Vigilance key to protecting children over the school holidays

Greater awareness of child safety can assist in preventing injuries

Thursday, November 27 2014

There is a marked increase in the number of toddlers who are treated at Netcare hospital emergency departments over the summer holidays due to accidents, trauma and near drownings. This is to a large degree due to the fact that over the school holidays many children are not as closely supervised as they might have been had they been at school or pre-school.

Mande Toubkin, Netcare general manager: emergency, trauma, transplant and CSI says that statistics from Netcare hospitals’ emergency departments across South Africa for the period 14 October 2013 and 13 October 2014, are revealing. They show that it is children under the age of six years who are most at risk for accidents and injury. “There is also a significant 12.7% increase in the number of injuries to this age group over holiday periods. Interestingly, there is only a small increase in the number of children older than six years who are treated at our emergency departments over holiday periods,” notes Toubkin.

According to Toubkin, over the holidays many children are left at home with no supervision while hard-pressed parents have to continue working. In other cases, parents are in a more relaxed mood while they are on holiday and may be less vigilant. This can easily result in young children getting hurt.

“What is so heart-breaking about this is that in many cases injuries to children can be avoided if child-minders are more aware of the risks facing children within the home environment and at holiday destinations. When it comes to looking after children, particularly our toddlers, we can never afford to let down our guard. Those who are travelling to holiday destinations should also be aware that the unfamiliar environments may hold new dangers for their young ones,” warns Toubkin.

Toubkin says that emergency departments at Netcare hospitals and Netcare 911, as an emergency medical services provider, handle a range of child related emergencies over the school holidays. These range from near-drownings to burns. In general boys tend to be more adventurous than girls and engage in more risky activities. They therefore tend to get injured more often.

“Most children who are treated at Netcare hospitals and by Netcare 911 paramedics have sustained cuts, sprains, strains, bone fractures, stings and bites, or burns. The majority of injuries are to the face, fingers, hands and head. In some cases children ingest poisonous substances. Children younger than six years are particularly at risk in the home. Older children need to be closely supervised when engaging in recreational and sporting activities,” observes Toubkin.

“Every home or holiday home should be child proofed as far as possible. This includes ensuring that electrical wiring is approved and out of harm’s way, plugs are properly wired and sealed, and all unused electrical wall plugs are covered with plastic protectors. Drownings and near drownings also increase over the holiday season. Keep in mind that toddlers can drown in even the shallowest bodies of water, so keep them away from ponds, buckets of water and swimming pools. Anything that could be harmful to your youngsters should be kept out of reach or under lock and key,” adds Toubkin.

Craig Grindell, chief operating officer of Netcare 911, says that tragically motor vehicle accidents are more common over holiday periods. He advises parents to always protect small children by buckling them up in special child safety seats in the back of their car, and to drive responsibly. Do not leave your little ones or pets in a motor vehicle as the inside heats up very fast especially with the windows closed, and they can dehydrate quickly, suffer heatstroke with potentially fatal consequences.

“Although it is not always easy for parents, children should never be left without adult supervision. It is also important to only leave young children with responsible adults who do not drink heavily or take drugs, and will look after them properly,” points out Grindell.

Toubkin has the following suggestions for keeping your children safe these holidays:

  • Always make sure to keep a close eye on your child. Do not let them wander off on their own or be without the supervision of a responsible adult.
  • Never leave children in the care of an adult you do not trust.
  • Do not leave children under the supervision of other children.
  • Never leave children alone in a motor vehicle.
  • When travelling by motor vehicle ensure that babies or young children are buckled up in a safety seat in the back seat, and drive responsibly.
  • Learn first aid or at least learn CPR. It could save a life.
  • Child-proof your home or the place you are staying by making sure that all dangerous substances and items are out of reach. Make sure that all electrical wiring is safe and swimming pools are sealed off with an SABS approved safety fence and/or safety net, preferably both.
  • Do not drink too much alcohol or take drugs if you have children in your care.

Grindell advises South Africans to memorise the Netcare 911 national emergency number, 082 911, so that they know who to call in the event of a medical emergency.

Toubkin says that Netcare emergency departments make use of MediBank’s data bank, a data system that captures information regarding emergency patients. This provides Netcare with a host of valuable information on emergency patients across its hospitals.


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) for Netcare and Netcare 911
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Wilson and Jillian Penaluna
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected]