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Baby: Safe Harbor nurse Gina D’Aquilla (left) and Detective Tenille Chacon demonstrate the effects of abusive head trauma on a child with a special doll. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, September 13, 2018

By Chris Frost


Protecting children was the theme during a seminar at the W. 3rd Street Conference room, Sept. 6, as representatives from the Oxnard Police Department, Ventura County Children and Family Services and Ventura County Safe Harbor discussed how to keep children safe and happy.

The seminar also had the Oxnard Police Department Explorer Troop 9286 fingerprinting children for their safety.

Safe Harbor Nurse Gina D’Aquilla led off the seminar and focused on preventable child injuries.

“Some of the common injuries we see in kids you might not hear about when we bring our kids home from the hospital or the pediatrician are slide injuries,” she said. “A slide injury is when you are going down the slide with your young child, about one year old, you have them on your lap, and your legs are out to the side.”

When you go down the slide, she said the child’s legs can get caught between the parent’s body and cause a fracture.

“Important, if you are going down the slide with your small kids, make sure you have their legs together and on your lap with your hands holding them,” she said. “It’s something we might not think about, but it happens quite often.”

She said children often mistake Tide Pods for candy.

“As soon as they bite them, what happens is the detergent shoots to the backs of their throats,” she said. “We want you to wash their mouths out if that happens, but they do need to go to the emergency room for that even if they are not showing signs of injury or distressed breathing.”

She said distressed breathing could occur later.

“A lot of the kids will have to be transferred to higher care levels in hospitals to make sure their airway is okay,” D’Aquilla said.

Watch batteries are also dangerous, she said, because they will sit inside their stomachs and injure them.

“If they get a hold of it, that is something you’ll need to seek medical attention for,” she said.

Animal bites can be a problem, she said, even if the dog has been part of the family for a long time.

"When you bring a new child into your home, don’t leave them unattended," she said. "Even though you know a dog is good with you or other adults, sometimes when you change that situation you’re going to see a higher rate of fighting. Maybe a dog is not used to being around children and being pulled on; we want to make sure they are not left alone at any time.”

The primary culprit for choking children, she said, are hot dogs, grapes and candy.

“We want everything to be small so children can chew it without choking,” D’Aquilla said. “Reaching out and learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver does give you the ability to help save your child.”

Children can also drown in buckets, she said, and the water level can be only one-inch deep.

“Children are top-heavy, so their head is going to go straight down,” she said. “Once they get down there, they’re unable to get out of the bucket.”

She said children could be master climbers.

“My son, when he was younger, I heard him calling for me, and when I went into the room, he used the shelves I mounted on the wall like a ladder,” she said. “You can imagine a one-year-old kid hanging for the top shelf wearing nothing but a diaper.”

She said children use dresser drawers to climb, and a television can fall on them.

“Anything that’s up high, we want to make sure it’s secured, so it doesn’t topple over,” she said.

Co-sleeping with a child is controversial, she said, as many people want to sleep with their child.

“There are products on the market that will help you keep your child safe,” she said. “It’s a divider that will give your child a section of the bed that prevents a parent from rolling over onto them and accidentally smothering them.”

D’Aquilla said the most dangerous time to sleep with a child is from birth up to age four months.

“Keeping that in mind, if you choose to co-sleep, take those extra steps to make sure that you’re not able to roll over on your child,” she said.

Another severe and preventable injury is abusive head trauma, formerly known as the shaken baby syndrome.

D’Aquilla said fatigue could set in after many hours feeding, changing and anything else you can do to sooth the baby.

“They’re still going to scream and cry,” she said. “The recommendation is to put them in a safe place and walk away. It’s not going to hurt them to cry themselves to sleep, and it’s not going to hurt you to walk away. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to walk away.”

If you go into the living room and hear them, she said to go into the backyard.

“Some of the symptoms of abusive head trauma are seizures, convulsions, irritability and can also mean a life-long disability,” she said. “It can mean a coma and death for children.”

She brought out a mechanical baby doll that simulates what happens to a shaken child.

“If you look at the lit-up section of the child’s brain (the front and back of the head) the brain is hitting the front and back of the forehead,” she said. “It’s an area where bleeding will happen, and when the blood touches the baby’s brain, the tissue can die.”

This story will continue in the Sept. 21, edition of the Tri-County Sentry.