August 8, 2014
By Susan Deese, Department of Preventive Medicine, WAMC
Doing all that you can to protect your children can be harder than you think. There are many health concerns that affect children and are influenced by the homes in which they live. Respiratory infections, asthma, injuries and burns, irritations, allergy, rashes and poisonings are some of the health conditions that are affected by the environment children live in. It is estimated that young children can spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. Maintaining a healthy home creates a safe environment for them.
Some of the things that we can do to ensure that we are providing a safe and healthy environment indoors for young children are:
Wash your hands -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that washing our hands is one of the most effective steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. It is recommended that hand washing be performed before, during and after preparing food; before and after eating, after coughing; after touching or feeding pets; and after coming into your home from the outside. Hand washing can reduce respiratory infections by 16 percent and cut diarrheal disease associated deaths by up to 50 percent.
Cleaning up -- a clean home is critical to having a safe and healthy home. When homes are not kept clean by regular dusting, vacuuming and general cleaning, hazards can collect. Carpets hold allergens, dust mites and dirt and require vacuuming on a regular basis. Cockroaches, mice and other pests are attracted to moisture and food left behind. Floors need to be cleaned weekly, dirty dishes need to be washed as soon as possible, get rid of clutter so pest don't move in. Keeping items off floors inside your home will allow air to circulate and help reduce mold and mildew growth. Exposure to mold and mildew organisms can increase the risk of allergic illness, trigger asthma, foster respiratory infections and other health related symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, as well as eye and skin irritations.
Safety and pesticides -- many things in our homes can be hazardous and sometimes deadly to children. Sharp corners at a child's height can pose a danger for an eye or head injury. Hot water should not exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit in bathrooms or within the reach of a child because it can become a scalding issue. Electrical outlets need to be covered when not in use. Stairwells should have gates to prevent falls. All chemicals and pesticides should be stored out of reach or in locked cabinets and should always be stored in their original containers. Pesticides can cause poisoning, birth defects, nerve damage, and even cancer. Medications also pose a safety issue within the home and should be stored out of the reach of children. Acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient used in America and can be found in over 600 medications. It is used in cough and cold medications, fever reducers, pain medications and allergy medicines. There is a limit on the amount of acetaminophen that can be taken in one day. Too much can cause an overdose and lead to liver damage. Never take or give your child two medications that contain acetaminophen at the same time (KnowYourDose.org).
Lead -- can be found in homes that were built before 1978. It's found in paint, lead pipes, vinyl mini blinds and children's toys. Lead can also be found in dust and soil, pottery, fishing and hunting supplies. Lead poisoning in childhood can cause difficulties in learning, growth and behaviors that last a lifetime.
Green cleaning -- is cleaning your entire home with basic ingredients. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that levels of air pollution can be two to five times higher inside our homes than the outside. Making use of green cleaners is a way to make homes air safer to breathe. Green cleaners include using white vinegar as an antifungal that also kills germs and bacteria. Baking soda eliminates odors and works as a gentle scouring powder. Corn meal can be used to pick up carpet spills. Other green cleaning supplies include club soda to remove stains and lemon juice as a bleaching agent and to remove stains. To find out more on the use of green cleaners go to (www.epa.gov/iaq/).