Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 February 2014





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Government Gazette

How safe is your home for children?

Recently there have been a growing number of accidents in children. Some of them have been in their schools, on playgrounds and in public parks. Others have been in their own homes. The number of children harmed inside their homes through the carelessness of their care givers seems to have increased judging from recent news reports of children drinking insecticide from bottles mistaking this poisonous chemical to be a sweet drink; falling over high tables and desks and injuring their spines, sometimes carrying the scars for life, or drowning in a basin of water collected for the day's washing, or else wandering outside the house and falling into the family well. Children also burn themselves due to their innate curiosity with plugs and switches putting their little fingers or pins into unsafe plugs. Or again hurting themselves with sharp domestic tools such as knives, forks and pairs of scissors.

Consultant Community Physician and member of the Expert Committee on Ergonomics, SLMA, Dr. Diana Samarakkody who has specialised in the prevention of injuries from the Monash University Accident Research Centre, Australia, shares her expertise with the Sunday Observer in the following interview.


Q. Why are children more likely to get injuries than adults?

A. Age specific psychosocial developmental characteristics make children's behaviour more vulnerable to injuries. For example they try to grasp and manipulate objects; they explore new objects by poking their fingers into them, they put unsafe objects into their mouth.

On top of this, children have softer bones, weaker neck muscles, and more fragile bodies that result in more injuries.

Q. Where do most of these injuries occur?

A. At home.

Q. Why?

A. As the home environment is mostly designed for adults, it is unsuitable for children since children don't know how to keep themselves safe.

Q. What kind of injuries are children most at risk?

A. Falls: Children can fall from windows, chairs; and also drown, poisoning, crush injuries, tripping over from furniture such as chairs, tables, desks are other hazards. Drive-way crush injuries, when a child may be crushed by his family car while standing inside the garage or in the wrong place.

Electrocution - Lots of children get electrocuted or experience shocks by putting their fingers inside plug points or accidentally holding an exposed electrical wire.

Suffocation injuries is another danger when an infant or toddler puts a plastic bag over his face or a pillow over his face and is unable to free himself. Strangulation- from a piece of wire or clothing tape or towel also cause injuries. Choking, is another cause, so are burns.

Q. How do burns in children occur? What kind of burns are they?

A. Thermal burns can occur from open fires, lamps, candles, cookers, hot irons, cigarettes, matches, lighters and other hot surfaces. Other burns include scald burns, electrical burns, contact burns and chemical burns.

Q. How can these accidents be prevented?

A. In the case of burns, use safe lamps and safe candle holders if applicable. Always switch off heated appliances such as irons and electric heaters immediately after use and, if possible, place them out of reach of children. Always keep hot drinks, saucepan handles and other hot appliances away from the edges of tables and surfaces. Don't use tablecloths that children can pull at.

Don't drink or carry anything hot with a child on your lap or in your arms. If possible, keep young children out of the kitchen.

Always check the temperature of water and make sure it is not too hot before bathing your baby.

The best way is to test temperature is to put your elbow in first.

When filling the bath, run the cold water first before adding hot water.

Teach them also how to be burn-safe. Always supervise children's activities.

To prevent falls in children, make sure the tables and desks and furniture are child friendly and downsized so that the impact of the fall is less. Make sure your baby cannot roll off the bed. Don't use baby walkers. Always fix guards to upstairs windows, balconies and stairways. Keep chairs and other climbing objects away from windows and balconies.

Don't leave anything on the floor that might cause someone to fall over. Secure any furniture, TV and kitchen appliances to the wall if there's a risk they could be pulled over.

With regard to drowning, following are some water safety tips: Never leave kids alone in or around water. Remove water from tubs and buckets after use Close lids of buckets with water and lock the doors or bathrooms and anywhere else where water is likely to collect. Protect garden wells with high walls.

Q. What other risk factors can endanger them?

A. Packaging. Use only child resistant packaging.

Q. What about medicines?

A. Keep your medications away from children in high locked cupboards which they can't access.

Q. Aren't chemicals that are used for domestic purposes and vehicles also a hazard?

A. Yes, domestic chemicals such as insect sprays and engine oil, petrol also can pose a real threat. Always keep them in safe child resistant storage.

Keep all dangerous chemicals in their original containers and always dispose of unwanted medicines and chemicals carefully.

Q. What can parents do to prevent suffocating and choking at home?

A. Keep small objects out of the reach of small children.

Always choose toys designed for the age of your baby or child. When you give toys to older children consider the ages of the younger children in that home. Beware of clothing with cords, necklace cords and bag straps.

Keep plastic bags, balloons away from young children.

Q. Your advice to parents?

A. Remember: Better safe than sorry. Always supervise children's activities. Let them to play and allow them to have normal development. Your role as a parent is careful supervision. Always have a 'safety mind'.

Almost all of these injuries are preventable. Parents and Carers thus have a key role and responsibility to protect children left in their charge. Don't lose your focus or concentration especially with a toddler who can stray into the road or climb a fence when you are not looking. Be watchful all the time.

Three-fold increase in pregnancy among young girls with mental illness

Young girls with mental illness are three times more likely to become teenage parents than those without a major mental illness, according to a study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Women's College Hospital.

The study is the first to examine trends in fertility rates among girls with mental illness.

“Research tells us that young girls are at high risk of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, poor fetal growth and postpartum depression” said Dr. Simone Vigod, a psychiatrist at Women's College Hospital and an adjunct scientist at ICES.

