Posts tagged ‘strangulation’

20 March, 2012

Amber teething necklaces – is your child at risk?

It is a common conundrum for parents all around the world – what is the best method to help soothe my baby? While there are many ways and means out there which are both safe and effective, from gentle rocking to a tuneful lullaby, RoSPA has noticed a worrying new trend emerging among parents who are opting to use amber bead teething necklaces.

Amber teething necklace

An example of an amber teething necklace.

These eye-catching beads are made from natural Baltic amber and are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething. While there is evidence to show that these beads can have an analgesic effect, there are some very serious hazards associated with the product which we wish to make parents aware of.

Baltic amber contains between three and eight per cent succinic acid. Those that subscribe to this method of soothing argue that the acid, which has been shown to stimulate neural system recovery and bolster the immune system, is released from the beads and into the baby. The succinc acid is said to have an analgesic effect, reducing the pain of teething.

While RoSPA is not in a position to comment on the accuracy of these claims, in the past concerns have been raised about amber teething necklaces representing a choking hazard. The main concern relates to the beads and clasps which can become detached. There are also inherent strangulation hazards associated with having any type of cord placed around a child’s neck, especially babies. Some proponents have argued that the risk of strangulation is mitigated by only allowing the baby to wear the necklace when he/she is awake and under supervision. RoSPA does not support his view. Aside from the fact that babies spend a substantive part of their time sleeping, RoSPA does not advocate any cord being placed around any baby’s neck at any time. Our ongoing work on the risks posed by blind cords highlights the terrible tragedies of infant strangulation and the speed at which it can happen.

amber teething necklace baby

Amber teething necklaces are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething – but it could pose a choking hazard.

RoSPA is fully aware of the stress parents can be under when their babies start teething, but there are many other options out there to help soothe teething pain, such as the use of medically approved creams applied directly to the gums. Other methods include teethers and teething toys which are often filled with a liquid and are sometimes kept refrigerated before being given to a baby to chew on. In all cases, RoSPA advises parents to seek advice from health workers (even before the baby is born) on the best and safest ways of soothing teething pain.

There have been cases of amber teething necklaces being taken off the UK and European market some years ago due to choking hazards. In RoSPA’s view, the biggest problem is that these necklaces are widely available on the internet, but the fact that these products are being offered for sale and delivery to your home does not mean that they are safe for your baby.

If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

6 June, 2011

Safe at Home: A Two-Tier Success

Following on from Michael Corley’s recent blog post – Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics – about accident prevention, it seems that the topic of today’s blog post is entirely appropriate as an illustration of how accident prevention can work.

In 2009, RoSPA launched the Safe At Home scheme (funded by the former Department for Children, Schools and Families), which had the aim of reducing accident rates among under-fives through targeted support for families in 141 areas in England with the highest accident rates.

Support included the provision of home safety information and safety equipment, such as safety gates, fireguards and window restrictors, through a network of new and existing local home safety equipment schemes. RoSPA also trained staff working at the local schemes.

The scheme has been incredibly successful, exceeding its target of supplying safety equipment to 60,196 families. The final figures show that the total number of families to receive free equipment by March 31, 2011, when the scheme came to an end, was an impressive 66,127.

This type of venture is a great example of how the Government’s “Big Society” could work at its best. It’s also a great antidote to those who wail about the “nanny state” and “busybodies” – those who have benefited from the scheme tell a very different story

You see, raising awareness of risk is NOT the same as telling people what to do in their own homes. If you’re a new parent, or are not around small children very often, it’s unlikely that you’ll know about the hazards toddlers face in the home.

Getting down on your hands and knees and looking at the world from their point of view paints a very different picture – and reveals a multitude of hazards that were not apparent before.

For instance, before I started working at RoSPA, I had no idea that blind cords could pose any risk to children (or my cats!) – and why would I, without being told? I’ll always make sure I tie cords away with a cleat in the future – which is all that is required if, like me, you like blinds that require cords.

Accident prevention is not about banning things left, right and centre and it’s not about stopping people from having fun; it’s about raising awareness of the risks and taking reasonable steps to mitigate them – as well as improving industry safety standards. Our blind cord safety campaign is a good illustration of the type of work we do.

Presenting people with good advice and information, and allowing them to make their own choices about how to protect their families, enables them to take responsibility for their own safety without having outside “experts” tell them what to do.

All accident prevention work should be based on sound data, to ensure that time, money and resources are not wasted on interventions that target the wrong people, or are simply unlikely to work.

The statistics mentioned earlier enabled us to target the Safe At Home scheme at those who needed it most. In order to qualify to receive equipment, families with children aged 0-5 must have been living in an area covered by a participating project, and must also have been in receipt of certain benefits.

