Protect your kiddos from the top dangers they may face. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Protect your kiddos from the top dangers they may face. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

From toxins to head injuries, children today face serious threats to their health.

Perhaps more than ever it is important for parents to be aware of potential childhood dangers. That’s where we fit in.

We spoke with doctors and specialists across the Spectrum Health System to compile a list of the Top 10 dangers your child or teenager may encounter.

“As parents, keeping our kids safe is a top priority,” said Adelle Cadieux, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist. “Monitoring your child’s behaviors, friends and routines, and maintaining open communication is key.”

Although not all injuries can be prevented, this Top 10 list provides some helpful strategies for tackling issues that might arise.

1. Motor vehicle accidents

Up to 50% of teen accidents include alcohol, marijuana or texting while driving. Make sure your teens are traveling safely and know better than to drink and drive. Establish a 24/7 safety plan if your teen is in a situation in which he or she is not feeling safe about driving or being in a car with a friend who is driving.

2. Guns

Accidental deaths, homicides and suicides all add up to make guns and kids a deadly combination. If you have guns in your home, please keep them locked in a safe location. Also, have a discussion with your kids about gun safety, including what to do if they are at a friend’s or neighbor’s home where there is an unsecured gun.

3. Unsafe infant sleep

Co-sleeping, soft animals, pillows and blankets increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in sleeping infants. If you have a little one at home, make sure you are up to speed on safe sleep guidelines. Ask your doctor if you’re unsure.

4. Toxic exposures

New detergent packets are concentrated and can be deadly to toddlers or kids who think they are candy. Look around your house—or places where your child is spending time—from a child’s perspective. What looks appealing or like candy? What chemicals or household cleaners are within reach? Take necessary steps to reduce those temptations or hazards. Also, be sure to lock medicine cabinets or keep drugs—including grandma and grandpa’s medications—in secured, out-of-reach places.

5. Suicide and depression

Suicide attempts using guns and drugs (prescription or otherwise) are on the rise. As a parent, take the time to talk about depression, bullying and suicide with your kids and be sure to lock up guns and medicine at home. Check with teachers and friends if you are worried about your teen or child and learn to communicate openly with them. Seek immediate help if you think your child may act on suicidal thoughts.

6. Child abuse or neglect

As a community, it is important to identify and support children at risk of being neglected or abused. If you see something that just doesn’t seem right, have a discussion with the child’s teacher (if the child is a classmate of your son or daughter), contact social workers at your county’s child protective services office, or notify police if abuse is suspected. Don’t delay.

7. Illicit drug use

Teens have access to adult prescription drugs, illegal drugs and new designer drugs. Keep an eye on your teen’s behaviors and talk with them regularly about the dangers of drug use.

8. Teen pregnancy

Teen pregnancies expose the mother and infant to higher death or complication rates. Teen moms are also less likely to graduate from high school, receive a college education and more likely to be on government assistance as adults. Talk to your kids about the importance of safe sex and the risky outcomes of teen pregnancy.

9. Head Injuries

Kids need to wear helmets when bike riding, snowboarding, skiing, or riding motorcycles or ATVs. The use of a helmet is a cheap, easy and effective method of safety that parents can enforce. Your child’s noggin—and your’s for that matter—will thank you.

10. Drowning

Water safety is imperative for kids of all ages. Keep a watchful eye on your children when they’re around water, teach them the importance of water awareness, and outfit them in appropriate-sized lifejackets. Learn more in this article on water safety.