Baby Equipment Can Cause Injuries (Article)

Sadly, a recent report shows that improper and haphazard use of baby and toddler equipment can lead to injuries and even fatalities every year. Playpens, baby swings, and booster seats all seem harmless enough, right? Unfortunately, we often don’t realize the dangers and risks associated with nursery items that almost every child under the age of five uses daily. High chairs, baby baths, and strollers, to name a few, are everywhere and are of great help to parents. These devices should be used with utmost caution, as distracted use, and to a lesser degree, product defects, may lead to severe injury or even death.

This past year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission published a report citing 74,100 emergency room visits in 2011 related to the use of various nursery products. Infant carriers, strollers, cribs, and high chairs were involved in two-thirds of the injuries. The majority of cases involved some form of head injury and usually occurred when babies or toddlers fell. Tragically, over a three year period, from 2007-2009, 341 deaths occurred related to nursery equipment. In these fatal cases, baby baths, cribs, playpens, car seats, and cradles accounted for 89% of the fatalities. Of note is the fact that most injuries and deaths occurred because the equipment was improperly used or set up. Only a small fraction of the incidents were due to product defects. In cases involving cribs or playpens, deaths usually resulted from suffocation by excess bedding. Many injuries and fatalities also occurred due to an unsafe environment surrounding the nursery equipment, such as loose wires and cords, nearby plastic bags, or precarious placement of the equipment. Another trend seen in a large number of cases was the observation that many babies and toddlers were left unattended during the time of the accident.  Even in the face of this grim data, parents should realize that many of these accidents could be prevented by increasing their awareness of the fact that young children can and do die from asphyxia when their faces get near pillows and blankets; they can and do strangle from neck jewelry or nearby electrical cords; and they can drown in very small amounts of water.

Keeping a young child safe from accidental injury is a big challenge for all parents. I deeply hope that no family ever has to go through the pain of losing a child.  Here are a few tips experts learned from recent data about accidents in young children:

  • Don’t leave your child unattended while they are taking a bath or are up high, like in a high chair.
  • Try to keep cribs and playpens clear of extra bedding.
  • Finally, look around your house and make sure that all nursery equipment is in a safe place, with no loose cords or things that could fall, and ensure that the equipment is sturdy and properly set up.

One child injured is one too many, so let’s all increase our awareness of household dangers posed by baby equipment.  Spread the word, won’t you?  Until next time.

Smo Notes:


Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.

Dangers of Decorative Contact Lenses (Article)



Decorative contact lenses are becoming a common fashion accessory for many children and young adults. With the holidays and parties just around the corner, it is important to discuss the dangers of decorative contact lenses. For parents who do not know, wearing these contact lenses can change your child’s eye color to make them any color or configuration they would like.  They are becoming all the rage but before you or your child step out with this new look, there is some important information you need to know:


The Risks

Wearing any type of contact lens can seriously damage your eyes if used incorrectly. Injuries include:

  • Cut/scratch on top layer of the eyeball (corneal abrasion)
  • Allergic reactions such as red, watery, itchy eyes
  • Decreased vision
  • Blindness
  • Infection
    • Signs of possible eye infection:
      • Redness
      • Extended eye pain
      • Decreased vision

NOTE: If your child has any of these symptoms, he or she needs to see an eye doctor immediately! An eye infection can cause serious vision loss if it is not treated.


Dos and Don’ts of Contact Lenses

  • Do get an eye exam: An eye doctor will examine your eyes to make sure the contact lenses fit properly—a wrong fit can damage your eyes. Be sure to always go for follow-up eye exams.
  • Do get a prescription: Your eye doctor will write you a prescription for all contact lenses, including decorative lenses.
  • Do follow the contact lens care instructions for wearing, cleaning, and disinfecting the lenses
  • Do seek medical attention right away and remove your contact lenses if your eyes show signs of infection!
  • Don’t share your contact lenses with anyone else!
  • Don’t buy any contact lenses without a prescription!


How to buy Decorative Contact Lenses

Only buy contact lenses from a company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses and requires you to provide a prescription. Anyone selling you contact lenses must get your prescription and verify it with your doctor. They should request not only the prescription, but also the name and phone number of your doctor. Remember, buying contact lenses without a prescription is dangerous!


It’s your job to make sure you protect you and your children’s eyes by:

  1. Having an eye exam
  2. Getting a prescription
  3. Buying contact lenses from a legal source.


Decorative contact lenses can be a fun as long as they are bought and worn safely!  Happy holidays!


Your comments are welcome at my blog,  When you are there, take a few moments to look at some of the literally hundreds of posts on the blog. Until next time.


Smo Notes:





Written collaboratively by Abigail Doelger and Paul Smolen M.D.

