Hidden household hazards

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Accidental injuries are the leading cause of death in children and send more than 16 million kids to the ER each year. While you may already be taking precautions against obvious dangers, there are some we're sure you haven't thought of yet.

With six kids, Lyssha and Jake Bowden know a thing or two about child-proofing.

"Any toy that has loose parts, small parts, electric outlets," said Lyssha.

Even with all that caution Tino, their only son, proved that boys will be boys when he swallowed 16 tiny craft magnets. Within an hour, he was in the ER.

"When we saw the x-ray, we actually saw that a couple days prior, he'd also been eating magnets … along with a Christmas tree light fuse that was down there," said Jake.

Once swallowed, magnets can attract and "glue" the esophagus, stomach, or small bowel tissue together.

Pediatric Gastroenterologist Manoochehr Karjoo, MD, from Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital explained, "They need surgery because they are very tight together. It cannot be removed."

Magnets, which are often sold as toys, aren't the only danger. Balloons, a staple of birthday parties, are the leading cause of toy-related choking deaths in kids.

"Balloons kind of conform to your food pipe and they can choke you very easily," said Sangeeta Bhargava, MD, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist from Orlando.

And Fido's food: also a choking risk! It's time to move it when baby starts to crawl.

"They are innocent. They don't know," said Karjoo. "They put it in their mouth and they swallow."

Another danger: swallowing just one mouthful of baby oil can cause lung inflammation and death. Ingesting Visine can cause breathing problems and seizures. Just a few teaspoons of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in kids.

"I know they warn on the box, but when the danger's in the house, all the kids, they have access to it," warned Karjoo.

When used on kids under two, Vick's Vaporub can lead to respiratory distress. And finally: batteries. From 1997 to 2010, 40,400 kids were treated in the ER for battery ingestion.

"If they get stuck in the esophagus, they can do damage very, very quickly," explained Bhargava.

Batteries cause tissue tears, burning, and internal bleeding.

"I don't need any other risks in the house at this point," said Lyssha.

Tino had a six-hour surgery to remove his magnets. He still suffers stomach pain.

"Definitely made us take a look at littler parts and just the everyday items that you use that you wouldn't think about," said Lyssha.

The bottom line?

"Caution, caution, caution! Anticipate, and do it before something bad happens," advised Bhargava.

It may just save your child's life!

Bhargava says loose computer cables and wires are also a strangulation hazard. Make sure these are tied properly. She says pennies are the most common item she sees kids ingest. Often, they will pass on their own, but the coins can get stuck in the esophagus.

Test Your Knowledge: A household hazards quiz can be found at www.housekeeping.org/blog/pop-quiz-hidden-household-hazards/

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