Tag: safety

Viewing the Solar Eclipse – Hype or Hazard

A total solar eclipse is a big deal, although it seems like it might be a bigger deal for some people than it is for others.

What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.
What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.

It does start to seem like a bigger deal the more you learn about it…

Solar Eclipse HYPE

Still, there is a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming solar eclipse in the United States.

“Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event. It challenges everything you conceive of as normal.”

Sean Lindsay on the Eclipse hype

Do you buy it?

  • will looking at the eclipse make you go blind?
  • will seeing the eclipse change your life?
  • will you regret missing the eclipse for the rest of your life?

While viewing the eclipse won’t make you go blind, at least not instantaneously, what about all of the hype about how important an event the eclipse is to view? That part has to be true, right?

“A partial eclipse is interesting but forgettable, while a total eclipse is a memorable, life-changing event which burns itself into memory – and never fades. And so we, who have seen this sight, ask you to join us on this momentous day, and do everything you possibly can to see it with us. But you must remember that “close” is not close enough; in order to see the eclipse in all its glory, you simply must…”

“Close” is NOT close enough!

It is for some people. And you might not know if you or your kids are that type of person unless you go and see the eclipse! In totality!

Solar Eclipse HAZARD

  • seeing the eclipse without protection will damage your eyes

We all know that you shouldn’t look directly at the sun or your eyes will get damaged.

And in most cases, you can’t.

It hurts to look at the sun. You’re pupils will constrict. You will blink a lot. And you will very quickly turn away.

At least in normal circumstances.

A solar eclipse is not a normal circumstance.

Since most of the sun is covered, you could likely stare at it (but definitely shouldn’t) and get a good long look at the eclipse. Unfortunately, the part that isn’t covered will be painlessly damaging your eyes, leading to burns on your retina and solar retinopathy.

But isn’t all of the sun covered in a total solar eclipse?

“During the very brief time the sun is in total solar eclipse it is safe to look at it, but do so with caution. Even during the total solar eclipse, the total eclipse may last only a short period of time, and if you are looking towards the sun as the moon moves away from blocking the sun, you might get a solar burn on your retina which can cause permanent damage to your eyes.”

Prevent Blindness America

Yes, but only for a very short time and only if you are in the path of totality.

During totality, it is safe to take your eclipse glasses off and look at the eclipse, being aware that totality may last only a minute or two.

This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun.
This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Again, you must be very sure that you are inside the path of totality for a chance at looking at the eclipse without protection – a 70-mile wide band from central Oregon through South Carolina.

If you are not in this relatively narrow band, you will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse, but at no time will it be safe to view the eclipse without protection.

Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?
Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?

Remember that even if you live in or have traveled to a spot inside the path of totality, the total eclipse itself will only last a few minutes.

The whole eclipse will last much longer though.

From the start of the eclipse, to maximum eclipse, to the end of the eclipse, you might be looking at a three hour event. That’s a lot of time to be at risk of looking at the sun outside of totality and getting eye damage if you aren’t wearing protection.

Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

What kind of protection do you need to safely view a solar eclipse.

Fortunately, you have a lot of options.

This solar eclipse viewing protection can include using:

  • solar filters, including ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses that have been sold online in packs of 5 or 10 (but including some that have been recalled), handheld solar viewers,  and full aperature solar filters for cameras and telescopes
  • a pin-hole viewer that you can easily make yourself with something as common as a cereal box
  • a 2D or 3D printable pinhole projector
  • a solar viewing projector using binoculars or a telescope (not looking through the telescope itself though, unless it had a proper solar filter!)
  • No. 13 or 14 welder’s glasses

But unless you are building a pin-hole viewer or are going to an official eclipse viewing event, be sure your protection is really going to protect your child’s eyes. Are the eclipse glasses you ordered fake, recalled, scratched, or damaged? Then don’t use them.

And make sure younger children are well supervised during the entire eclipse, so that they don’t look at the eclipse at any time that you are outside the time that you are in totality.

Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.
Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.

What if they miss it?

They won’t have to wait too long for the next total solar eclipse. Another one is headed our way in 2024.

What to Know About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

I don’t know if it will change your child’s life, but there is no good reason to let them miss this total solar eclipse (or partial eclipse if you aren’t in the path of totality), as long as you take some very simple steps to make sure they view it safely.

More About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

Twenty One Things Every Parent Should Know

There is no need to use hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes.
There is no need to use hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes. Use soap and water instead.

You could just parent by instinct, but it is much better to supplement your instinct with a little helpful advice from some of the parents who have come before you.

While some of these things experts figured out through years and years of research, others are simply tips that folks figured out after making mistakes and understanding that there must be a better way to get things done.

  1. Vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work.
  2. Sleep is good. For everyone. Learn to help your baby sleep through the night by the time they are four to six months old.
  3. Three years is not a magic age at which every kid is potty trained. Some take a little longer. The main potty training mistake you can make is to push your kids when they aren’t ready.
  4. Some kids continue to wet the bed at night, even after they are potty trained.
  5. Don’t give aspirin to kids, even teens. It is a risk factor for getting Reye syndrome.
  6. If you still have them, safely dispose of mercury thermometers and syrup of ipecac.
  7. Experts don’t recommend that you use hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds any more. You can usually substitute soap and water instead.
  8. “Starve a fever; feed a cold” is an Old Wives’ Tale, like not drinking milk when your kids have a fever or diarrhea. It is not a real thing. If your child is sick and hungry, let them eat their regular diet. If they are sick and don’t want to eat, encourage them to at least drink a lot of fluids, and add bland foods, until they are ready to eat more.
  9. A green or yellow runny nose almost certainly means that your child has an infection, but unless it has been lingering for weeks or your child has a persistent high fever, then it is likely a viral infection that won’t respond to antibiotics.
  10. When your doctor prescribes antibiotics for your kids, think about whether the prescription is because your sick child needs it or because the doctor thinks you want it. Consider asking if your child might get better without antibiotics.
  11. Don’t force kids to “clean their plates” or eat foods that they really dislike. Picky eaters who are forced to eat are probably more likely to grow up to be picky adult eaters.
  12. Most kids, unless they are missing out on one or more food groups or have a chronic medical problem, probably don’t need a daily vitamin.
  13. Don’t just ask your kids if they are being bullied. Also ask if they ever bully  or see kids getting bullied. Someone is doing the bullying.
  14. All kids are different. Don’t compare them. Or at least don’t compare them too much. But talk to your pediatrician if your child’s growth and development really seems off-track compared to most other children.
  15. Some kids are harder to discipline than others. Try something else or get help if what you are doing isn’t working.
  16. Taking extra unnecessary risks, like hiding a loaded gun in the house, not having a fence around your backyard swimming pool, letting your kids ride a bike without a helmet, or letting them ride an ATV, etc., will increase the chances that your kids get hurt. Think about safety.
  17. Not every kid wants to play or is going to be good at team sports.
  18. Being on a “select” sports team probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. The selection process is just as likely to involve the fact that you can pay to be on the team and take extra lessons or classes, as it is to about your child’s skill level.
  19. For perspective, always remember that no matter how good or talented you think your child is, there is always another kid playing at a much higher level. That’s why so few end up playing in college or at higher levels.
  20. At some point, you child might say “I hate you!” Be ready, and understand that it almost certainly has nothing to do with you.
  21. The ‘free range kids’ movement is the opposite extreme to ‘helicopter parenting.’ Don’t fall for parenting fads.

And don’t believe everything you hear or read about parenting. Kids do come with instructions – good instructions, you just have to know when and where to get them. And who to trust.

Otherwise you could end up making all of the same mistakes that all of the rest of us have already made.

For More Information on Things Parents Should Know

Multiple Layers of Protection Can Keep Your Kids Safe

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