Kids, “Put down that bleach!” (Article)



Experts at the CDC are recognizing a growing pattern of behavior among children, experimentation with homemade chemical explosions. Picture this, it is almost the end of the school day and class is almost over. Tired excited students wait eagerly for the bell to ring. As the students line the hallways ready to evacuate, one sees smoke billowing from a neighboring hallway. Everyone begins to panic, assuming the building is on fire but this is not smoke from an accidental fire, rather this is the result of a nasty prank designed to end school a little early.  Experts are recognizing this behavior as a growing trend; students using homemade chemical bombs (HCBs) for school pranks and other school-age shenanigans. Unfortunately many of these young pranksters do not understand all the dangers associated with these seemingly comical pranks.



The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal government agency, probed data related to HCBs incidents from 2003-2011.  A subsequent report found out of 134 HCBs-related events, 21 events (16%) resulted in ‘adverse’ health effects.  These ‘adverse’ health effects included serious burns and respiratory problems. As you might have guessed, the majority of the injured were youths.


What exactly are HBCs and why are they so dangerous?  HCBs are constructed from readily accessible chemicals like common household cleaners, which contain chemicals like hydrochloric acid and ammonia. Youths mix these chemicals together in small bottles and the resulting reaction produces loud sounds and smoke, just like a bomb. The danger comes from the gases and flying shrapnel from the bottle, which can inflict serious permanent illness and injury. Not sounding like too much fun anymore?



What happened to those fun school activities like freeze tag or playing Oregon Trail? Young students are learning to use their water bottles for what they perceive as “more fun,” and are getting hurt in the process. This is a serious matter that concerns not just our youth, but our parents and teachers alike since the majority of HCBs explosions occur in public places, especially schools.  Do we need the TSA checking every student as they enter school or can we just teach our children the boundaries of acceptable behavior?  Only time will tell.


The internet has opened up infinite amount of information and dangers for our children.  Homemade bombs is just one example of that reality. Don’t you long for the days when toilet bowl cleaner was for toilets, ammonia was for cleaning floors and windows, and bleach was the key to getting your gym socks clean?  Take a moment today to inform your children that if they see a fellow student carrying anything suspicious, they need to talk to those in charge.  Our best defense is awareness.


I welcome your comments at my blog,  Until next time.


Smo Notes:

Written collaboratively by Norman Spencer and Paul Smolen M.D.






Does your child walk “Distracted”? (Article)

A recent study done by Safe Kids Worldwide has found drastic increases in teenage injuries and fatalities linked to crossing the street carelessly. Although crossing the road is a part of many teenagers’ everyday routine, few give a second thought as to how risky this seemingly simple task may be. When children are young, parents regularly remind them to look both ways and hold hands before crossing the street.  Unfortunately, when the teenage years arrive, many teens throw all caution to the wind. Many teenagers, with their mindsets of invulnerability, take safety for granted and allow distractions to take priority over basic safety. Almost 80% of teens believe that pedestrian accidents affect mostly younger children, but in reality, older teenagers account for over half of street crossing fatalities in children up to nineteen years of age. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, pedestrian injuries among 16-19 year olds have increased by over 25% in the past five years. One in five high schoolers and one in eight middle schoolers cross the street while distracted.

What has caused this surprising and sudden increase in injuries and fatalities among teen walkers? All signs point to increased distractions by talking, texting, listening to music, and video games.. As technology becomes more prevalent in teenage culture, the danger of being distracted while walking increase greatly. 39% of distractions were attributed to texting, and another 39% were due to listening to music with ear buds in place. Another 20% of distractions occurred while talking on the phone, and the final 2% were linked to the use of hand-held video games. When a teenager becomes distracted by technology, the real world becomes blocked out, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Take time today to begin a conversation with your children about distracted walking, bike riding, or even driving, Convince your teen to put away the phone, put down the videogame, and take out the ear buds while moving. Hearing and seeing oncoming traffic might give them the few seconds they need to avoid disaster. Urge them to use all their senses, look both ways, and pay attention while crossing the street. While it is probably impossible to prevent all pedestrian injuries in children, increasing caution and decreasing distractions is a good place to start. Telling your teen to be careful while crossing the road may seem elementary and cliché, but it could save their life.

Your comments and stories are welcome at my blog,  While you are there, take a few moments to explore the literally hundreds of audio posts, interviews, book reviews, and articles about pediatric topics. Until next time.

Smo Notes:


Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.

The Truly Amazing Story of Ian (Article)



With the permission of him and his family, I am going to tell you what happened to a patient of mine named Ian. Three years ago on a hot summer day, Ian went to the pool with his brother to go swimming.  They played games, competing and challenging each other physically like brothers do.  During a game of “How far can you go underwater?,” Ian’s brother noticed that Ian stayed underwater too long . Tragically, an 18-year-old lifeguard and an adult neighbor dragged Ian out of the water blue, lifeless and almost dead.  Ian’s life was now in the hands of  others, his  neighbor and a teenage lifeguard.  How quickly life can change!

