Toddler reaching for hot pan - Kid Safe DC

Instagram Group ‘Kid Safe DC’ Offers Safety Tips

Kid Safe DC was set up during the pandemic to help parents find safety information in the D.C. metro area. 

During the summer of 2020, the pandemic was still in its infancy. At that time, kids had been cooped up in the house for barely four months. Kids were spending more time indoors and at home because in-person fun, such as summer camps, pools, amusement parks, festivals and concerts were all shut down. With kids spending more time at home, they were getting injured more and going to see the doctor more frequently.

Dr. Katie Donnelly, emergency room physician at Children’s National Hospital in D.C., saw an increase in at-home injuries in kids and did all she could to address those injuries. She also wanted to find a way to harness that passion on a personal level. She decided to team up with Dr. Inbar Plaut, a resident doctor at Children’s National Hospital, to create an informal Instagram group, Kid Safe DC, to provide helpful safety information to benefit parents in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

According to Dr. Donnelly, Kid Safe DC is a personal endeavor only and is unaffiliated with Children’s National or with her other similar-sounding work project at the hospital, Safe Kids DC, a subsidiary of Safe Kids Worldwide. Her goal with Kid Safe DC is to provide safety tips “to educate and get good information out there … [especially after seeing] a lot of misinformation in mom groups.” This will ultimately help parents minimize injuries to children at home, says Dr. Donnelly.

Coronavirus restrictions and postponements of in-person safety seminars with Safe Kids DC at the hospital were making it difficult to reach the public.

Dr. Donnelly also acknowledged that working parents often attend multiple work-related Zoom meetings in one day and may not have the bandwidth to attend another Zoom meeting for child safety information. The solution, she decided, was to keep things simple by joining Instagram. “On Instagram, you just hop on it and scroll at your own leisure.”

Dr. Plaut, who is savvy with social media and communications, is equally passionate about giving parents useful safety advice through Instagram because she feels many of the injuries she sees at the hospital are preventable. “A lot of those accidents could have been prevented with some more awareness about certain safety procedures around the house, simple things like turning pot handles away from the edge of the stove so kids can’t reach them to pull them down,” explains Dr. Inbar.

As we approach the one-year mark of COVID-related restrictions in public gatherings, Dr. Donnelly says that things have not gotten better. “Families are in a no-win situation. The means of being entertained safely are lacking right now. If you have a mom or dad who works from home and has Zoom meetings all day while the kids are in [virtual] class, they’re just in your house and stuck at home.”

While injuries at the playground have subsided, other types of injuries at home have risen.

For example, Dr. Donnelly sees more children seeking treatment for injuries due to window falls since families are opening their windows more, even during cold months, and letting window screens filter in fresh air. Children get too close to the open windows and lean heavily against the screens, causing them to fall out and hurt themselves. Another injury that she has warned about on Kid Safe DC is the increase in burns related to the cooking or warming of food in microwaves due to the possibility of containers tipping over, spilling the contents on a child’s hand and causing injuries.

Dr. Donnelly believes parents can do their part to minimize their children’s at-home injuries with a shift in mindset, reverting to a familiar strategy of pretending their children are very young. If they do that, parents will be able to see their house through the eyes of young children and put safety measures in place to lessen the possibility of accidents and injuries occurring.

Dr. Donnelly offers several pieces of advice on Kid Safe DC, for parents who are struggling to work from home, engage in online meetings and still be able to watch their children and keep them safe:
  1. Pretend your kids are toddlers, again.
  2. Look around your house. Search for things they can get into – medicine, household cleaners, appliances, tools, etc.
  3.  Ask yourself what kids can do or touch to get themselves in trouble during your Zoom meeting. Figure out a way to keep any potentially troublesome household items out of reach or under control in a separate area.
  4. Attach window guards to windows. (Window guards may be made of aluminum or solid steel in the form of horizontal bars, available at home improvement stores.)
  5. Look at major pieces of furniture in your house and imagine what would happen if they were tipped over. Secure free-standing furniture items such as flat-screen TVs, bookcases, cabinets and dressers. (Parents may purchase anti-tipping television straps commercially.)
  6. Think twice before purchasing packaged food items that must be cooked in individual serving containers in the microwave. (Dr. Donnelly notes that the Cup Noodles and Instant Lunch noodle foods are packaged individually in small upright containers. When you add water and put the containers in the microwave to cook, the contents will be very hot and the chances are likely that tipping will occur, causing a child to be burned.)

According to Dr. Inbar, “ … we like to have a simple tip or trick revolving around injury prevention – like how to strap kids into car seats or reminders to lock medications out of reach. The goal … [is] just to be quick reminders or new tricks that parents may not have thought of before and can be a reminder to make that change today.” For more information and safety tips, please visit Kid Safe DC Instagram.