Why a dog could be your child's worst nightmare

THE adage, “most accidents happen at home,” is as true now as it ever was.

THE adage, “most accidents happen at home,” is as true now as it ever was. Which is why National Child Safety Week, organised by the Child Accident Prevention Trust, is as important as ever.

Accidents are one of the biggest killers of children in the UK, second only to cancer. And next year around two million children nationally will have an accident at home.

One of the biggest forces in the region trying to improve child safety is the Whoops Child Safety Project run by charity The Children’s Foundation.

Carole Hewison, who leads the project, adds: “Serious accidents can cause injuries that take months or years to heal. But the psychological damage caused to children and their families can often last a lifetime.

“Many of these accidents can be prevented by taking the time to move a hot drink, check a smoke alarm, lock the medicine cabinet or fit a safety gate.”

The Gateshead-based project, now celebrating its 10th anniversary year, gives training sessions to parents, children and health professionals across the North East on a variety of child safety issues.

It has helped reduce admissions for burns and scalds to accident and emergency departments in the region by 50%.

Carole says: “This week is really another week in the office for us as we’re working to improve child safety all year. Child safety is about basic common sense, not health and safety madness.

“What we are not doing is telling people to wrap their children in cotton wool but asking them to put in place simple measures to make sure their children aren’t disabled or their lives put at risk.”

The team deliver the courses at Sure Start centres and community groups. And they make sure they have impact. Carole adds: “We use very visual images of injuries or burns. You can hear people gasp when they see them. It has an impact and you know they are seeing sense.”

One of the areas Carole and her team are really pushing is dog safety. Following high-profile cases which have seen family dogs killing babies and severely injuring children this is a timely issue.

Figures released this year show serious injuries caused by dogs have soared in Newcastle, with the number needing hospital treatment doubling.

The city is the second worst area in the country for people needing hospital treatment for injuries.

Newcastle hospitals saw 115 victims passing through their wards between 2008/2009 with dog injuries. Durham and Darlington Hospitals Trust was eleventh in the dog injury rankings, treating 77. Of the 212 patients needing hospital treatment across Tyneside, Northumberland and Durham, 32 were children under the age of 10.

These figures aren’t a surprise to Carole. She says: “Whoops have two joiners working for us and a home inspector whose job it is to fit safety measures into people’s homes.

“I’d say in the homes they go into about 60% of them came face to face with angry dogs and 30% of those are dangerous dogs.”

In fact Carole adds, often parents want gates fitted to keep their dogs away from their children.

She says: “Parents know there is a problem with the dog. Often the dogs have bitten before, so they’re living with a time bomb.”

There are of course certain breeds which are more dangerous, Carole says. “The kind of dogs are usually terrier breeds, the Staffordshires and the classic type of bulldogs. But there are aggressive smaller dogs as well, such as Jack Russells.”

She adds: “Children and dogs just don’t mix. They should never, ever be left alone together. It could be just the moment your back is turned that your dog suddenly decides it is going to bite.”

Saving lives

DURING Child Safety Week, the Whoops! team will hold free baby and child life-saving sessions for parents at local children’s centres.

At the sessions, the team will educate parents and carers on dangers such as burns and scalds, choking and suffocation, and trips and falls. They will give advice on how to prevent accidents, and also how to deal with them if they happen. Parents will see for themselves the devastating effects something like a hot cup of tea, or scalding bath water can cause to the skin of a child.

Call 0191 477 7366 for more information.

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