Children kept at home due to the coronavirus pandemic may be putting them at greater risks of harm from both accidents and – tragically – abusive parents, according to a doctor.
In Fort Worth, Texas, a sudden surge of child abuse cases has raised red flags for doctors at the facility.
Speaking to Newsweek, Dr Jamye Coffman, the medical director of the Child Advocacy Resources and Evaluation team at the Cook Children’s Hospital, said a rise in child-abuse related injuries could be the result of children spending greater time at home with parents amid increased stress levels caused by coronavirus fears.
“I can’t say for sure that this is related to [COVID-19]” she said. “I can’t say for sure that this isn’t just a fluke, but we know that when there’s increased stress … within families there’s an increased risk of abuse to children.”
Ms Coffman said her hospital treated six abuse cases last week, including one that resulted in the death of a preschooler. The child was the second preschooler to die at the hospital in two weeks due to suspected abuse related injuries.
One of the children died of head trauma and the other was pronounced dead in the hospital’s ER after suffering apparent trauma.
Ms Coffman said similar increases occurred during the 2008 recession.
“We saw that during the recession in the United States, where we had an increased number of physical abuse cases during the recession,” she said. “In our institution, we had an increase in the number of deaths for child abuse during the recession.”
A statement from UNICEF echoed Ms Coffman’s concern that greater isolation from school and peers would lead to a greater number of child abuse cases.
“…hundreds of millions of children around the world will likely face increasing threats to their safety and wellbeing–including mistreatment, gender-based violence, exploitation, social exclusion and separation from caregivers—because of actions taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Child abuse isn’t the only threat to children stuck at home. Doctors are urging parents to do more to protect their children from unnecessary injuries and poisoning while they’re kept home.
In Louisville, Kentucky, doctors at Norton Children’s Hospital said families need to take extra precautions to make sure their children are safe.
“What we’re worrying about and what we’re seeing, frankly, is that children are being injured,” Kerry Caperell, the interim chief for pediatric emergency medicine told WDRB News.
A 3-year-old girl in south Louisville died after she accidentally shot herself with a gun she found, and this year alone six children have been admitted to the hospital due to gunshot wounds, with another three seeking medical attention over BB gun related injuries.
“Firearm injuries in children are almost universally fatal. There’s nothing I can do,” Mr Caperell said. “And the only way to save that life is to prevent it from happening in the first place.”
He recommended storing guns in a locked location, unloaded and out of the reach of children rather than in nightstands or bedroom closets. Mr Caperell also suggested gun owners store ammunition outside of the reach or sight of children, keep the keys to locked areas hidden, and make sure all weapons in the house have a child protective lock.
In addition to protecting guns, Mr Caperell suggested parents should lock up their medicine, as well.
With children spending more time at home – especially while their parents may be working remotely during the day – they have more time to explore and potentially get into medications that could kill them.
Data released last week from Safe Kids Worldwide reported that more than 47,000 children under age six are seen in emergency rooms for medicine poisoning annually. That’s five children going to the ER per hour because they had access to medicine that was dangerous to them.
Not unlike weapons, the recommendations from Safe Kids Worldwide for storing medicine are to keep them out of reach and sight of children and ensure they’re locked away. Parents can also be intentional when they’re purchasing medicine by ensuring they buy bottles with childproof caps.
Keeping a medicine inventory can also help parents keep track of their medicine and note if anything has gone missing.
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