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Safe houses: 11 things emergency doctors ban from their homes


Doctors at Upstate University Hospital‘s emergency department are on the front lines of the mayhem and mishaps that befall young Central New Yorkers.

kid2They care for people with every imaginable injury or illness at their workplace, the Level 1  trauma center for a region stretching from the state capital through Finger Lakes wine country, from the border of Pennsylvania to Canada.

They handle crises with calm.

Then they go home.

Some aspects of the job go with them, visions such as struggling to revive a child who wandered into a backyard pool, or comforting a parent whose teen who put a gun to his head. Such experiences inform the rules they put in place for their own children in their own households.

Here are 11 things that are so dangerous as to be generally forbidden in the homes of emergency doctors:

1. Trampolines

trampolineSide nets and completely covered springs are safety features of modern trampolines, but Derek Cooney, MD, still won‘t allow a trampoline at his house. “They‘re just too dangerous.

“Many of the most serious injuries are related to falls from the trampoline, collisions when multiple people are jumping, and exposed springs that lead to gruesome extremity lacerations,” he explains, adding that serious neck and back injuries, joint or limb fractures are not uncommon.

bouncesk2. Bounce houses

Inflatable bounce houses can lead to collision injuries and falls, as with trampolines, but there‘s a secondary reason they‘re not welcome in the home of Risa Farber-Heath, DO. “They spread germs.”

3. Motorcycles, snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles

snowmobile“I see a large number of patients with severe trauma while riding these. Your body is unprotected, and you are going at a high rate of speed,” says Louise Prince, MD. “I do not permit my children to ride them at friend‘s houses, either.”

4. Wading pools

Mini poolThey‘re tiny when compared to a full-size swimming pool, but that doesn‘t make them safe. A small plastic or inflatable wading pool can be a drowning risk when kids are unsupervised, reminds Farber-Heath.

5. Dishwasher detergent pods

Kelsey Stack, DO, says dishwasher detergent pods look like bright, yummy candy to kids “but can cause all sorts of issues, the most significant being caustic burns to the mouth, esophagus or airway.

“After seeing many kids in the emergency department who have bitten into them, and the consequences of that one bite, I banned them from our house.”

6. Riding mowers

mowerGrowing up with a pediatric surgeon for a father, Cooney heard of horrible lawn mower accidents long before he began taking care of patients who were injured by lawn mowers. Every summer, he sees children who are run over by parents on riding lawn mowers who did not know their child was anywhere nearby. Some of the children lose limbs or are permanently disfigured, and some of them die.

When the lawn is being mowed, the Cooneys follow the rule that “children should not be outside unless a second adult is directly supervising them and ensuring they are kept well away from the yard,” he says. They do not have a riding mower. If they did, they would not allow older children to use it. Too often he‘s seen the result of judgment errors: a mower operated on a slope that rolls and crushes a person, or someone loses a hand or a foot while working on a mower with the engine still running.

7. Hand sanitizers

Mini pool“I want my kids exposed to everything and building a strong and healthy immunity,” Jeremy Joslin, MD, says in explaining why his family skips hand sanitizer products in favor of plain soap and water.

(Joslin spoke shortly before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a rule that essentially agrees with him. The FDA is banning several chemicals from over-the-counter antibacterial soaps, calling such soaps unnecessary, possibly dangerous and no better than ordinary soap and water. This will not apply to antibacterial soaps used for hospitals and food services.)

8. Foam dart guns

“I won't let my kids play with Nerf-type guns unless they are wearing goggles,” says Alison McCrone, MD, medical director for Upstate Golisano After Hours Care. She‘s concerned about poor aim, accidental close shots and other moves with the potential for injury.

9. Teapots and coffeepots.

teapot“I have seen so many kids coming in with burns to the face, chest and arms from hot coffee or tea that they have pulled over on themselves, or that a caregiver had spilled on them. It‘s terrible,” Stack says. “I only boil water on the back burners and always make sure while cooking that pan handles are turned toward the inside and not sticking out for little hands to grab.”

10. Co-sleeping

babyclrJoslin will not sleep with a baby in his bed. He always makes children sleep by themselves. “I‘ve taken care of too many dead babies from co-sleeping arrangements.”


11. Gaming systems

game“It isn‘t exactly a safety issue as much as the belief that they are time consuming, addictive and have many violent games,” says Prince in explaining why her home contains no game system. “We want our kids to do other things with their time.”


Three more dangers

So far this year authorities from the Upstate New York Poison Center, which fields phone calls from 54 counties outside of New York City, have noticed an increase in the number of calls about emergencies involving someone 19 or younger and laundry pods (similar to dishwasher detergent pods), electronic cigarettes and button batteries.

Item                        All of 2015   First half of 2016

Laundry pods                217                         105

E-cigarettes                   2                              4

Button batteries           35                            26

(Source: Michele Caliva, Upstate New York Poison Center)

magazine-fall16cvrThis article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.