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
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.
A. As the home environment is mostly designed for adults, it
is unsuitable for children since children don't know how to keep
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
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
Teach them also how to be burn-safe. Always supervise children's
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“Having these programs and offerings in place will also help reduce
teenage pregnancy and improve mother and child health outcomes.”
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
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
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
“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.”