single category of risk, to provide children with layers of protection.”

Mark Widome, MD

Although often used in connection with the pool safety campaigns of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it was mentioned as early as 1992 by Mark Widome, MD, who is on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence & Poison Prevention.

Layers of Protection for Water Safety

The concept of using layers of protection is often easiest to see when you think about water safety.

Consider some common drowning scenarios:

  • A 23-month-old in Redford Township near Detroit, Michigan, drowned by getting out of the house (the family was visiting friends) and climbing a ladder into an above-ground pool that only had about two feet of water in it.
  • A 3-year-old drowned in La Plata, Maryland during a birthday party while several other people were in the pool. When some started to get out of the pool, they noticed the child at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.
  • An 8-year-old drowned in a busy community pool near Indianapolis, IN.

To help prevent these types of drownings, the CPSC and the AAP recommend a layers of protection plan for water and pool safety, that includes:

  • close, constant, direct supervision of small children near water, whether it is a lake, pond, in-ground pool, spa, large portable pool, small wading pool, bathtub, or even a large bucket of water, etc.
  • closer “touch supervision” whenever an infant, toddler, or older child who is a weak swimmer is in the water, meaning that you are within an arm’s length of the child at all times.
  • installing a climb resistant isolation fence (a 4-sided fence that doesn’t allow direct access to the pool from inside the house) around backyard pools with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
  • adding a door alarm so that you know if your kids get out of the house and into the backyard, especially if your house makes up one of the four sides of the fence around your pool. A gate or pool alarm might also be useful.
  • making younger children wear a coast guard approved personal flotation device if they don’t know how to swim well and not just air-filled arm floaties. They should wear their personal flotation device whenever they are by the water, even if they are not swimming.
  • teaching kids to learn to swim, especially once they are 4-years-old, keeping in mind that knowing how to swim does not make your child drown-proof.
  • learning CPR, having a flotation device, and a telephone by the pool in case there is an emergency.

Also be sure to empty buckets of water, the bathtub, small kiddie wading pools, and other things with water when you are not using them.

Layers of Protection Work

How do the layers of protection work to reduce the risks of a drowning?

Consider a house with a fully childproofed pool. It has a 4-sided fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate. The door leading to the backyard is childproofed so that the twin toddlers who live in the home can’t open it. During a recent pool party, they even have a designated adult watching the kids in the pool.

When that person has to go to the bathroom, she asks someone else to take over. The new watcher isn’t as responsible though and gets distracted when he gets a phone call (one layer gone). One of the twins who had been inside, decides she wants to swim again. She walks to the backyard right through the door that someone had left open (another layer gone), through the open gate (yet another layer gone), and jumps into the pool without anyone seeing her.

The gate to the pool had been propped open during the party because people got tired of opening it every time they went from the pool to the house, and unfortunately, this breakdown in pool safety is a common way that kids drown. Fortunately, because the parents were using a layers of protection plan, the child was still safe, as she was still wearing her personal flotation device (last layer intact).

Layers of Protection for Home Safety

How can the layers of protection protect your kids at home?

For one thing, you can simply get rid of some of the things that are unsafe around kids, such as poisonous plants, unused household cleaners or poisons, and recalled products.

Next, add a few extra layers of protection when childproofing the house, since you can’t be expected to supervise your kids every second of the day:

  • install child-resistant door knob covers so that kids can’t get into rooms that are hard to child proof, like the bathroom
  • set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees, so that if your child does get into the bathroom and turns on the water he won’t get burned
  • store household cleaners and other poisonous substances in a high, out of reach location and then put a child-resistant lock on the cabinet for an extra layer of protection
  • place TVs and other appliances on stable furniture that won’t easily tip over, but as an extra layer of protection, anchor both the TV and furniture to the wall
  • lock your car so that your kids can’t get back in (hot cars, especially getting trapped in the trunk, is a common hidden danger for kids), and then secure your keys for an extra layer of protection

The layers of protection idea can even apply to car safety, In addition to an age appropriate car seat, booster seat, or seat belts, and keeping your kids in the back seat until they are at least 13-years-old, you can add to your family’s safety in the car by not getting distracted talking on your phone or texting.

What extra layers of protection can you add to other risks in and around your home?

More Information On Layers of Protection

The Numbers Behind Keeping Food Safe

Learn the numbers behind food safety to help keep your kids safe from poisoning.

Learn the four basic steps to keep your food safe from germs.
Learn the four basic steps to keep your food safe from germs.

There is no safe food when it comes to food poisoning. Eggs, fruits, meats, vegetables and even organic sprouts can all become contaminated.

That makes it important to learn how to keep your food safe.

Although many things are being done to reduce contamination before food gets to us, it is just as important to prepare, cook and store food properly so that our kids don’t get sick.