The evidence shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be injured or killed in accidents. And in fact, shockingly, children of parents who are long-term unemployed or who have never worked are 13 times more likely to die as a result of unintentional injury and 37 times more likely to die from exposure to smoke, fire or flames than children of parents in higher managerial or professional occupations.

By installing a few simple safety measures such as smoke alarms, stair gates and window restrictors, the quality of life for these families could be vastly improved at no cost to themselves, and little cost to society – compared with the vast amount of money accidents and injuries cost us all.

It is hoped that the Safe At Home project has enabled local communities to run their own sustainable projects now the national scheme has come to an end.

More details about the achievements of Safe At Home will be announced when the project’s evaluation report is published in the next few weeks.

In the end, accident prevention advice and information could save the life of one of your family members. If you talked to someone who had lost a child in a home accident, you would probably find they had a very different perspective from the “elf ‘n’ safety” myths whipped up by some sections of the media.

Prevention is always better than cure. This applies to accident prevention as much as anything else. Join the debate – and support our campaign today.

Vicky Fraser, RoSPA’s Press Officer/Web Editor

11 April, 2011

Scottish Borders and South Lanarkshire launch the Make it Safe campaign

I started off at the Scottish Borders launch at Newtown St Boswells on March 11, which was attended by some of the partners who will be distributing the cleats.

Officers from Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service were present, as was Paul Richardson who works for Scottish Borders Council Safer Communities Team. Thanks must go to Paul for organising this launch and being a key figure in the Borders campaign.

Councillor Alec Nicol (Chair of the Scottish Borders Safer Communities Partnership) was also in attendance and gave his full support to the campaign. Councillor Frances Renton, who is Chair of the Scottish Borders Childcare Partnership also supported the launch and will play a key role in spreading the safety message whenever possible.

Make it Safe leaflets and cleats will be distributed throughout nurseries in the Borders, and children from the playgroup next door to the launch came to visit, and happily stood for a few photos with us:

L-R: Councillors Alec Nicol and Frances Renton and Jennifer Henderson of RoSPA

South Lanarkshire launch

The Make it Safe launch from First Step Community Nursery in Hamilton on March 17 was attended by the partners who are making up the steering group:

  • Margaret Brunton, South Lanarkshire Council’s home safety officer
  • Sandy Gillespie, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue’s group commander community safety
  • John Gold, Care and Repair
  • Maggie Barrie – head of establishment at First Step Community Nursery.

It was really good to meet all the partners at the launch, as well as parents and grandparents of local children who came to visit. Everybody who attended was so enthusiastic about the campaign and was thankful for being invited to the launch – and one of the parents and one grandparent got more than they bargained for when they ended up on film for South Lanarkshire Council’s YouTube page!

There were lots of lovely cakes on offer which kept us all going in during the launch itself, the photographs that were taken and our stints behind the camera for YouTube. The link to their YouTube site is http://www.youtube.com/user/SouthLanarkshireTV.

It’s really gratifying to see that the campaign is being embraced so enthusiastically – and it appears to be very successful in raising awareness. An evaluation of the pilot project that took place in North Lanarkshire should that 63 per cent of cleats had already been fitted in homes at the time of the survey.

Since receiving the Make it Safe information, 60 per cent of respondents said they were now unlikely to buy any blinds with looped cords, while 43 per cent of respondents were not aware of information on blind cord safety before they received the Make it Safe information.

Perhaps most crucially, 69 per cent of respondents have gone on to discuss the risks of looped blind cords with other parents or carers.

It’s vital that we keep the topic front and centre in the field of home safety, because blind cords are such an innocuous everyday item that it wouldn’t occur to most people that they could be a danger. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work!

Jennifer Henderson

RoSPA Scotland’s Home Safety Officer

4 April, 2011

RoSPA’s blind cord campaign is extended in Scotland

Following the success of the Make it Safe pilot campaign in North Lanarkshire, I was delighted that we secured further funding to allow us to build on the original project and roll it out to new areas in Scotland.

We launched the Make it Safe campaign at the Saltire Centre in Glenrothes on March 21 and secured a decent amount of publicity. I did a couple of radio interviews and the detail of the project was covered in the local press.

On the day I was, of course, impressed by Fife Council’s commitment at a strategic level but what was really evident on the day was the support being given by those who are actually going to be in a position to speak directly with householders.

Many different types of practitioners can offer home safety advice to support the messages that organisations like RoSPA can highlight, but the messages are much more effective when someone is standing in your house saying: “Look, this is what I’m talking about.”

The people who are supporting the campaign in Fife are well-respected by those that they visit. As well as the council’s team of home safety advisers, it’s great to have health visitors, social workers, family support workers and public health nurses standing alongside local representatives of organisations such as Gingerbread and the Scottish Childminding Association. These dedicated people are all keen to ensure that families are aware of the danger posed by corded blinds – products that are probably installed in the majority of homes.

