Several years ago, while vacationing with my family on Kauai, we visited Anini Beach. A delightful crescent of yellow sand along calm, turquoise water, it was deserted aside from a friendly Hawaiian man with a machete, who had shimmied up into the fronds of a palm tree to cut down coconuts. While my daughters, then five and seven, scampered off to watch him with my husband, I took the opportunity to work on my tan. Enjoying the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean, I quickly drifted off.
I hadn’t been asleep for long, when I awoke to my daughters’ voices. They were squabbling about something: “Give it to me!” one said. “No, it’s mine!” said the other. Seconds later, the blinding pain of being punched hard in the face jolted me back to reality; the man with the machete had given my daughters a coconut, leading to a fight over who would get to show it to me and the accidental dropping of said coconut on my face. I later developed the classic symptoms of a minor concussion – nausea and headache – and a lovely purple and blue shiner.
My coconut-inflicted injury is just one example of the many ways in which kids can be hazardous to your health. We parents spend a lot of time and energy childproofing and otherwise protecting our children from the dangers lurking in our homes and beyond, yet tend to overlook our own safety. While there is no foolproof way to protect yourself from your kids, awareness of the most common dangers is key. Here are eleven of them:
The Perils of Pregnancy: Before they even enter the world, children can cause quite a bit of pain and suffering. From heartburn to swollen ankles and more serious conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, there are many ways in which a developing fetus can take a toll on its mother’s health and well-being.
The Agony of Childbirth: Childbirth hurts. Bigtime. Or so I am told, anyway. Personally, I delivered my babies by (medically necessary) c-sections and still don’t fully understand how something so large can fit through something so small. Most women who have experienced this will tell you there is nothing more painful than childbirth. One thing seems certain: if it weren’t for the phenomenon of birth amnesia, the world population would likely be significantly reduced.
Sinister Sleep Deprivation: Sleep deprivation is no joke. An insidious form of torture used by international intelligence agencies and babies alike, taken to the extreme it can kill you.
Hello, Head Butt!: Once their skulls fuse together, kids oversized heads become surprisingly hard and potentially dangerous. Injuries from head butts, including chipped teeth, black eyes and even concussions, can be inflicted in a number of ways and usually occur when you are least expecting them. I was once victim to the head to chin variation when my daughter suddenly sprang up from my lap in a swimming pool, causing me to bite down into my own lip and bleed profusely.
Painful Pincers: The pincer grasp is an important developmental milestone for your baby, but something to be wary of when it is directed at you. Once babies learn how to grab and grip in this way, they like to exercise their ability as much as possible, grabbing and pulling at things like your hair, earrings, nostrils, and anything else they can get their hands on. It is not uncommon for babies to rip through earlobes using the earring pincer grasp! So be careful once your baby reaches this milestone and consider switching from hoops and dangling earrings to simple studs.
Got Fingers, Will Poke: In addition to pinching and grabbing, babies love using their little fingers to poke at things. While the pokes and prods of such small creatures are generally harmless, this is not the case when the poking is aimed at your eyes. And given babies’ fascination with faces and eyes in particular, your peepers are a key target, putting you at risk for a nasty corneal abrasion. Wearing glasses may be one way to avoid this type of injury, though the glasses will likely be subject to hazard number six.
The Torment of Teeth: Teeth are another weapon your child may wield against you. If your little one gets theirs early or you choose to breast feed for an extended period of time, watch out! Also keep in mind that some kids, particularly during the toddler years, become biters, taking their frustrations out on friends and family with their teeth. While, like all phases, this will likely pass, it’s an issue that should be taken up with your child’s pediatrician.
Jumping for Joy (On You!): Despite all the pain they can cause, kids really do love their parents and frequently express their love by hurling their little bodies into their mommies and daddies. The problem is two-fold: they don’t know their own strength and incorrectly assume that you are indestructible. For this reason, you need to stay on a fairly high state of alert and keep your abs tight whenever the kids are around.
Erratic Elbows & Knobby Knees: Kids’ bony elbows and knees can bruise and batter parents, especially while they are being carried or cuddled. These types of injuries crop up the most with toddlers, who are still learning how to use their body parts in a coordinated fashion, but big enough to accidentally hurt you with them.
The Threat of Toys: Toys – particularly when they are not properly put away – are an all too common, and avoidable, cause of parental injury. The errant Lego block is a major offender; if only I had a dollar for all the times I’ve stepped on one in bare feet while crossing my daughter’s room at night to check on her. While the toys become more sophisticated, the danger posed by them persists well into your kid’s teenage years. My brother-in law, for example, nearly broke his back one night stepping on a skateboard left out on the patio by his twelve-year old son.
Getting Caught in the Crossfire of a Sibling Squabble: Sibling rivalry is a healthy and normal part of growing up. But as my experience with the coconut demonstrates, getting caught in the middle of a sibling squabble is risky business. My advice: take cover and let your little darlings work things out themselves!
Have you or someone you know been injured by a child, particularly in a humorous or unusual way? Misery loves company, so please tell us about it!