Unfortunately, all of the pool water that Ian inhaled severely damaged his lungs; doctors just didn’t know whether the damage extended to his brain.  He spent weeks in the pediatric ICU with all the advanced respiratory support the doctors could muster. The most extreme measures were used to keep Ian going.  Things didn’t look good; the medical staff told Ian’s parents that he had just a fifty percent chance of surviving.  While the family prepared for the worst, however, Ian fought back.

A month after entering the hospital, a frail and exhausted Ian went home with fairly good lungs and, fortunately, a great brain and spirit.  His recovery was truly miraculous, a testament to his wonderful medical care, his religious faith, and his remarkably strong strength of character.

Knowing Ian’s story, I was thrilled when his mother called me recently to tell me that Ian has a summer job.  Not only has he managed to make a complete medical recovery against very steep odds, strengthen his bonds with his family, return to school and earn good grades, but now he has a summer job as, of all things, a LIFEGUARD!  Talk about giving back, this guy is AMAZING!  When I spoke to him recently, he told me that he hasn’t saved anyone yet, but he is ready to return the life saving favor to anyone who needs him. I know he will.


If you have comments, log onto my pediatric blog at  Take a few minutes to explore the literally hundreds of articles and posts on the site.  Until next time.


Written by Paul Smolen MD






“Where’s Baby?, Look before you lock” (Article)

Now that summer has rolled around, the risk of heat stroke for children increases dramatically. Every year, children are tragically injured or lost  when well-meaning, loving parents or caregivers leave a child in their car. Whether the child is left in the car when parents run in to the grocery store, go in to school to pick up a sibling, or the child gets into the car to play without the caregivers’ knowledge, the results can be equally heartbreaking.  Last year in the US, 32 children died from heat stroke, with 75% of deaths occurring in the summer months. This is a loss of life that can be prevented, and we should make every effort to ensure that fewer children suffer the effects of heat stroke each and every year.

Recently, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Administration partnered with children’s hospitals and Safe Kids Worldwide to increase awareness on heat stroke and to dismantle many misconceptions. We often don’t realize just how quickly heat stroke can occur, especially in young children under the age of fouryears. With temperatures in the low 80s, heat stroke may develop in as little as ten minutes, even if the windows are rolled down a couple of inches.  Children’s bodies overheat much more quickly than an adults’.  Even if a child doesn’t die from heat stroke, a rapid rise in body temperature can result in permanent brain injury, hearing loss, blindness, and much more. The effects of heat stroke are  devastating and can affect anyone.

Thankfully, there are many steps conscientious caregivers and parents can take to prevent heat stroke. If we all simply take a moment to think before stepping out of the car, we can save lives. Always look in the front and back seats to ensure that no child is left behind, and leave something you use often like a purse or briefcase next to the child seat to remind you to check. You can also easily leave a sticky note on the dashboard to remind yourself. Never leave a child unattended in the car, even if it doesn’t seem that hot, the windows are rolled down, or the engine is running. Finally, teach your children that the car is not a play place and keep the keys out of reach. These simple steps can prevent tragedy. As the Department of Transportation’s slogan goes, “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.”


Your comments are welcome at  Until next time.


Smo Notes:


Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen MD

New information about bed-sharing and infants (Article)

SIDS is the leading cause of infant mortality  in the US during the postneonatal period  (28 days through the first birthday). To prevent it, pediatricians advise parents to place babies on their backs to sleep and to avoid sharing the same bed with their babies. Many parents want to bring their infants to bed with them.  Bed sharing seems so convenient for breastfeeding and cuddling.

In an article just published in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed a large amount of information from five separate studies.  The authors concluded that if a mother sleeps in the same bed with her infant, the risk of SIDS increases five fold.   The risk of bed sharing with mom was most pronounced for infants under three months of age.  Experts believe that bed-sharing SIDS may occur because a baby breathes trapped, stale air, inadvertently smothers, or becomes seriously overheated while sleeping in bed with their mothers.

Does this mean parents cannot sleep close to their babies or feed them in bed? No, you can still breastfeed your infant in the bed as long as you are awake, and you can sleep in the same room as your baby as long as the baby is not in your bed while you, the parent, are asleep. In fact, both breastfeeding and sleeping in the same room with your baby actually lowers his or her chance of  SIDS.  Having your baby close at night is fine, but learn and follow the “Safe Sleep” guidelines experts have worked so hard to develop. The “Safe Sleep” guidelines save lives.

I welcome your comments at While you are there, check out the literally hundreds of podcasts, articles and now videos covering a myriad of pediatric and parenting topics. Until next time.


Smo Notes:


Written collaboratively by John Eun and Paul Smolen MD