“Add to this a pre-existing mental illness, and these young women are forced to manage significant additional challenges.”

Researchers examined live birth rates from 1999 to 2009 in 4.5 million girls, 15 to 19 in Ontario, with and without a major mental health illness.

They found young girls with a major mental health illness, including depression, bipolar disorder and other psychotic disorders, were three times more likely to become teenage parents.

Although birth rates in both affected and unaffected adolescent girls decreased over time, the gap between the groups appeared to be increasing slightly over the 10-year study period.

Among girls with a major mental illness, live births decreased by only 14 percent during the study period compared to a 22 percent drop among unaffected girls.

“Although we do know some of the risk factors behind why girls with mental health illness may be at increased risk of becoming pregnant, pregnancy prevention programs in most developed countries have not traditionally considered mental health issues” said Vigod.

The authors suggest targeted school-based programs are needed along with greater integration of reproductive health care into adolescent mental health care programs.

“Interventions that target and integrate reproductive and mental health care for young women are crucial to ensure we are providing the best care possible for adolescent mothers,” said Cindy-Lee Dennis, a senior scientist.

“Having these programs and offerings in place will also help reduce teenage pregnancy and improve mother and child health outcomes.”

- medicalxpress

How Galileo's visual illusion works in the mind's eye

Scientists have studied a visual illusion first discovered by Galileo Galilei, and found that it occurs because of the surprising way our eyes see lightness and darkness in the world. Their results advance our understanding of how our brains are wired for seeing white versus black objects.

The work was done by Jens Kremkow and collaborators in the laboratories of Jose Manuel Alonso and Qasim Zaidi at the State University of New York College of Optometry.

Galileo was puzzled by the fact that the appearance of the planets changed depending on whether one looked with the naked eye versus with a telescope.

Viewed directly, planets seemed “expanded” and had “a radiant crown”, which made Venus looked eight to 10 times larger than Jupiter even if Jupiter was four times larger.

Though Galileo realised this size illusion was not created by the object - but by his eyes - he did not understand why or how.

He mused, “Either because their light is refracted in the moisture that covers the pupil, or because it is reflected from the edges of the eyelids and these reflected rays are diffused over the pupil, or for some other reason.”

Generations of scientists following Galileo continued to assume the illusion was caused by blur or similar optical effects.

However, though blur can distort size, it does not explain why Venus looks larger than Jupiter with the naked eye.

Hermann von Helmholtz - the venerable 19th Century German physician-physicist - was the first to realise that something else” was needed to explain the illusion, as he described in his Treatise on Physiological Optics. Only now, with Kremkow and colleagues’ new study, has science finally zoomed in and illuminated the scope of the problem. It's a feature of how we see everything, no less.

By examining the responses of neurons in the visual system of the brain - to both light stimuli and dark stimuli - the neuroscientists discovered that, whereas dark stimuli result in a faithful neural response that accurately represents their size, light stimuli on the contrary result in non-linear and exaggerated responses that make the stimulus look larger. So white spots on a black background look bigger than same-sized black spots on white background, and Galileo's glowing moons are not really as big as they might appear to the unaided eye.

This effect is responsible for how we see everything from textures and faces - based on their dark parts in bright daylight - to why it is easier to read this very page with black-on-white lettering, rather than white-on-black (a well known, and until now, unexplained phenomenon).


Women look to date taller men, but men think less about height

The height of a potential partner does matter, a new study has found, but only to women, undermining evolutionary theory that people look for partners with physically similar features.

A study conducted by researchers at Rice University and the University of North Texas found that instead, women looked to date men who were taller than them for ‘protection and femininity’ reasons attached to social expectations or gender stereotypes, despite an “increasing equality in belief and in practice between the sexes”.

The study, Does Height Matter? An Examination of Height Preferences in Romantic Coupling, was conducted in two parts. Part one used data from a series of Yahoo! personal dating advertisements from 455 males (average height of 5 feet 8 inches and average age of 36 years) and 470 females (average height of 5 feet 4 inches and average age of 35 years) in the US. Just thirteen per cent of men specified wanting to date women who were shorter than them, but almost half (49 percent of women) said they were looking to date only men who were taller than them.

“Evolutionary psychology theory argues that ‘similarity is overwhelmingly the rule in human mating,'” Michael Emerson, the study's co-author said.

“However, our study suggests that for physical features such as height, similarity is not the dominant rule, especially with females.”

In the second part, 54 male participants (average height of 5 feet 9 inches) and 131 female volunteers (average height of 5 feet 4 inches) were asked to answer open-ended questions on an online survey.

Thirty-seven percent of men said they only wanted partners who were shorter than them, but over half (55 per cent) of women said they would only date men taller then them. The most common reason women cited for this related to protection and femininity, the authors said. One female participant said in an answer: “As the girl, I like to feel delicate and secure at the same time [...] I also want to be able to hug him with my arms reaching up and around his neck.”

In contrast, male participants were much less concerned with height. George Yancey, the study's lead author at the University of Texas said the height preferences of men and women can be explained by traditional societal expectations and gender stereotypes. He said that stereotypically in a patriarchal society, a taller height is considered to be a personal asset for men. “The masculine ability to offer physical protection is clearly connected to the gender stereotype of men as protectors,” he said. “And in a society that encourages men to be dominant and women to be submissive, having the image of tall men hovering over short women reinforces this value.”

-The Independent


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