Preventing scalds, burns new focus of home visits

While nutrition and child safety always have been part of the “Healthy Babies, Healthy Children” home visit program, the Northwestern Health Unit has adopted another area–scalds and burns–to inform new parents about.
And during a visit to the home of local couple Chris and Nikki Wiedenhoeft, along with son, Nicholas, seven, and four-week-old daughter, Callahan, paramedic John Beaton gave them some tips on this “hot” topic.
“Any burn is a critical burn to a child,” he said, noting 200,000 children are scalded or burned every year in Canada.
Some tips he offered on avoiding burns included:
•keep hot drinks or soup away from your child when at the table;
•keep pot and pan handles turned in while there are the stove; and
•never put your child in the bath without testing the water first.
“If a scald happens, use cold water. You might put a light dressing on it afterwards,” noted Beaton, adding home remedies like ice or creams are not recommended.
If a burn is more than half the size of the child’s hand, is on the child’s face, hands, feet, or groin, or if it blisters or breaks the skin, take the child to the hospital.
He stressed a first-aid kit, as well as taking a first-aid course, also should be considered in case scalds or burns do happen.
“But we really stress prevention, not treatment,” added Beaton, who also briefly warned about the dangers of sunburns and electrical appliances as they apply to children.
As part of the awareness campaign, the health unit also is now offering a “temperature card” to parents, which was demonstrated to the Wiedenhoefts by public health nurse Ann-Marie Vanderaa .
These heat-sensitive cards can be used to tell how if the hot water in your home is at the recommended safe temperature for infants and children to use.
If the water is above 49 C (120 F), it’s recommended you adjust your hot water tank temperature to that point. Many Canadian homes have hot water that is 60 C (140 F)–hot enough to burn a child’s skin in one second.
“We were lucky because the temperature our hot water tank was working at read within the safe zone,” noted Nikki Wiedenhoeft.
These cards will be given out during home visits, at La Verendrye hospital, and at the health unit office.
Meanwhile, Fort Frances Fire Chief Steve Richardson also was on hand to give tips about fire safety and to check out the home’s smoke detectors.
“We had to make some changes with our smoke detectors,” noted Wiedenhoeft, referring to Chief Richardson’s advice on having detectors near bedrooms.
Chief Richardson also noted that one of the most important fire safety measures a family can make is to have an evacuation plan. “In the middle of the night when a smoke detector goes off, seconds count,” he stressed.
Since it’s the law that all homes have at least one working smoke detector, the fire department gives out a free one to anyone without one. Ensuring a home is equipped is part of firefighters’ home visits.
Meanwhile, Vanderaa has been responsible for visiting homes of new parents from here to Emo for the past five years.
She explained how the home visit program works. The health unit receives information from the hospitals when there is a new arrival. Vanderaa then will call the baby’s family within 48 hours after the mother leaves the hospital.
Vanderaa will schedule a visit, where she will give parents information on nutrition, breast feeding, early development, and safety issues like car seats and how to place an infant in a crib to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
“I think it’s a really good thing. They come right into your home, where you’re comfortable,” said Wiedenhoeft. “Sometimes reading materials in a hospital just isn’t the most effective way to learn.”
“We’re well-received. We try to alleviate some the stress that can come from having a newborn baby around, and to let them know we’re here for them,” noted Vanderaa.
“I do know a lot of parents who call me at the office after I first visit.
“We also refer families to other agencies if need be–like for financial assistance or parenting courses with our partners at the [United Native Friendship Centre],” she added.
About 80 percent of all families with newborn babies are visited here. “We don’t just visit first-time moms but all moms. We’ve visited a mother with seven children,” Vanderaa said.