L-R: Sam Pairman (Fife Cares), Bob Arnott (Safer Homes Task Group), Elizabeth Lumsden (RoSPA), Margaret Caldwell (Public Health Nurse), Mark McCall (Fife Community Safety Partnership)

A key part of this campaign is that we can work with local partners to ensure that advice and education is given directly to the parent or carer, and where appropriate we can actually ensure that the cleats (to tie the cords around) are fitted properly. For example the Fife Cares Child Safety Scheme will provide home safety advisers to discuss the dangers posed by blind cords with parents and carers of young children. This award-winning initiative is part of Fife’s Community Safety Partnership and also provides other child safety equipment as part of a free service.

Fife’s launch last month was also attended by Margaret Caldwell, a public health nurse whose work with the Scottish Government has resulted in an estates and facilities alert issued across the UK to highlight that corded blinds are not only an issue in the homes of the general public but could also be a danger in health care premises such as health centres and doctors’ waiting rooms. It emphasised that risk assessments should be carried out in all premises where children have access and not just kept to those that are health service-related.

We’re really pleased that the expansion of the campaign is going so well, and that people seem to be taking the advice on board.

Elizabeth Lumsden

RoSPA’s Community Safety Manager for Scotland

17 March, 2011

Make it safe!

RoSPA’s blind cord campaign is being expanded in Scotland this month with an awareness-raising initiative rolling out to Borders, Fife and South Lanarkshire.

The expansion of the blind cord campaign, which distributes leaflets and cleats (around which blind cords can be tied), builds on a pilot project undertaken in North Lanarkshire last year. Further funding from the Scottish Government has made the roll out possible, and all three of the new projects will run for six months from April to September.

In North Lanarkshire, it was really encouraging to see that people were talking about the information they received through the project, and were helping to spread the word about the dangers of looped blind cords. We are hopeful that the three new projects, which are delivered by local partners, will have the same impact.

Work to raise awareness of the dangers of blind cords is not just ongoing in Scotland. My RoSPA colleagues in England are also distributing Make it Safe packs to organisations working with children in England, and individual members of the public from across the UK can also request them via the RoSPA website.

My colleagues report that there have been more than 46,000 requests for packs through this part of the campaign sign up now to receive yours.

Typically, we hear about one or two children dying after becoming tangled in blind cords in the UK each year. Tragically, 2010 saw an increase in the number of accidents.

We suspect that there are many near misses that are never reported, but this information would help us to better raise awareness of the issue, as well as telling us more about the circumstances in which such accidents can happen.

One such near-miss accident happened to Beth Clifford – but thankfully her mum got there in time. The experience shook the family up, and encouraged them to spread the word about the dangers of blind cords. You can read the family’s story on RoSPA’s website.

So what can you do to make your home safe?

RoSPA is currently working with the UK government, the blind industry and retailers to ensure that an amended European Standard to make new blinds safer (expected to come into force in the second half of this year) can be implemented with as much success as possible. Alongside this, the blind cord industry is also working with the British Blind and Shutter Association to try to develop blinds that work without looped cords – and some families are calling for a ban on the production of blinds with looped cords.

This is an understandable and admirable goal – but it doesn’t address the existing problem. This is where our awareness-raising campaign in Scotland, and the one on which my England-based colleagues are working, come in. There are 100million blinds in homes throughout the UK, and any ban will not affect them. So we need to make people aware of the dangers, and encourage families to tie the cords up out of harm’s way.

To reduce the risk posed by looped cords, including blind cords, cords should be kept out of the reach of children:

  • Install blinds that do not have a cord, particularly in a child’s bedroom
  • Do not place a child’s cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window
  • Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and kept out of reach
  • Tie up the cords or use one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available
  • Do not hang toys or objects that could be a hazard on the cot or bed
  • Don’t hang drawstring bags where a small child could get their head through the loop of the drawstring.

RoSPA does not recommend that cords are cut, even as a short-term solution. It is advisable that any action taken on the blind cord is a permanent one which will take the cord out of reach of children. It is not an expensive task and a limited number of cleats are available to those who need them via the RoSPA website.

Cutting the cord in the wrong place can make the blind inoperable; and it may also lead to one cord becoming a lot longer which increases the risk of entanglement. Cut cords can also become tangled up resulting in the reformation of a loop.

The problem

Research indicates that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom and occur in children between 16 months and 36 months old, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months. These toddlers are mobile, but their heads still weigh proportionately more than their bodies compared to adults and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them more prone to be unable to free themselves if they become entangled. In addition, their windpipes have not yet fully developed and are smaller and less rigid than adults and older children, making them suffocate more quickly if their necks are constricted.

Visit RoSPA’s campaign pages for more information.

Liz Lumsden

Community Safety Manager for RoSPA Scotland

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