Food Safety Numbers

There are some numbers related to food safety that you might be all too familiar with – about 48 million people get sick from food poisoning each year, sending 100,000 people to the hospital, and causing about 3,000 deaths

Reducing food poisoning is a “winnable battle” though, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But of course, safe food doesn’t just happen. It takes a little work, starting with understanding some of the other numbers associated with food safety, such as:

  • 4 – the number of steps to proper food safety – clean, separate, cook, chill
  • 0˚F – the temperature to set your freezer (0˚F or below)
  • 40˚F – the temperature to set your refrigerator (between 40˚F and 32˚F)
  • 140˚F – the temperature you should keep food after cooking
  • 145˚F – the minimum internal temperature to cook pork, fresh ham, steaks, roasts, chops and other whole meats (cook to the right temperature)
  • 160˚F – the minimum internal temperature to cook egg dishes and ground meat (cook to the right temperature)
  • 165˚F – the minimum internal temperature to cook poultry and reheat leftovers (cook to the right temperature)
  • 3 minutes – the amount of “rest time” you should wait to make sure harmful germs are killed after cooking food, which is especially important after cooking steaks, roasts, chops, fresh pork and fresh ham. Don’t just heat and eat your food.
  • 2 hours – the maximum about of time that perishable food should be left out before you put it in the refrigerator
  • 90˚F – the outside temperature that should alert you that you need to refrigerate perishable food after just one hour, instead of the usual two hours
  • 20 seconds – how long you should wash your hands before, during and after preparing food and before eating.
  • 4 hours – the amount of time that a refrigerator will usually keep food cold if the power goes out and the refrigerator door is not opened. After that time, throw out perishable food that has been above 40˚F for two hours or more.
  • 3 to 4 days – how long most leftovers can be safely stored in the refrigerator
  • 15 to 20 – the number of Salmonella cells in undercooked food that can cause food poisoning
  • Less than 5 minutes – how long it takes to report a case of food poisoning to your local health department so that you can help to prevent a larger outbreak.

How can you tell the internal temperature of foods that you are cooking? Use a food thermometer, as you can’t tell when foods are safely cooked by simply looking at them.

And be on the alert for food recalls, to make sure that you don’t have contaminated foods in your home.

What To Know About Keeping Food Safe

Do all of these numbers sound too hard to do or keep up with, especially when you are trying to have fun at a cook out or family dinner?

Remember, it is better than the alternative, 2 to 10 days of vomiting and diarrhea because your family developed symptoms of food poisoning…

For More Information on Food Safety Numbers:

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Fire Ant Bites

Learn how to treat and avoid fire ant bites and stings.

A classic fire ant mound popping out of a nice green lawn.
A classic fire ant mound popping out of a nice green lawn. Photo by Bart Drees.

Are you worried about your kids getting bit by fire ants?

If not, then you don’t live in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas, where they have been around for a while.

Fire Ants

Fire ants are thought to have been imported on ships into Mobile, Alabama from South America. They have continued to spread ever since, lately making it as far as eastern New Mexico, the southern half of Oklahoma, and parts of California.

Like imported killer bees, fire ants are more aggressive than native ants.

Many of us get annoyed when we see large fire ant mounds pop up in our yards after it rains, but it can be really concerning one or more fire ants bite or sting your child.

Symptoms of Fire Ant Bites

While many insects bite, it is the classic behavior of fire ants that can make their bites so much worse.

When disturbed, fire ants emerge aggressively, crawling up vertical surfaces, biting and stinging “all at once”.

Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project

In a typical situation, a toddler or preschooler steps on a fire ant mound in the yard, and before you know it, dozens of fire ants are covering their feet and legs. Or they fall onto the mound, with the fire ants all over their hands and arms.

As you scramble to move your child and get the ants off (quickly rub them off with a cloth or your own hand), they will likely all start stinging.

Multiple fire ant bites on a child's hand.
Multiple fire ant bites on a child’s hand. Photo by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Fortunately, very few people are allergic to fire ant stings, which might trigger a whole body reaction, with dizziness, shortness of breath, and hives, etc.. The redness, swelling, and white-yellow pustule at the site of the bite are usually the normal symptoms of a local reaction to the fire ant venom.

The pustules go away over a few days to weeks. There is no need to pop or try to drain them. In fact, popping them might lead to their getting infected. It’s better to leave them alone.

After you are bit, it is going to hurt or burn for a few minutes too – that’s why they are called fire ants.

How do you treat fire ant bites?

After you remove the ants, basic first aid and treatment for fire ant bites might include washing the area with soap and then using a cool compress, oral antihistamines, and topical steroids to treat itching.

And of course, seek immediate medical attention if your child is having an allergic reaction to the bites or if it appears that the bites are later getting infected, with increased pain and swelling when you would think that they should be improving.

What To Know About Fire Ant Bites

Although fire ant bites are rarely dangerous or life-threatening, your best bet in protecting your kids is to get rid of any fire ants in your yard and in other places that they play. You might also encourage your kids to wear shoes (not sandals or Crocs) and socks when walking or playing outside.

For More Information on Fire Ant Bites